Football clubs back media over licensing

 

Sports journalists, worried about Premier and Football League restrictions on reporters covering soccer matches, have a new ally – the clubs themselves.

Media representatives met with League officials again this week to discuss controversial new accreditation conditions for journalists.

The major stumbling block is the leagues’ insistence on restrictions on journalists working for online services apart from the internet versions of their own papers.

The media side says that such conditions are unworkable.

And now sources in the Premier League have said that some of the country’s top football clubs, believed to include Manchester United, Arsenal and Leeds United, have come down on the side of the journalists.

A senior figure at one leading Premiership team said: "Licensing journalists and trying to control their copy is totally misguided."

The negotiating team for the media went into Wednesday’s meeting with a proposed system of accreditation whereby journalists would be identified and would also be obliged to say who they worked for and where their work would appear.

But Paul McCarthy, chairman of the Football Writers’ Association and chief sports columnist for the Sunday People, said the journalists were in no mood to compromise on the basic issues.

He said: "We’re not going to accept any terms and conditions for journalists to be allowed entry into press boxes or control about what they write."

The leagues’ stance on use of material is believed to be a reaction to the increasing popularity of online services such as planetfootball.com and Opta, the player performance statisticians who provide their services to the leagues and most of the media.

BSkyB bought the Sports Internet Group, which operates both services, last year for £300m. The suspicion is that the leagues are concerned that services such as those provided by Sports Internet Group could be the major money earners in years to come.

Opta is the official player performance statistician for the Premier League and is currently in separate negotiations about renewing that contract.

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