World Cup pics row turns nasty as papers threaten legal action

By Dominic Ponsford

Newspapers have accused world football governing body Fifa of turning its back on the "news media which give life, on a daily basis, to football".

The World Association of Newspapers this week started a lobbying campaign to inform the main World Cup sponsors of its concern about the "severe restrictions" on press coverage of the June event in Germany.

It is also considering legal action after talks over accreditation rules for journalists broke down last week.

In a strongly worded letter to Fifa bosses, WAN said: "Your restrictions on our journalistic coverage of the 2006 World Cup not only deprive our readers and clients of access to important information on a public event, but constitute both an interference in editorial freedom and independence and a clear breach of the right to freedom of information as protected by numerous international conventions.

"You have made it clear that Fifa rejects both these ideas and that, to express it bluntly, considers that ‘business is business’.

"Beyond this, we are truly saddened and shocked that in the name of maximising the commercial exploitation of these events, Fifa should effectively turn its back on the news media which give life, on a daily basis, to football in all its different manifestations all over the world and have done so for decades."

The dispute centres on the rights to publish pictures on websites. Fifa has insisted that no photos be published on websites until after the final whistle of matches and limited the number of web published photos to five per match half and two for extra time, including penalty shoot-outs.

Fifa claims the restrictions are needed to protect contracts with those who have live broadcast rights.

The restrictions, which include conditions on how photos are used in print editions, have been imposed as a condition of access and accreditation to the World Cup.

WAN has said it plans to "explore legal options" and inform World Cup sponsors of the "very clear loss of exposure from which they will suffer owing to Fifa’s publishing restrictions".

Some of the Fifa rules:

No alteration of pictures in print editions is allowed that could obscure any World Cup sponsor logos. This includes superimposed tables and headlines as well as inset pictures.

No images can be published before the end of the relevant match or ceremony.

News websites can only use pictures as stills.

Only five images are allowed for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Any journalists breaching the rules will be expelled from venues and have their accreditation confiscated.

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