Accreditation fees ‘unacceptable’, says SJA

The Sports Journalists’ Association today called upon all active sportswriters, photographers and broadcasters to refuse to pay any charges, or meet demands to hand over image rights, in return for accreditation to the British Squash Open, which is being staged this week in Liverpool.

The SJA’s call is supported by the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, UK Sport and national governing body England Squash. It follows the SJA being contacted by a number of sources expressing concern that Cheshire-based International Sport Group, the championships’ promoters, had originally demanded a £250 fee from photographers or to have unrestricted rights to the images that they might shoot at the event.

“We at the SJA are totally opposed to any move by sports organisers to charge bona fide working media for access to their events in order to go about their proper daily work,” an SJA spokesman said.

“Internationally, with AIPS, the NPA and other concerned bodies such as international agencies Reuters and AFP, we have resisted attempts at the Cricket and Rugby World Cups and at the swimming world championships to raise charges on journalists covering the events. We see no difference in principle with the British Open squash.”

UK Sport, which takes an interest in and funds the vast majority of major sports events staged in this country, issued this statement:

“UK Sport believes that it is everyone’s best interests that sports events held in the UK generate the widest possible media coverage. With that in mind, it is clearly important that a mutually beneficial relationship should exist between the organisers of sporting events and the media, with both parties recognising their roles and responsibilities within that relationship.”

When contacted by the SJA, Paul Walters, the chief executive of organisers ISG, gave a personal guarantee that no working journalists will be charged to be accredited this week. “I think there may have been some miscommunication here,” Walters said.

“My position on this is quite clear,” he said. “We have no intention to charge or make rights demands of any working journalist at our event provided they are bona fide journalists and provide a tangible benefit to the event.”

Pressed to define what he meant by “tangible benefit”, Walters said, “We will provide accreditation and full facilities to anyone who gets the event exposure and coverage of the event in the wider media.”

Preliminary rounds in the event began yesterday, with the final stages being played at the Liverpool Echo Arena from Saturday through to the evening of Monday, May 12.

While acknowledging that ultimately any organiser can reserve the right to grant or refuse accreditation to an event, the SJA asks any journalists required to pay for accreditation or access to this or other events, to contact them immediately. “Accreditation decisions need to be based on a proper and fair basis, not due to commercial considerations or be in some other way prejudicial,” the SJA said.

“Sports sometimes get the sort of coverage that they deserve,” the SJA said. “Squash certainly does not benefit from widescale coverage, and you might think that the British Open’s sponsors would be concerned about any moves by the organisers that deter any journalists from working at the event.”

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