Euro 2008 organisers hope smaller is better

Bigger does not necessarily mean better in terms of journalistic access, and editors, writers and photographers should be aware of that ahead of next year’s Uefa European championship in Austria and Switzerland.

Initial ticket sales to fans were massively oversubscribed and, similarly, media requests for accreditation and match tickets will be far beyond the organisers’ capabilities.

Journalists expecting treatment similar to the World Cup in Germany last year will be disappointed. The stadiums in Austria and Switzerland are the smallest of any major modern football tournament. This means an inevitable percentage reduction in media tribune seats not only by comparison with Germany, but probably even with Portugal in 2004.

An excellent media workshop staged in Nyon by the organisers provided evidence that all standard media facilities will be efficiently co-ordinated. The organisers are working hard to reproduce, in a 2008 context, the logistical positives of 2004 and 2006 and eliminate many of the failings.

However, one perceived 2006 weakness was the accreditation of an over-optimistic volume of journalists which meant that many – largely from non-mainstream football nations – never once obtained a match ticket; they reported their World Cup only from the stadium media centres.

In seeking to avert a recurrence, the 2008 organisers plan to trim accreditation permits closer to the perceived demand for media tribune tickets. Figures are not yet available but – while this will, hopefully, mean fewer “media tourists” – tournament access for non-European written media will be extremely limited.

On behalf of AIPS, the football commission is writing to the Euro 2008 organisers out of concern at the situation, while expressing understanding for the problems posed by restrictive stadia capacities.

No-show system the same as World Cup
Good news is available, however, for those journalists who do make it to Austria and Switzerland. Unlike the World Cup last year, broadband internet access (both wireless and cable) will be available free in the SMCs and no internet access systems will be blocked out of the stadiums.

In Germany, for example, Deutsche Telecom’s monopoly meant that journalists who access internet communications systems from the media tribune through, for example, a Vodafone or other “plug”, were unable to do so. This restriction will NOT apply in Austria and Switzerland.
The only cautionary note from the organisers is that wireless demand will be so enormous around the matches, that instantaneous access to internet systems cannot be guaranteed.

Any publications which cannot afford to let time slip will need to undertake the usual “buy-in” arrangements for tribune phone/ports.

The usual organisational web services will be in place for the media with simultaneous translation services at post-match press conferences – which will, like the mixed zones, be ticketed. The post-match press conferences will be beamed live into the SMCs though whether they can be beamed to the media tribune TV monitors remains under technical consideration.

The most appreciated media feature in Germany was overall free rail travel. The 2008 organisers hope to obtain similar agreements with the Austrian and Swiss railways. Negotiations are ongoing.

One of the least appreciated media features in Germany was the length of time needed to pass through the stadium perimeter security checks. This often resulted in problems for journalists trying to beat the no-show deadline to collect match tickets.

The 2008 organisers have promised to create not only media-specific security checks at all stadiums – not the case in Germany – but fast-track lanes so that written media with only, say, a laptop is not held up because of the different security demands on photographers.

The no-show system will be the same as in Germany: one no-show will attract a yellow card, two will incur a one-match ban. Again, AIPS has asked the organisers for assurances about sensible ticket collection deadlines plus a centralised no-show phone system.