Carrie Brown, chair of the Football Writers’ Association and one-person whirlwind was on BBC Radio 4’s media show this afternoon, banging the drum for the freelancers and self-employed.
We are delighted that the shadow Minister for Sport, Catherine West, has engaged with our collective and that she supports a base salary and a full review of the IR35 policy.
While that fight continues, there is news of a more practical kind. TriNorth Communications, the sports media agency which produces The Blizzard, the Nightwatchman, Wisden Cricket Monthly and Gridiron magazines, have decided they would like to do their bit, however small, for the freelance community.
Thanks so much Matt Thacker and Jonathan Wilson.
Staff have agreed to forego a significant element of their salaries for the next few months and possibly beyond so that they could set up a fund to support freelancers. They are all aware of the importance of freelancers to our products, of the friendships built with them, of the feeling of kinship shared with them.
Therefore, slightly counter-intuitively in a world where everything seems to be scaling back, they have decided to introduce two new digital magazines, the Pinch Hitter, in association with the Nightwatchman, and The Squall, the unruly younger sibling to The Blizzard.
The former, which will appear approximately fortnightly starting from 3 April, will initially be funded by TriNorth’s salary sacrifices; the latter (planned at eight issues over 12 months starting in May) by the incredibly generous gestures from contributors to the Blizzard, led by editor Jonathan Wilson.
Between them, the 65 writers who contributed pieces to, or spoke at events for, The Blizzard in the 2019-20 period, have waived over £5,500 and counting of fees, meaning they can start commissioning with confidence.
It will not be possible to fund the products in this way forever of course (the intention at this stage is for both products to have a lifespan of as long as the current situation lasts) and they will therefore also put both magazines on sale on a pay-what-you-can basis.
The more support for this from the freelance community in terms of promotion, the better.
And they have today set up two bank accounts – one for each magazine – so all revenues generated will be reinvested into these magazines. If they turn into something that people want to keep going, and that benefit the freelance community, then they would be delighted.
So please send in your submissions, ideas and suggestions and hopefully they will able to make a small difference. The intention is to pay pretty much on submission, even if that submission is for three or four magazines down the line. This won’t always be possible but the more cash generated from the general public, the quicker they can pay, the more freelancers they can use, and the better the rates they can offer.
THE PINCH HITTER (from Phil Walker, Jo Harman and Matt Thacker)
An interactive magazine, with columns, features, photo essays, long-form Nightwatchman-style articles, videos, interviews, club cricket, women’s cricket, kids cricket, international cricket, office cricket, lockdown cricket, and general silliness.
The first few issues will be necessarily discursive, with a fair few dollops of nostalgia. But at the same time, we’re very keen to offer a way in for younger readers too, so any pitches aimed at that audience would be very welcome indeed!
You can pitch to Phil, Jo and Matt at email@example.com. Rates will be around the usual mark for our cricket-related magazines but we’ll aim to increase them if we get significant revenue in from the pay-what-you-can channels.
There will be more detail about the kind of things we will be looking for up on the Nightwatchman website (www.thenightwatchman.net) as soon as we can but don’t let that stop you pitching your stuff to them!
THE SQUALL (from The Blizzard editor Jonathan Wilson)
The Squall will be (a lot) shorter than The Blizzard but (a lot) longer than The Flurry (our newsletter). It will be 11 pieces of between 500 and 2500 words on a selected theme (so a total of 15-20,000 words). Our first issue (May; deadline 15 April) will be on the theme of The Right-Back.
Feel free to interpret that as freely as you like. Pitch on individual right-backs, great or small; on the changing nature of the role; on best goals by right-backs; worst fouls by right-backs; right-backs in film or song; clubs who’ve had a run or great or terrible right-backs… be as creative as you can.
If you’re a photographer, perhaps you have a series of pictures of one particular right-back, or maybe a series of different right-backs taking throw-ins? As ever with Blizzard products, be inventive and original, find details, devise theories, be funny, don’t be constrained by what we’ve seen before.
The address for pitching to Jonathan is firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll find more detail about the other seven issues as soon as we can get it up on the website at www.theblizzard.co.uk – get your pitches (and submissions) in early. At the moment as potential themes, we’re looking at: Brits Abroad; Kits; the Printed Word; Animals; Oedipus; Grounds; Sliding Doors; Short-Lived Tournaments and Reserves but that may change. If you’ve got a decent idea for them, let us know.
Meanwhile The Blizzard will continue to run as usual, coming out in June (deadline 10 April), September (10 July), December (10 October). They tend not to be tightly themed, so pitch any ideas you have. The original idea with The Blizzard was that it should be for those pieces you’d always dreamed of writing but had never had the opportunity – something that you know about and nobody else does. Don’t think of this as a regular job – in almost a decade we’ve had more than 300 contributors because it should be the one thing that’s been burning away, that you feel you have to write.
Previously we always paid a percentage of profit at the end of our tax year. That both seemed fair – everybody benefited proportionally to what they’d done – and also allowed us to start up without any outside investment or worrying too much about advertising revenues. However, we realise in the present circumstances that’s not ideal for struggling freelancers, so for The Blizzard we’ll start paying a flat rate of £105/1000 published words (rounded to nearest 500) on publication of each issue. If it’s possible to increase that over time, we will.
Lastly, there are a few helpful things for sports freelancers in need of support and advice. There are dedicated sites for the Sports Freelancer Collective HERE
And to join the Sports Freelancer Collective Facebook page go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/495051321162204/?ref=share.
To join the FWA mailing list and receive updates, please email email@example.com.
And to join the Cricket Writers’ Club (for all cricket media) email CWC Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org