With the start of the English football season just a day away, Premier League and Football League officials have walked out of negotiations with media representatives after tabling a new set of legal demands over accreditation and licensing arrangements.
The football bodies want to further restrict news agencies, including Reuters and PA Sport, plus newspaper websites, in their use and distribution of images from games and minute-by-minute online and agency reports.
Negotiations have been going on for more than a year over the terms of licences for the 2011-2012 season. But talks broke down on Wednesday night after the football bodies tabled a lengthy set of demands to the News Media Coalition, the grouping of newspapers and agencies conducting the talks, which is supported by the SJA.
“They run to 16 pages of legal constraints, which among other things include league controls on how and when news can be published online – and how news material can be distributed to fans at home and overseas,” said the News Media Coalition.
“In many instances they also require users of content to obtain and pay for permission from the Leagues for their coverage.”
The NMC denied claims from the football bodies that the talks are continuing. “The talks are not ongoing, they have broken down. The Leagues have refused to even consider the latest proposals and seek to impose last year’s terms by default.
“These are unacceptable to the media who have repeatedly made this clear to the Leagues . . . News organisations are in the process of identifying how best to serve their readers including loyal fans with independent news and analysis. The News Media Coalition remains committed to the talks and prepared to re-engage with the football leagues.”
The highly restrictive terms of the Premier League licences, imposed since the 2003-2004 season, already included limits on outlets where photographers and picture agencies may sell their own copyright material.
The NMC, negotiating on behalf of the agencies and newspapers for the first time, is seeking to get the licences updated to better reflect changes in digital media and to redress some of the more unfair, existing terms. The football bodies wanted to insert a new clause that would not allow a journalist reporting live from a match to interact with readers or have elements such as comments enabled – effectively a match ban on using Twitter or live blogs.
“They seem to have just been wanting to run down the clock to table the same, unacceptable, deal as before,” one source close to the talks told The Guardian. “They are trying to hold a gun to the head of the media.”
NMC says that coverage of the start of the new season could be disrupted. “In the absence of meaningful discussions, news organisations are in the process of identifying how best to serve their readers including loyal fans with independent news and analysis.”
There is a suspicion that the brinkmanship had been orchestrated by the football authorities, as a memo was sent to Football League clubs on Thursday morning, informing them that Football Dataco – the company which handles licences – would handle this weekend’s match accreditations. Clubs, including Brighton and Nottingham Forest, have also replied to sports desks that they will not process direct ticket requests and that newspapers must gain access through Dataco. The football authorities are now seeking a seven-day extension to the old licences while talks continue.
The negotiations have been led by the NMC, which represents Reuters, Associated Press, AFP and the Press Association, and the Newspaper Publishers’ Association – which counts Associated Newspapers, The Independent, Trinity Mirror, News International, the Financial Times, Telegraph and Guardian News & Media as its members.
UPCOMING SJA DATES
- Thu Aug 18: Lunch with Sir Clive Woodward, performance director of the BOA, on plans for the 2012 Olympics with just one year until the London Games. For booking details click here.
- Mon Sep 12: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill GC. Click here for more details and to book yourself in for the day.
- Wed Dec 7: SJA 2011 British Sports Awards – Booking now open. For more details, click here.
All details subject to alteration. Keep checking sportsjournalists.co.uk for updates