A regional daily editor has hit out at the London 2012 organisers over new restrictions which prevent papers getting local firms to sponsor their Olympic coverage.
Games organising committee LOCOG has sent out new legal guidance to newspapers on what can be done with the Olympic branding.
The guidelines include a tightening of restrictions so that no Olympics editorial supplement or column can be sponsored by a local company as it would breach the association rights of the Games’ official partners.
Northern Echo editor Peter Barron said the move was “going too far” because local papers needed commercial support to pay for the extra pages needed to promote the Olympics properly.
Writing in his blog, he said: “I fully appreciate the need for the Olympic organisers to protect the interests of their official global sponsors who pay millions to be directly associated with the greatest sporting event on earth.
“But surely it is going too far to prevent local newspapers from giving local companies the opportunity to sponsor Olympic coverage which is deemed to play such an important part in engaging communities the length and breadth of Britain.
“Local newspapers need commercial support to pay for the extra pages required to promote the Olympics properly.
“Granted, conventional advertising around the editorial is allowed (we think), but sponsorship is a particularly effective way of generating revenue – and that is being disallowed.
“It seems to me that Britain wants it all ways when it comes to the local press. The Prime Minister urges us to make our readers feel part of London 2012, but woe betide those of us who dare to get our coverage sponsored on a purely local level.
“Common sense might prevail in the end – but who’s going to take that chance with the world’s top lawyers hovering? It feels a bit like being asked to join a race with our legs tied together.”
A spokeswoman for LOCOG said: “Content about the Olympic Games, if sponsored, gives the sponsoring business an association with the Games.
“It is that sort of association that our commercial partners, which have invested millions in the Games to enable them to happen, have the exclusive right to assert.
“As such, newspapers can sell sponsorship opportunities to Olympic content to our partners.
“However, they cannot sell such sponsorship to other businesses as this would infringe the legal rights which have been implemented to ensure we are able to offer our partners exclusivity and thereby raise the funding necessary to stage the Games.”
Meanwhile another regional daily has criticised LOCOG’s ‘policing’ of the Olympic brand after a local charity was forced to rename a planned ‘Olympic’ event.
Instead of the Greentop Community Circus in Sheffield holding its Olympics Cabaret, it is now having to host its Sports Day Cabaret.
Sheffield Star editor Jeremy Clifford wrote in an editorial: “We understand the need to protect copyright, image rights and commercial rights associated with sponsors….but the ‘policing’ of these rights around the Olympic mark is bordering on the ludicrous.
“But if the true spirit of the Olympics is to be shared across the nation, then the LOCOG organisation behind protecting those rights needs to get a sense of perspective.”