It took until 3.30am this morning, but finally, on the day that the English Premier League is due to kick off its 20th season, the leagues reached an agreement with newspapers and news agencies, ensuring there will be reports from the opening day of the Premier League season.
Until then, many papers were planning to send reporters to games to buy tickets to sit in the stands, or to cobble together their reports from watching television coverage, in the absence of any agreement over accreditation for matches and the terms of the Premier League and Football League media licences.
Football club press officers had been briefed that if there had been no deal done by 5pm on Friday, then they would be forced to refused bona fide media from their press boxes for the second successive weekend, as football continued to press its demands for control over live online match reports and use of social media in grounds, such as Twitter.
This week, the SJA had characterised the dispute as being about ultra-rich Premier League – called “the Haves and the Have Yachts” by one former club chairman – trying to exercise undue control and censorship over the free press.
“It is important to get the right agreement in this case, because if we do not, what happens in football coverage this weekend may soon extend to rugby, cricket and other sports,” said Barry Newcombe, the SJA chairman.
The deal changes terms of coverage and accreditation that had existed since 2004. The News Media Coalition said the previous agreement placed “unreasonably restrictive constraints on how news organisations could use and distribute their copyright football content”.
The News Media Coalition, which represents those newspapers that are members of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, plus the major agencies including PA, Reuters and Getty Images, and which is consulted by the SJA, this morning issued the following statement:
“We are delighted to have reached agreement with the leagues and look forward to providing fans with the best possible journalistic coverage of the game: match analysis, superb photography, interaction with top journalists and the real stories behind the play.
“Saturday’s agreement will put news-gatherers back in the press boxes at football grounds following a week in which a dispute with the football authorities over accreditation terms and conditions saw the media unable to attend matches.
“The previous agreement, signed in in 2004, was perceived as placing unreasonably restrictive constraints on how news organisations could use and distribute their copyright football content at home and abroad.
“The NMC looks forward to working more closely with football leagues and expects the agreed operational changes to make a significant improvement to the ability of both its membership and other news organisations to report on the world’s most popular sport.”
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