Press and football chiefs clash over embargo plan

The Premier League wants to control when match pictures and reports can go out

On the eve of the new football season, publishers, editors and agencies are making a last-ditch stand against further restrictions on the way they can publish news and pictures from matches.

Meetings, both formal and informal, had reached stalemate this week as the Premier League and the Football League sought to impose an embargo on when some reports and pictures can go out.

The parties are so far apart that Steve Oram, director of the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, says his side has asked for a limited extension of last season’s agreement, which itself had been extended for a year and with which neither party is entirely happy.

Among the organisations involved in talks are the NPA, the Newspaper Society, the Society of Editors, the Football Writers’ Association and the new Alliance of International News and Picture Agencies.

The football bodies had already riled the publishers by, in keeping with their past practice, not presenting their proposals for the renewal of the annual photographic contract until the end of April.

Now they propose restricting the way news is delivered to the public by imposing an embargo on all content that comes out of football events. The “holdback period” will relate to all content and all publications, whether it be print or new forms of publishing, such as internet to mobile phones.

Publishers believe this will undermine journalistic principles when others decide what is news and when news should be delivered. They await a meeting of the league bodies this week to consider their reluctance to accept the terms as presented to them and consider their plea for an extension.

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell would not be drawn on the detail of the talks, but he told Press Gazette: “What has to be achieved is a meeting of minds and an agreement has to be reached. Both sides invest a huge amount in either putting on football or reporting it.

“The coverage of football is a very expensive part of any editor’s budget.

You have to be able to recoup that by readership whether it’s on print, websites or other electronic means.”

The current stand-off is a repetition of the antagonism between the two football bodies and publishers which has marked pre-season talks in earlier years. While the Premier League is intent on controlling every part of clubs’ events, and safeguarding their revenue, newspapers, magazines and agencies are fighting every infringement of their journalistic rights.

By Jean Morgan and Jon Slattery

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