Hi-tech sports photographers hit by epidemic of thefts

Forget winter flu. There is another epidemic around and it is of major concern to sports photographers, who are reporting a sharp increase in thefts of their equipment.

SJA member and freelance Richard Washbrooke is appealing to snappers to get in touch with their stories and is putting together an inventory of stolen items which is likely to run into the tens of thousands of pounds.

Premier League football clubs, Twickenham, Wembley Arena, even the Boat Race have all been hit.

As one photographer put it: “More stuff has been stolen this past 12 months than in the previous 12 years! It looks like we are easy targets for thieves as we do leave equipment lying around but it’s impossible to keep everything with us all the time.

“Maybe we all have to be a bit more aware also and try to leave our equipment in better areas of the stadium. It seems to be a culture change for all of us.”

One victim of a theft at a football club said: “I had to go outside to cover the team arrivals for about 15-20 minutes and it was in this time frame the camera and lens were taken from inside one of my bags.

“It’s not an ideal situation leaving our bags unattended but it’s impractical to carry everything at all times.”

Freelance Matt Wilkinson is another victim, losing in excess of £10,000 worth of equipment when a back pack behind the hoardings was rifled and stolen at a Premier League football club before fans were allowed into the stadium.

Equipment has moved on but now photographers have become a magnet to thieves (Photo: Reg Birkett/Keystone/Getty Images)

He said: “On the night the stewards did no more than say they’d keep an eye out for it and security did little more than take my name and phone number. I have been promised I can view CCTV footage since.”

Washbrooke had equipment stolen from a golf event, an opportunist theft from the media room. Photographers’ laptops are particularly vulnerable because they are all high-performing Apple Macs.

SJA members who have got in touch over this worrying issue have suggested FIFA-style lockers at football grounds, secure areas in photo rooms and CCTV. Manchester United and Arsenal have been named as two Premier League clubs with excellent security and stewarding.

There is a knock-on effect for photographers. The fight for insurers to pay up if there is the slightest doubt about security.

Washbrooke hopes that highlighting the problems will force organisers to consider the needs of photographers – after all, this is not an issue which routinely affects reporters.

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