Cricket freelances hit for six by PA shake-up

The PA plans to use more of its own staff for coverage

The Press Association has caused anger among its long-term cricket match freelances by dispensing with their services in a cost-cutting measure.

Instead it is to use "cricket analysts", recording scores and information on laptops from the ground and fed back to an in-house software system, to produce match reports.

There will also be more staff reporters at county matches.

In a letter to correspondents, numbering up to 20, PA sports editorial director Andy Elliott said the news agency would still be interested in news stories after or around the games on a pay-for-use basis. But without the regular match report payments, many of the stringers will no longer be attending the games.

Derek Hodgson, secretary of the Cricket Writers’ Club, has already fired off a letter to the English Cricket Board, pointing out that when the board is expanding its marketing staff in the hope of winning more exposure in the media, PA is "severely restricting journalists’ efforts on behalf of the counties".

"It seems a very paradoxical situation," said Hodgson, who added it had been rumoured when scorers’ reports were first put on computers a few years ago that PA had it in mind it would do away with journalists.

"We all laughed at the time because it was such a ridiculous proposition. But apparently it is happening. It affects a considerable number of journalists who have been doing this job possibly since the war. It is going to take a big chunk of their income away".

Hodgson said he suspected there would be no journalists in press boxes at some matches to cover major news stories.

Elliott’s letter suggests the correspondents might still like to do that. "From the mood of the local correspondents they will get a short two-word reply," said Hodgson.

Mike Beddow, who has been covering Warwickshire and Worcestershire for PA for more than 20 years, said he was obviously disappointed that a great tradition of freelance reporting of cricket was passing away.

"No doubt the freelances will be considering their position," he added.

In his letter to the freelances Elliott said: "There is obviously a financial element to this as we have made a huge investment in cricket this season."

Elliott told Press Gazette: "Ever since I started at PA, we’ve aimed to source more and more of our own material, using our own staff, and this is a further step along that road.

"This season we are introducing our new Cricket Live system to enhance our cricket service. This move in no way reflects on the past service the freelances have given us and we’ll still be using the freelances for any items of news and any quotes from the games."

Jean Morgan

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