FIFA yellow cards media ‘no shows’

From Keir Radnedge at the World Cup

“No-show” is the word no self-respecting journalist wants to hear. But already the dreaded issue has been raised in Germany by FIFA – and AIPS is not afraid to address it.

AIPS holds no brief for unprofessional journalists who abuse both the system, and thus their working colleagues. But nor is AIPS prepared to accept criticism and access threats without critical examination of the latest complaint.

FIFA used the Media Channel, the electronic intranet system, to publish a June 12 warning that journalists who did not attend “their” matches hindered access for colleagues on the waiting lists.

The specific case quoted was England-Paraguay with 250 alleged no-shows. Yet many of the names on the no-show list were there, in the stadium.

I know – I was one of them!

The sight of empty media seats is as irritating to both fans and journalists as is the sight of empty and easily-identified sponsor allocations at the less-fashionable matches.

The vast over-demand for tickets means FIFA must scrutinise how stadium space is allocated and, for the fans’ sake, one hopes that sponsors, national associations and FIFA itself are all transparently subjected to such an audit.

The media, whose demand has been pegged for the last several Cups, despite ever-increasing demand and new publishing platforms, should accept its responsibility.

But . . . much more can be done to help journalists help the organisers. And organisers do not help themselves or the media by rushing into electronic print on the basis of erroneous information.

When the issue of no-shows was raised at Euro 2004, AIPS responded that the organisers had set unrealistically early deadlines for cancellations and had failed to provide a centralised system for fielding cancellations.

FIFA and the German LOC studied the fall-out from Portugal and came up with a centralised Hotline number.

AIPS had been led to believe that this number could be printed for ease of access on the accreditation document. Unfortunately, this was not carried through.

Yellow stickers bearing the hotline number have been made available at welcome desks. But very few journalists appear aware of the fact. The lack of a ‘welcome pack’ removed the opportunity for FIFA and the LOC to deliver such a card direct into the hands of every newly-accredited journalist.

Those of us aware of both the Hotline and its number were disappointed to find that both its staffing and purpose were not up to the expected standard.

One reporter called the Hotline while stuck in a long queue at the media entrance in Frankfurt before England-Paraguay. He reported that many fellow journalists might thus well be late in collecting their tickets.

The Hotline operator responded merely that this was “very interesting”. Only did he promise action after it was explained that he should warn the SMC ticket desk to forestall problems.

How many other calls were wasted or went unactivated or unappreciated?

FIFA’s no-show warning on June 12 also changed journalists’ understanding of the role of the Hotline by insisting that cancellations should be effected through the Media Channel.

Yet many journalists are regularly rerouted by their desks back in London, New York or Tokyo while “on the road” and without access to the Media Channel. The Hotline can now be used only in case of force majeure – and who is the judge of that?

AIPS has already made its opinion known to FIFA on this specific issue. Other issues have also arisen but these can be discussed in a more relaxed context after the finals.

For now, the message is this: If you have a media match ticket and cannot attend, let someone know by whatever means possible – whether Media Channel or Hotline. If you talk to the Hotline, note the date and time and name of the operative in case of problems later.

Remember, whatever the faults of the present system, it’s the only one available.

This article first appeared on the AIPS website.

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