With sport being played behind closed doors in line with COVID-19 restrictions, it’s great that supporters have been able to watch Club and County Championship action online via Kerry GAA’s live streams.

The option to view games after the fact is an added bonus and the commentary team of Gary O’Sullivan and Seán O’Sullivan have done terrific work on the microphones.

That’s the ‘good’. Now here comes the ‘bad’.

The launch of Kerry GAA’s new ‘day’ and ‘weekend’ live stream passes led to confusion and, in some instances, anger last Friday night when it turned out that no discount would be applied for buying matches in bundles.

The streams normally cost €5. Fans could now buy a day pass, covering two quarter-finals, for €10, or a weekend pass, covering all four quarter-finals, for €20.

 

 

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser on Saturday morning, Kerry GAA PRO Leona Twiss explained that the aim of the passes was to allow supporters to input their card details once as opposed to multiple times over the course of the weekend. It was, she said, never marketed as a discount.

I have purchased a number of games myself – ones that I have been unable to attend or ones that I wanted to watch back – and I must say that, personally, I didn’t find the process that inconvenient to begin with. When you’re using your own device, your card details are likely to autocomplete and it takes a matter of seconds to make the transaction. But, having said that, I had noticed one or two complaints online, so it’s fair enough that Kerry GAA addressed the issue.

I think the entire controversy could have been avoided quite easily by simply not calling it a “pass”. It was only natural that supporters would expect to pay less for a weekend pass than they would if they bought four matches individually. Kerry GAA could have just stated that they had set it up so that if you want to buy all the streams in one go, you can.

There would have been no qualms with that.

VALUE FOR MONEY

When I spoke to her, Twiss reiterated a point that has been made numerous times by the county board over the past month or so: €5 per game is “extremely good value for money”.

I’m not so sure I’d go quite that far. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine. I have no problem whatsoever with giving the county board €5 to watch a match online. From speaking to supporters, it seems as though no one has any real issues with the €5 price tag. I think we’re all grateful that the option is even there.

But Kerry GAA seem to be calling the streams great value for money because they cost less than a match ticket, which is surely a false equivalence. Yes, you would be paying twice or three times as much to go to matches if the gates were open, but the experience of attending a live game is not the same as watching it at home on your computer screen.

You’d pay €100 to watch the All-Ireland final from the Hogan Stand. Does that mean you’d happily pay €100 to watch it from your armchair? Or €50? Or even €5?

Many local football supporters will have spent more money streaming the Kerry Senior Club and County Championships in the past month than they have on their Sky Sports package, which has 15+ channels with round the clock coverage of all the major sports in the world.

Yes, some counties have been charging €10 per game, so we are getting good value relative to them, but on the other hand our neighbours in Cork are streaming all of their matches for free.

Again, I have no issue with paying the €5. I’ll gladly support Kerry GAA and I’m delighted that the service exists. But I don’t know if I appreciate being told that it’s amazing value when the money I’ve spent on live streams would cover my Netflix subscription for the rest of the year.

DOUBLED

Whatever about having to pay a fiver for one stream, which, as I said, most people are okay with, that figure technically doubled last weekend as the option to purchase a single game was removed. Only day and weekend passes were available, which meant that if even if you only wanted to watch the East Kerry v St Kieran’s game, for example, you had to also pay for the Legion v St Brendan’s match which took place the same day.

And what’s worse, if you only wanted the East Kerry game on Saturday and the Dr Crokes game on Sunday, you were left with no other option but to buy the weekend pass for all four matches, so you ended up paying €20 instead of €10.

The Kerry GAA PRO said that matches were paired as double-headers as that’s how tickets would have been sold under normal circumstances, and the county board had paid for two streaming blocks (one on each day) as opposed to four.

I understand that tickets to individual games cannot be sold for double-headers in real life – it would be a logistical nightmare – but the option should be there online. If you logged on to watch Mid Kerry v Kenmare Shamrocks on Sunday, for instance, you also had to pay for Dr Crokes v Templenoe, which was already over. This, to my mind, does not constitute value for money.

COMPLAINTS

All of this cribbing about cost and value and weekend passes would probably have faded into the background if the streams themselves actually worked but, unfortunately for Kerry GAA, they didn’t.

Users complained of multiple breaks in coverage during the Crokes game and Kerry GAA took to Twitter to apologise. “We are experiencing technical difficulties with the stream,” they said. Four minutes were lost, prompting some supporters to ask for a refund.

 

https://twitter.com/ronanhuz13/status/1300065330061074434?s=20

 

Things went from bad to worse in the 4pm fixture as the stream cut out in second-half stoppage time, just as Kenmare were probing for a championship-saving equaliser. It literally could not have happened at a more inopportune moment. The final whistle was blown during the outage and viewers were left bewildered and, above all else, disappointed by what had happened.

One fan tweeted: “The coverage itself is very good but the interruptions are too frequent. Not fair to charge people €10 or €20 for that.” Another called for “money back or free coverage of semi-finals for those affected”.

Speaking on Radio Kerry’s Terrace Talk on Monday, Kerry GAA Chairman Tim Murphy acknowledged the problems but said the county board were “very happy” with how their live streaming project has gone so far.

“As a whole it has gone extremely well,” he said. “It was a national issue [on Sunday]. There was a network failure in a European data centre. It was an issue not of our own making. It just happened to go as the match was in the melting pot so I understand people’s frustration, but it was completely out of our control.

“[Streaming matches] has gone exceptionally well. We have one of the highest viewerships in the country.”

One would imagine that if they are getting such large viewing figures that some sort of profit is being made but the county PRO said they are “barely covering costs”. I see no reason why these figures can’t be shared publicly; last week the Westmeath chairman told the Irish Examiner exactly how many viewers they’re getting and how much it’s costing them to stream. Westmeath are turning a profit. Should Kerry GAA not be able to do likewise?

And whatever about anything else, the fact that season ticket holders are being charged for the streams is completely unfair in my opinion – these people have already paid to attend these matches up front. I have been told that the matter will be discussed at a finance committee meeting this week but giving access to these loyal followers at no additional cost should have been automatic. They shouldn’t have to go cap in hand asking for it.

LEARNING

Look, it’s a new system so we absolutely should cut the county board some slack. They are learning every week and by and large the service has been a good one. I’m sure there has been a great deal of work in setting it all up and, at the end of the day, whatever money comes in is for the benefit of Kerry GAA.

But they also have to take stock of what supporters are telling them. The vast majority of viewers have serious concerns about the quality of the streams, and therefore they have every right to question whether or not they’re getting value for money.

The whole thing is buffering at the moment but the potential is there for it to be a very useful (and profitable) service for many years to come.