Fears for safety of ITV staff in soccer row

Sports journalists have written to football clubs urging them to appeal to their fans not to harass camera crews and reporters covering Nationwide League games for ITV.

Some club bosses, angry over ITV Digital’s struggle with the Nationwide League over £180m television rights money, have urged fans to boycott Carlton and Granada programmes such as Coronation Street.

Amid concerns that non-payment of the remainder of the £315m fees for match coverage will lead to the closure of some clubs, it is feared ITV Sport’s journalists and camera crews could be made targets by angry fans.

After ITV Digital was put into administration last week, some unofficial websites have urged fans to protest against its decision not to pay the full amount of the contract with the 72 clubs by disrupting the work of the camera crews and journalists.

NUJ broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin has written on the journalists behalf to the Nationwide League’s chief executive, asking him to encourage club chairmen "either through public statements or match programmes that our members are also victims of this situation and only seek to promote the best interests of football as they carry out their jobs as professionals during this difficult time".

McLaughlin has also written to Graeme Stanley, ITV Sport’s director of broadcasting, to raise staff concerns.

It is understood that last weekend  one footballer at Bristol City refused to be interviewed by ITV Sport.

Camera crews are concerned that they may be be targeted by angry fans as negotiations over a new package continue.

"We are perceived as the ones who are putting footballers out of work but really we’re just the people in the middle," said Robin Bailey, an ITV Sport reporter.

"Many of us are football fans who on other days would be on the terraces supporting our teams, and we’re very disappointed ourselves about what’s happened.

"The fear is that we will be treated as if we are the enemy."

By Julie Tomlin

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