The Cricket Writers’ Club has formally complained to the England and Wales Cricket Board over plans by the governing body’s media contractors, PA Sport, to downgrade coverage of the county game and stop paying for dedicated reporters around the grounds.
With the start of the new season barely a month away, around 20 cricket reporters seem likely to lose work over the decision, which will see PA Sport generating its county cricket coverage from its head offices, based on little more than score updates and Twitter feeds.
What makes the decision to cut coverage so remarkable is that PA Sport manages the official ECB website, supplying copy and managing the site.
Ashley Broadley, PA’s sports editor, told sportsjournalists.co.uk today his company has “a strong commitment” to covering cricket. “But when planning how to allocate our resources this year we took the decision to bring coverage of the county game in-house.”
PA Sport tried to cover county cricket in-house once before, in 2001, but quickly reconsidered the decision after a barrage of protest from their subscribers among national and regional newspapers.
Today, the agency is under continued pressure over its costs, and with many regional groups no longer taking the full PA wire, it is in a weaker position than it was.
According to cricket writers who have contacted the SJA, there is widespread anger at the timing of the announcement so close to the start of the season. Supplying copy and scores to PA is a mainstay of many regional freelancers’ annual incomes.
According to Mark Baldwin, The Times cricket writer and the chairman-elect of the CWC, “The Cricket Writers’ Club is deeply concerned about what this will likely mean for county cricket coverage, generally.
“It is conceivable that some county matches this summer will be played with no written media in the press box at certain times, as a lot of regional freelances see the PA contract as the basis for their commitment to attend every day of their county club’s home matches,” Baldwin warned.
“The CWC has written to David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB, to make him aware of the development and to outline our grave concerns at the ramifications of the PA decision – for English cricket – and he has already replied to say that the Board ‘shares our concerns’ and promising to raise the issue with PA.
“We are now awaiting the outcome of that.”
The SJA shares the concern of the CWC and our members. Steven Downes, secretary of the Association, said, “This is the latest example of the erosion of the worth of proper journalistic values, and it undermines, yet again, the work of many of our members. How PA can fulfil their obligations to the ECB when they do not staff county cricket matches remains to be explained.
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