Not out! Cricket freelances brought back by PA Sport

PA is reappointing cricket correspondents

The Press Association is reversing its decision to axe freelance cricket correspondents after just one season because newspapers are missing "vital colour and detail" in match reports.

Press Gazette reported in March that around 20 freelances were angry at being dropped in a cost-cutting measure, many of them after years of service. Instead, the national news agency proposed to use a system of cricket analysts who would send scores and information back from the county grounds via laptops straight into a computerised programme. PA was also putting more staff reporters at the matches.

Now a survey among its customers has revealed that they believe the colour and detail correspondents put into their reports was an essential ingredient.

Not only is the agency asking its redundant freelances if they will be available for next season, but it is recruiting others and adding more staff reporters to the mix, said sports editorial director Andy Elliott.

Elliott wants his new line-up in place by Christmas. He said: "We tried using the new system last season, which did deliver a lot better timings – we were able to get reports out much quicker – but there was a feeling among some of our customers that they were missing the colour the journalists provided.

"We did a survey of all our customers at the end of the summer and asked how they liked us doing the reports a different way. We have taken their views on board and we are going to be using some of the journalists we used before, some new journalists and, certainly, we’ll be having more staff reporters. And we will be using some of the system we used in the summer as back-up. It will be a double whammy."

Numbers have not yet been finalised, but Elliott proposes to have journalists at every county match next year. This will be aided by the season not having big sporting events such as the World Cup Finals or the Commonwealth Games to take resources out of his budget.

"What last summer did was give us the chance to reflect on the whole cricket system and see where the good points were in the way we covered cricket," Elliott said.

One of the freelances, Mike Beddow, who had covered Warwickshire and Worcestershire for PA for more than 20 years, has been offered a new seasonal contract. He told Press Gazette: "It’s nice to know that PA has recognised the value of expert coverage of the games from the grounds. We’re all pleased the full service will be back up and running."

By Jean Morgan

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