Football leagues warn papers as lock-out looms

The football leagues have written to individual newspapers urging them to break ranks as a print journalism-lock-out at football grounds looms from this Monday.

Talks between the Newspaper Publishers Association and the two football leagues have broken down and the licensing agreement between newspapers and football is due to run out after Sunday.

In a joint statement the Premiership and Football League have hinted that newspapers may be barred from covering games unless they sign up to new licensing rules.

They said: “Everybody, including ordinary fans, enters football grounds under certain conditions.

We have an agreement in place with newspapers and photographers that expires on 31 October this year and we hope to reach a new agreement by this time.

“In any event, journalists and photographers shall not be prevented from entering grounds if they abide by the conditions in place at that time.”

The row centres on licensing conditions imposed by Football DataCo, which controls the intellectual property rights of the Premiership and Football League, on newspaper coverage of football.

The conditions are:

a two hour delay between games finishing and newspapers’ pictures appearing on websites and other outlets; 
the imposition of reporting windows midway through each half and during half-time in which newspaper companies can publish scores of ongoing games;
restrictions on non-newspaper print products, such as posters and stickers;
a five to seven per cent cut for the football leagues from the proceeds of newspaper fantasy football competitions.

Last week a number of national newspapers omitted logos and sponsorship branding from their football reports by way of protest at the proposed new licensing conditions.

According to the NPA these papers have now been threatened with legal action by the football leagues for breach of contract.

NPA director Steve Oram said: “The NPA is prepared to negotiate provided football leagues show they will be significantly flexible.”

Regarding the football leagues’ decision to contact newspapers directly, Oram said: “They simply don’t understand the strength of feeling within the press”.

He said he was still waiting for a response from the football leagues on what access rights reporters and photographers will have from 1 November.

The NPA says it is not allowed to organise an official boycott of football by newspapers, for legal reasons.

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