By Dominic Ponsford
An increasingly heated row between football’s world governing body, FIFA, and news organisations across the globe has been resolved after a ban on World Cup internet pictures was lifted.
The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) had threatened legal action and a lobbying campaign of World Cup sponsors after FIFA refused to relax restrictions on the publication of photos from the tournament on news websites. FIFA had insisted that no pictures should appear on websites until the final whistle and that they be limited to five per half.
But FIFA president Sepp Blatter has now told WAN that he is lifting all restrictions on digital photographs of the World Cup in Germany this June.
A source close to the negotiations told Press Gazette: "Their greatest concern was a developing cloud over the event, which Sepp Blatter could do without.
"Representations from various trade organisations around the world and the involvement of sponsors in the row led to a feeling from him that he couldn’t afford for too much ill-will to develop before the tournament."
Talks over World Cup picture rights had appeared deadlocked, leading WAN to issue a furious statement two weeks ago saying the restrictions "constitute both an interference in editorial freedom and independence and a clear breach of the right to freedom of information as protected by numerous international conventions".
WAN added: "We are truly saddened and shocked that in the name of maximising the commercial exploitation of these events, FIFA should effectively turn its back on the news media which give life, on a daily basis, to football in all its different manifestations all over the world and has done so for decades."
British Newspaper Publishers Association director Steve Oram said this week: "This is a landmark deal which means newspaper websites can bring up-to-the-minute visual news of the matches to our readers.
"It is vital that editors and their staff should be unfettered in determining how and when photographic accounts are published.
"We are therefore particular pleased that FIFA has recognised the importance of this fundamental press freedom within society."