Munster GAA & Video Analysis – the facts explained

Following media coverage in recent days relating to the usage of video analysis at Munster GAA Championship games, caught up with Munster GAA PRO Ger Ryan to understand the core issues involved and to correct a number of inaccuracies in the reporting of this issue. – Can you clarify or give the background to the Munster Council policy in relation to video analysis on Munster Championships games which has generated much criticism and controversy?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – the controversy arose primarily because of misinformation and misrepresentation of the Policy and its range. From all I have read of the recent commentary it is certain that the impression was given that there was a ban on match analysts operating in Munster. This is simply untrue and not the case at all.

The policy is confined solely to Munster (Senior) championship games for which RTE / SKY has purchased the exclusive rights. It does not apply to any other games in Munster. The change for games broadcast “live” by RTE / SKY is that a) analysts are not permitted to operate inside the PRESS / MEDIA area and b) analysts are not permitted to run a cable from the live feed source to the analysts’ position in the Stand.

However arrangements are in place for analysts to receive a DVD of the game immediately after the game and ALSO to arrange with the broadcaster for a wireless feed from the broadcaster to the analysts in the Stand or to take a live feed from the broadcasters website. This is not about restricting analysis but about how and where the analysts may operate solely for games with a “live” broadcast. The Council routinely and frequently provide appropriate accommodation for analysts in the Stand for all our games and has done so for all Munster Championships played in the Province to date this year.

In fact, all four counties involved in this Sunday’s Munster Senior Football Championship Semi-Finals have received permission to video the game given there is no live TV coverage. – why are there restrictions on counties getting a live feed for video analysis?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – while there is no doubt that analysis is important to all teams, accommodation for such personnel relies on a) facilities being available, b) having the relevant technology in all our stadiums. At present, the video recordings for all our live games (4 Senior Hurling Championship and the Munster Senior Football Final) are done by the broadcasters who televise our games as per contractual agreements in place with the GAA. Such broadcasters / camera men are located in our press boxes for all our live games. The press boxes also accommodate journalists, radio personnel as well as in some cases other essential personnel such as public address & the scoreboard operator. Simply put, for all our live games, the press facilities at our stadiums are used to the maximum with up to 20 overflow seats in the stand being made available to cater for the additional media personnel. – ok, so space is an issue but surely having a camera man and a video analyst for each team would not be an issue?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – in the case of major grounds, the local fire officer in each case sets out very specific limits to the number of personnel allowed at any one time in our press boxes. In the case of other smaller grounds, press boxes simply don’t have enough facilities to cater for the increasing number of radio / TV stations who are broadcasting our games.

To accommodate additional personnel such as video analysts / camera operators would require someone else to drop out, e.g. radio personnel or journalists. At the end of the day, press boxes are for press / media and that is our main consideration for those parts of the stadium. – Would it be possible to link up with RTE or Sky Sports and get a live feed from their cameras?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – we in Munster GAA in the past have engaged with the TV stations and team video analysts to try and cater for such link-ups. However, such direct live feeds require cables and past experience has seen a number of issues. In some cases, the video personnel would sit beside the TV commentators, something which was an issue for the broadcasters and analysts alike. On other occasions, cables as long as 30 metres were being set up with minutes of a big game with little regard for health and safety, posing an issue for media personnel tripping over the cables going in / out of the press box. It was simply not a sustainable solution.  Having said that, while the use of cables is an issue, using Wireless technology is a solution which we would encourage and which has worked to date for some counties.

Another factor to consider is that the presence of video analysts / stats personnel in the press boxes for games in the recent past has caused issues with the media personnel present (many of which have reported on the topic this week) making complaints to Munster GAA about the interference / noise involved by having such non-media personnel in such close proximity. It is not a simple solution when looking at using the press box as a shared facility involving non-media personnel. – Surely such changes in relation to access to the press box should have been made before the Championship began though?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – to say such decisions have been taken mid-Championship are incorrect. In the spring of 2014, all county secretaries within the province were asked to link in with their team management and supply any requests relating to match-day activities. Based on the feedback received, the regulations in place to accommodate video analysts were issued for the 2014 season. These same regulations are in place for the 2015 season. A letter was sent to all county secretaries before the first Championship games for 2015 (a letter partially reported on in the media in recent days) reiterating the policy to which there have been no issues raised, either then or since by the participating County Boards. – But why is this an issue in Munster and not in the other provinces?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – this is a known issue across GAA stadiums in all provinces. Some stadiums such as Croke Park and Kingspan Breffini Park have dedicated analysis rooms which serve the purpose to cater for the requirements. This issue has been raised with the GAA Communications Team in Croke Park in recent years and is one under constant review to ascertain an appropriate solution across the board. For games which would not attract a large media presence, press box facilities in all provinces may allow for such activity to take place. However, given the media interest in our Championship games being televised live, we do not have any such leeway in this regard. – so surely the simple solution is to the increase the size of the press boxes or to construct the aforementioned analyst rooms in all stadiums in the province?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – that would be an ideal solution. However, Munster GAA do not own any stadiums – we merely rent the existing county grounds for our Championship games. Also, any solutions should be implemented across the board in all our Provincial stadiums which will be hosting games and need to accommodate both counties involved in a game. At present, there has been no request by counties for such facilities to be put in place but along with the GAA Communications team, this is something which is under discussion and ideally, any such improvements to our media facilities or the creation of analyst rooms would need to be looked at holistically rather than on a stadium by stadium basis. – so where do we go from here with this issue?

Munster PRO Ger Ryan – as mentioned, this policy is in place since the start of the 2014 Championship and no complaints have been submitted by the participating county boards. As with every Championship season, a review of all aspects of our match day regulations (including video analysis) will take place with a view to making improvements for next year. Should any suggestions for improvement be made, they will certainly be looked at within the confines of the infrastructure available to Munster GAA in each stadium.

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