August 5, 2020
News Opinion Sport

MICHAEL WOLSEY: Better no sport than sport with no crowds

I miss televised sport a lot. And that’s a surprise because, if, before the Covid-19 crisis, you had asked me about my sports viewing, I would have said it amounted to very little.

I am a Liverpool fan and have always watched them play and I would tune in at weekends to the Sunday Game.

And that was about it, I would have said.

Well, that and the Champions League. I mean, everybody watches the Champions League, don’t they? And the FA Cup.

And I had forgotten about the League Cup, whatever it’s called nowadays. And the League of Ireland matches RTE used to show on Friday nights.

And the Saturday games in the GAA’s football championship. And the hurling.

But, really, I hardly ever watched sport, especially a mad sport like tennis. Although I would sometimes take a peak at Wimbledon. And maybe the French Open.

I’d draw the line at golf, of course. A good walk spoiled, as Mark Twain said. But if it was the Irish Open, now, or a Major, and an Irish golfer was in with a chance, well, sure, I’d have to watch that. More news than sport, really.

And, of course, there was the Six Nations. And the Heineken Cup. And this was to have been the year of the Olympics and we had medal hopes in rowing and sailing and women’s hockey.

I know little about hockey, less about sailing and nothing at all about rowing. But I was looking forward to it all the same.

Yes, I hardly watched sport at all. But I certainly miss it.

However, for all that I would love to see live sport back on our screens, I can’t go along with the Taoiseach’s idea that the GAA championships might be played behind closed doors, for television consumption only.

Big inter-county matches are not just about the players. It is the loyalty and rivalry of the supporters that turns them into great occasions. An All-Ireland final would count for very little without the roar of the crowd from a packed Croke Park.

It is a different, matter, for, say, the Premier League in England. Its season is almost over and if it takes a few closed-door games to tidy up the business (and give the title to Liverpool!) then, so be it.

There may also be financial considerations for English soccer, although I’m not sure if that often-repeated theory is, in fact, correct. The television companies have already paid for the viewing rights and I don’t think they are likely to pay a second time just because of the present strange circumstances.

Whatever about paying the clubs, we should be talking about whether Sky, and the other big companies, are prepared to refund subsrcribers like me who are paying for a service we no longer receive. But that is beside the point. Even if closed-door games could spin a profit for English football the same would not apply to the GAA.

The Association makes its money from what used to be called gate receipts – ticket money, paying-punters and its share of the cash changing hands at the cafés, bars and shops that are a key part of every good ground and every big match.

So if spectators can’t attend championship games, the GAA should forget about them. Call the whole thing off and give both players and fans a bit of certainty. We’ll look forward all the more to the 2021 tournaments.

The Olympics and Wimbledon have bowed to the inevitable and so should the GAA.

Not that it really bothers me. I hardly watch any televised sport.

 

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