Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

15.19 10 Dec 2020


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The Government is seeking the public's opinion on what sporting events should kept available on free-to-air television. 

At the moment, All Ireland finals in hurling, football, women's football and camogie are among the ring-fenced events.

Also protected are the Summer Olympics, the Republic of Ireland's home and away qualifiers for European Championships and World Cups as well as their matches in those final tournaments.

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The last review of the list came in 2017, and saw the additions of the women's inter-county All Ireland finals.

Absent from that list, however, are Republic of Ireland games in the UEFA Nations League, international friendlies and Irish provinces' matches in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Six Nations matches are on the deferred list, as the IRFU's deal with Virgin Media keeps them free-to-air until 2021.

Under EU Regulations, member states are allowed to designate certain sporting and cultural events as being of major importance to society and to ensure that they are available on free-to-air television service on a live or deferred basis.

The EU has a number of criteria which must be met if sporting events are to be allowed remain on free television.

Among them is that the event must have a 5 per cent or better audience share in the television ratings.

Events like the Irish Grand National, Irish Derby and Nations Cup at the Dublin Horse Show could therefore be in danger of dropping off the protected list.

Between 2010 and 2015, Irish National figures averaged 5.2 per cent, and Nations Cup had a 4.2 per cent average share.

By contrast over the same period, the GAA's Senior Inter-county Football and Hurling Finals had an audience share of 21 per cent and 17.7 per cent.

Other criteria for protection are:

  • the event has a special general resonance within a country and not simply of significance to those who ordinarily follow the sport or activity concerned
  • the event has a generally recognised, distinct cultural importance for the population, in particular as a catalyst of cultural identity
  • there is involvement of the national team in the event concerned in the context of a competition or tournament of international importance
  • the fact that the event has traditionally been broadcast on free television and has commanded large television audiences

People responding to the Government survey are being asked the following:

  • are there any events on the current list that should be removed? Please state your reasons
  • are there any other events that should be considered for inclusion on the list? Please state your reasons
  • what do you think is the cultural importance of the event(s) you have identified to Irish audiences?
  • what is the special general resonance the event has to audiences in Ireland (wider than resonance to existing supporters of the sport)?
  • does it involve a national team or representation at national level?
  • has the event traditionally been broadcast on a free to air basis?

The survey itself can be found by clicking HERE.

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