The date of this report says it all. The arrival of coronavirus has cast a long shadow on the sports journalism industry and seems set to shape our landscape for some time to come.
Five months later than planned, the SJA will finally hold our annual general meeting via Zoom on Wednesday after a 2020 which will never be forgotten, albeit for the wrong reasons.
Much of this summer we have supported the Sports Freelancer Collective, a joint venture to help and advise sports journalists facing job losses, financial disaster, or even mental health issues. We also offered a deferment on membership subscription to tide over those struggling to pay.
In these troubling times, we are grateful for the continuing support of The National Lottery and Canon.
This year’s agm will see changes in personnel with Andy and Janine both stepping down as co-chairs and Nick Townsend as secretary while former chairman David Walker has decided not to stand for election to the committee.
Keith Elliott, our long-standing training officer, and former photographers’ judge David Ofield have also signalled their intention to leave. We would like to thank them for all that they have done for the committee.
David Walker has been an invaluable member of the executive for many, many years. He has been instrumental in bringing in sponsorship, steering us safely through potential crises and providing insight and guidance. To say that he will be sorely missed is an understatement and we would like to acknowledge his immense contribution.
It has been a time of change for the SJA since the late spring of 2019. Broadcasters Natalie Pirks, Benny Bonsu and Karthi Gnanasegaram and Jon Holmes, home page editor of Sky Sports Digital, joined the general committee. Leon Mann stepped up to become vice chair.
We also co-opted four new members. Getty director of photography Paul Gilham, Guardian commissioning editor Sachin Nakrani, James Toney, managing editor at national press agency Sportsbeat and freelance photographer Ian Rice, who works from a wheelchair.
And there were three new awards judges – broadcaster Faye Carruthers, Telegraph picture editor Matthew Fearn and Colin Bateman, former cricket and Olympic correspondent for the Daily Express.
Thanks to our partnership with News Associates, we were able to welcome the first recipient to the SJA’s sports journalism diversity scholarship.
Ahmed Shooble, whose family fled the civil war in Somalia in the 1990s, was the first member of his immediate family to be born in the UK and the first to attend university.
Students from News Associates interviewed sporting stars at the British Sports Awards and their work was showcased on their own and our website.
One of the most successful ventures of the last year was an accreditation seminar organised by Mary Fitzhenry and involving different sporting organisations. Photographers, in particular, had the opportunity to air their concerns over the growing trend of having to cope with ‘amateurs’.
Both the British Sports Awards and the British Sports Journalism Awards were hugely successful. The journalism awards attracted a record number of entries and there was some shuffling of categories. For instance we awarded a Sports Network of the Year prize for the first time – and it went to talkSPORT.
A word here for James Green and Start2Finish, the company which looks after our awards functions. Once again James did us proud.
With Covid-19 unlikely to disappear soon, it looks more and more likely that both the Sports Awards and the Journalism Awards will have to ‘go virtual’.
The committee has continued to meet via Zoom throughout the lockdown and pandemic – in fact attendances are significantly up! We have agreed that an in-depth diversity and inclusivity survey in the industry is long overdue and Jon Holmes is investigating with assistance from Sachin Nakrani.
As a result of the Black Lives Matter campaign we ran a series of articles on the website highlighting the issues facing black sports journalists. Committee member Benny Bonsu wrote eloquently on the subject.
These are issues which will again dominate the next 12 months and quite rightly so.
Despite the lockdown, we have found committee meetings on Zoom often more productive and there have been some great ideas put forward. The committee has evolved in the last year or so and now that several new people have “bedded in”, we can look forward to some more positive change in the coming year.
Andy Elliott & Janine Self