NPA gets tough in access row with Premier League

Man U: may face press retaliation

The Newspaper Publishers Association has sent every football club chairman in the FA Premier League notice of unequivocal standard terms of access to matches for reporters and photographers.

The hardline approach has come after sports organisations’ steadily increasing attempts to impose restrictions on newspapers’ copyright. Publishers are exasperated as more organisations submit conditions of entry which they feel seek to take away their rights.

The new terms spell out that not only do publishers want the access they are currently allowed, but they also want it extended to players, club officials and locations. They also want editorial freedom enshrined as a fundamental principle in any agreement.

The move comes as the NPA waits for the League to submit its proposals for renewing a photographic agreement for the 2003/2004 season. In November it was told informally by Football Data Co that the current accreditation terms would be widened to stop newspapers putting their pictures on websites, from syndicating them and that they would only be able to publish the pictures in “timed publishing slots”.

Despite letters asking for formal proposals from the League’s commercial arm, the NPA has heard nothing and the new season begins on 16 August. “It can’t go on this way,” said NPA director Steve Oram, who thinks the differences between what newspapers want and what event organisers want is like “Venus and Mercury – light years apart”.

There are already rumblings that, in retaliation, newspapers may remove sponsors’ names from pictures of players. Manchester United is putting together a new policy on photographers’ access which would see it offering to newspapers photographs of players on its summer tour. Newspapers want their own access and fear it will be denied.

Paddy Harverson, director of communications at Manchester United, said: “We are absolutely not reducing any access for national newspapers to pictures of Manchester United playing games in the normal course of football activity. What we are thinking of offering is additional behind-the-scenes images or special images via the internet or a special service.”

It is expected that this will not apply to sports news agencies, however, which the club sees as rivals in selling material it regards as its own commercial property.

The NPA’s new conditions insist that newspapers have and will continue to find new methods of bringing their content to readers and the desire that event organisers, when they draw up contracts with sponsors, should take account of the benefits newspaper publicity gives them.

By Jean Morgan

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