Fitzhenry returns to SJA committee

Mary Fitzhenry, a former Association secretary, was re-elected to the SJA’s general committee at its annual meeting held on Wednesday.

The AGM, held at the offices of the SJA’s sponsors UK Sport on St George’s Day (Mike Porter, at least, arrived sporting a splendid red rose in his buttonhole), was routine in terms of the business it dealt with, the officers – chairman Barry Newcombe, Treasurer Neil Wilson, deputy chairman Stuart Robinson and secretary Steven Downes – all standing for another term unopposed and without any motions for changes to the constitution.

The chairman, secretary and treasurer each delivered their annual reports, which made much of the SJA’s increased activities in a range of areas, including lunches, Golf Days and providing advice and support to colleagues over the increasing number of accreditation and rights issues. It was also reported that this website continues to grow in scope and influence, some of its stories being picked up by the media pages of national dailies, while in March, around the time of the SJA’s British Sports Journalism and Photography Awards, enjoyed a record traffic levels with more than 500,000 hits.

Treasurer Wilson related a near £24,000 loss on the 2007 financial year through the costs of the SJA’s two awards events. “It’s the price of our success,” Wilson said. “The more tickets we sell, the more money we lose.”

Happily, the SJA had forged a new partnership with sponsors BT Vision, but the meeting was warned that, ahead of the Association’s 60th anniversary Sports Awards, to be staged at The Brewery on November 26, a more realistic pricing of tickets would have to be introduced, particularly on the price of tables booked by non-members.

For the first time in six years, there were more candidates for the general committee than places at the table, and Fitzhenry’s election saw the loss to the committee of former Mirror man John Jackson. Chairman Barry Newcombe paid tribute to John’s contributions to the work of the Association over many years, and extended an invitation to him to continue his work on behalf of the membership in a less formal manner in future.

Fitzhenry is a former press officer for the Sports Council, Sport England, the English Institute of Sport and Commonwealth Games who is now working in her own sports-related PR firm, Spoke Promotions, together with another former Sport England media chief, Jonathan O’Neill.

“Pat Besford first recruited me on to the SWA committee more than 20 years ago and in that time I have acted as secretary, was closely involved with the organisation of the AIPS Congress in Manchester and worked for years as the organiser of the British Sports Journalism and Sports Photographer of the Year Awards,” she said.

Others elected to the committee were Ian Cole (Daily Mail), David Walker (Sunday Mirror), Jon Ryan (formerly at the Sunday Telegraph, now with the British Horseracing Board), Jim Munro (Sun Online), David Welch, Philip Barker (Sky Sports) and Leo Mason. Contact details can be found here.

Current secretary Downes, in his remarks, called on all members to use the 60th anniversary year to try to double the SJA’s membership: “If each of us recruit just one colleague from our sports desk, picture department or in the press box this Saturday, then we could do much to increase the SJA’s influence and ability to be as representative of sports journalists as possible.”

Read Barry Newcombe’s Chairman’s Report by clicking here

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