AIPS head warns of ‘new English disease’

Barry Newcombe reports from the 2006 AIPS Congress

Gianni Merlo fears the threat to journalistic freedoms posed by developments in English football.
In his president’s address to AIPS Congress in Doha in April, Merlo, pictured below, warned delegates not to be complacent about the status afforded to the written press within an increasingly commercialised sports world.

AIPS President Gianni Merlo

He said: “We all have to be careful to make sure that what is happening in English football is not allowed to spread to other countries and other sports.”
Merlo’s concerns are supported by the revived football commission whose president, Keir Radnedge, believes that significant time was lost while the commission was inactive.

He told delegates: “Football is the biggest sport in the world and other countries, leagues and clubs want to copy the way English clubs seem to want to monetise every kick of the ball. That risks infringing on what we report and how we can report it.”
Merlo has followed closely the development of the monopolising role of Football DataCo and the licence system for press box accreditation used by the Premier League and Football League clubs.
He said: “Any system like this is a problem because it suggests officials may try to keep out of the stadia journalistics whose criticism they do not like. Maybe they say this is not the case but it’s not a good situation.”
The football commission is to open discussions shortly with the Premier League on the way in which the licence system affects foreign journalists who wish to report at English matches.
Members from various countries have reported problems in this regard when clubs from their countries have been drawn against Premiership opposition in European competitions.

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