With the industry under increasing financial pressures, publishing businesses failing regularly and jobs being cut almost weekly, sports journalists are getting used to feeling like an endangered species.
But now, if one national sports body gets its way, we are to be treated like exhibits at a zoo.
The British Basketball League has started selling special tickets for its national cup final at Birmingham in January to give fans a seat in the press box, access to post-game press conferences, and to provide a report for use on the BBL website.
For “just” £70 – £49 plus the £21 cost of a general entrance ticket – the BBL says, “Our Media Experience Package will make any budding journalist’s dreams come true.”
Mark Woods, the secretary of the Basketball Journalists’ Association, was shocked and dismayed when he first became aware of BBL’s money-making scheme.
“A lot of journalists expressed astonishment that access to media facilities is being sold to the public, as much for the practical issues that it raises as for the principle involved,” Woods said.
“We raised the issue with the BBL who are to create a separate area for anyone who takes this up, as well as setting up interviews away from the working press so we can get on with our jobs without impediment. It’s been claimed that this is a chance for budding hacks to experience the job.
“But is the best way to encourage newcomers to make them pay for what is effectively a hospitality package?”
The Sports Journalists’ Association’s policy remains that press facilities at all sports events should be carefully restricted to bona fide working journalists, and the Association continues to work with sports governing bodies and organisations to ensure the best possible facilities are made available and that this privilege is not misused.
The SJA is writing to the BBL seeking a full explanation of its ticketing policy.