Kerry GAA came under fire last Saturday night when technical difficulties with their county final livestream left thousands of viewers staring at a blank screen.
As had been the case in previous rounds, supporters were invited to purchase the stream for the big match between East Kerry and Mid Kerry via 247.tv, this time at a cost of €10.
Anticipation was high but things quickly turned sour when the stream crashed midway through the first half, prompting scores of supporters to take to Twitter and vent their frustration. Among other things, the stream was branded a “joke”, “shocking” and a “disgrace”, and many viewers demanded a refund.
One fan commented: “Full cash refund please. Service not of merchantable quality or fit for purpose. Let me know where I can send on my bank details for the full cash refund. Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980.”
The tweeter went on to express his gratitude to his former business studies teacher, Mike Leahy, who schooled him on his consumer rights when he was a first year student at St Brendan’s College.
A Kerry GAA tweet which contained the link to the stream received 78 replies in total, almost all of which were complaints. The tweet got just three RTs and 19 likes, and two of the RTs were also complaints.
It was a ratio that would make any social media manager break out in a cold sweat.
The grievances naturally centred around the drop in coverage, but in reality much of the dismay actually stemmed from the fact that this was not the first time a Kerry GAA livestream had failed.
Previous broadcasts were also beset by technical difficulties, perhaps most notably the quarter-final tie between Mid Kerry and Kenmare Shamrocks, which cut out in stoppage time as Kenmare were probing for a championship-saving equaliser.
Calls for refunds were ignored then, with Kerry GAA stating that the technical issues were unavoidable and, ultimately, not their fault.
Saturday evening’s stream came back on after a matter of minutes but even when it was back working, viewers had another complaint to make. One fan noted that the on-screen scoreboard was incorrect. Upon reviewing the video it was found that the score failed to update on three separate occasions, which meant that viewers were looking at the wrong score for six minutes in total.
What made last weekend’s debacle even more maddening for supporters is the fact that the state broadcaster, RTÉ, had offered to show the county final on free-to-air television. As was reported in The Kerryman, RTÉ would have paid Kerry GAA a substantial fee for the rights to the game but Chairman Tim Murphy confirmed that they had rejected the bid for financial reasons.
“From our perspective, what we would get from terrestrial TV would in no way come close to what we would hope to get out of the streaming,” he said.
This was the second year in a row that Kerry GAA turned down a national broadcaster. TG4 were keen to show last year’s final between East Kerry and Dr Crokes but the County Board decided that they would make more money from match tickets if the game was not aired on TV.
That may well have been true, but the decision proved controversial as it prevented many people who were, for whatever reason, unable to travel to Tralee that day from seeing one of the biggest games in living memory.
To be honest, I have to say that personally I have been a little disappointed with Kerry GAA’s response to this latest controversy. None of the online complaints were addressed over the weekend, no explanation was provided, and, at the time of going to print, no apology was forthcoming.
In fact, the only person who received a reply on Saturday night was the one observer who praised the “very enjoyable @Kerry_Official county football final livestream”. Kerry GAA quote retweeted the comment, thanking the man in question, so all of their 65.8k followers could see his positive feedback.
Understandably, this only agitated people further.
This week I reached out to the County Board to see if they would be making any statement regarding the stream but they declined to comment.
The only matter they would be drawn on was the one concerning season ticket holders who are unhappy with having to pay for livestreams (the passes they bought at the start of the year would have covered their admission if spectators were permitted to attend).
A number of these fans had asked me to follow up on this issue as they were unhappy with the response (or lack thereof) they had received from the County Board and from the GAA, but this week I was told that concerned season ticket holders can contact Kerry GAA directly.
(UPDATE: Yesterday the County Board offered season ticket holders a “free pass” to watch the upcoming livestreams of the Junior and Intermediate semi-finals and finals, starting this weekend with Ballydonoghue v Brosna and Gneeveguilla v Fossa. This appears to have done little to assuage the fans, who have already paid for the privilege of watching the two biggest competitions, the Senior Club and County Championships, from start to finish.)
— Frank (@frankky88) October 1, 2020
While I understand that it is a big ask to give everyone a refund when in this case the disgruntled customers may well number in the double-digit thousands, it is not unheard of for county boards to do so. As recently as September 5, Mayo GAA handed out refunds after their livestream of the county semi-final crashed. They even went one step further by putting on the following day’s matches (the other county semi-final and an intermediate semi-final) for free.
Last year, Tyrone GAA also refunded fans when their county final coverage experienced technical difficulties.
No one wants to see Kerry GAA losing out on any sum of money. The pandemic has made it a difficult year for the GAA financially and they obviously want to bring in as much money as possible.
A lot of work has gone into the streaming project and by and large it has been a great addition. The County Board deserve our gratitude for that.
But we must also think of the supporters. Over the past few months, the county’s most loyal football fans (who have also had to deal with the pandemic, remember) have forked out a considerable sum of money for access to a service. Unfortunately – and this much is undeniable – the service hasn’t always worked as it should have (Saturday’s final being a case in point).
The ‘refund’ option might be an unpalatable one for the County Board, but these fans deserve something. They certainly deserve more than just dead air.