A sports writer in America has been thrown out of the press box at his local university’s sports ground and had his accreditation cancelled because he was blogging during a college baseball game.
Brian Bennett, a reporter with the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, was ordered to leave the stadium midway through an NCAA game after being told by one of its officials that it was a violation of the collegiate sports association’s policies to transmit live internet updates from its championship events.
The NCAA ban follows the Cricket World Cup’s threat to withdraw accreditations from reporters in the Caribbean if their newspapers posted online ball-by-ball reports.
Bennett’s executive editor, Bennie Ivory, said: “It’s clearly a first amendment issue. This is part of the evolution of how we present the news to our readers. It’s what we did during the Orange Bowl. It’s what we did during the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s what we do.”
According to a NCAA memo, blogs are considered to be a “live representation of the game” and that any blog containing action photos or game reports would be prohibited. “In essence no blog entries are permitted between the first pitch and the final out of each game.”
The NCAA, it should be remembered, remains probably the only major sporting organisation in the world that does not recognise internationally conducted drug tests, while it also insists on some of the most Draconian of qualification rules for student sportsmen and women, particularly around the subject of amateurism.
The Courier-Journal‘s lawyer spotted the weakness in the NCAA argument in this case, pointing out that “once a player hits a home run, that’s a fact. It’s on TV. Everybody sees it. [The NCAA] can’t copyright that fact. The blog wasn’t a simulcast or a recreation of the game. It was an analysis.”
In Britain, most of the restrictions on press freedom at football clubs have affected photographers. More than four years ago Celtic tried unsuccessfully to license press photographers.
In a dispute in 2004, national newspapers refused to accept Premiership demands that digital publishing of match photographs be subject to a two-hour time delay.
The forthcoming Rugby World Cup, in France, Scotland and Wales, is planning to apply strict limits to all online photography from the tournament, including mandatory use of the event’s sponsors advertising and logos, a policy which the World Association of Newspapers and AIPS is campaigning against.