Relief as rugby row is kicked into touch

Sports journalists have expressed relief after the organisers of the Rugby World Cup backed down over drastic restrictions on journalists officially accredited to cover the event.

A deal was struck in Paris on Monday between the International Rugby Board and a coalition of more than 40 news organisations which can now publish an unlimited amount of stories with video clips online – with a five-minute limit on each event covered – and 160 still images per match, or one every 30 seconds, with more allowed for extra time.

A joint statement from the IRB and the coalition said: ‘This voluntary agreement… will enable full news coverage of the Rugby World Cup 2007 according to normal editorial judgement.”

Keir Radnedge, of the International Sports Writers’ Association, said: ‘The IRB came back to table as a result of the walk-out by international news agencies [last week]. They were coming under some pressure from sponsors and French politicians. Almost all the remaining issues were then hammered out quite quickly.

‘A very strong message has been sent out to the sports federations in general. We have been pushed around on this and won’t be told to comply with unfair restrictions any more.”

Rugby World Cup Limited, which runs the tournament on the IRB’s behalf, had previously told news organisations they were only allowed to publish 40, and later 50, live match pictures on their websites during games and had imposed a three-minute limit on video clips from press events and team training sessions. These limits were to preserve its lucrative broadcasting rights deal.

The IRB has also backed down on previous rules that would have seen it keep the copyright on all pictures taken at the tournament in case it needed to use them for promotional purposes.

Last week, before a temporary agreement was signed on Friday, The Guardian, Reuters and Associated Press had refused to cover official World Cup events.

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