The long-running row over regional press access to the London 2012 Olympics has finally been resolved after Games bosses agreed to allocate 39 press passes to local and regional newspapers.
Initially, the British Olympics Association had wanted most regional titles to take their coverage from the Press Association, with only a handful of local papers succeeding in gaining individual accreditation.
But the BOA has agreed to widen press access following a spirited campaign by a number of local titles and a concerted behind-the-scenes lobbying operation by the Newspaper Society.
Now it has agreed to allocate 22 reporters passes and seven photographers passes to regional newspapers and groups, plus ten venue-specific passes to newspapers based around the main venues in London and Weymouth.
In a deal brokered by the NS, the successful applicants will share copy with the rest of the industry in a pooling arrangement similar to the Royal rota used to cover Royal visits.
The pool covers papers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The allocation for Scottish titles is being dealt with separately by the Scottish Newspaper Society.
Reporter and photographer passes have been allocated to the following titles and groups:
Eastern Daily Press
Manchester Evening News
The Herald, Plymouth
Reporter-only passes have been allocated to:
Bristol Evening Post
Express and Star
North West Evening Mail
South London Press
The Argus, Brighton
The Journal, Newcastle
The News, Portsmouth
The Star, Sheffield
Trinity Mirror Southern
Venue-specific reporter passes have been allocated to:
Basildon Echo (Hadleigh Farm – mountain biking)
Baylis Media (Eton Dorney – rowing, canoe sprint)
East Surrey and Sussex Newspapers (Weymouth – sailing)
Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle (various venues – volleyball, athletics, cycling, marathon swimming, triathlon, archery, beach volleyball)
Herts and Essex Newspapers (Lee Valley White Water Centre – canoe slalom)
Lewisham, Greenwich & Bexley Mercury (Greenwich – basketball, gymnastics, shooting, equestrian, modern pentathlon)
Richmond & Twickenham Times (Hampton Court Palace – cycling)
Waltham Forest Guardian (Olympic Park – BMX cycling, swimming, water polo, handball, hockey, athletics, basketball)
Wembley & Brent Times (Wembley – football, gymnastics, badminton)
Wimbledon Guardian (Wimbledon – tennis)
The access row erupted last September after HoldtheFrontPage revealed that almost no local and regional titles had secured passes the first wave of allocations.
Regional publishing group Newsquest launched a public campaign over the issue while others who weighed in on the industry’s behalf included London Mayor Boris Johnson and Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell.
Announcing the new arrangements today, the NS said it had consistently highlighted the need for local newspapers to be able to report directly on the progress of their local athletes and for local papers to be able to cover events happening in their circulation areas.
It said the latest set of allocations have been made by the BOA on the basis of providing “good geographic coverage of England and Wales and also reflecting the interest of the different regional press groups in covering the Olympics.”
In addition to the 39 press passes, the BOA will have access to a limited number of Olympic Park tickets for British reporters and photographers, which will be valid for one day only for the Olympic Park in Stratford from 28 July to 11 August.
There are also a number of facilities for non accredited media such as London Media Centre, the BOA’s press conference room in Westfield, and the Weymouth & Portland Non-Accredited Media Centre.
NS communications and marketing director Lynne Anderson said: “Through their coverage, regional and local newspapers play a vital part in supporting sports in the areas and helping communities celebrate the accomplishments of their local sporting heroes.
“Despite the extremely limited number of passes available for the Olympics, these facilities will go some way towards ensuring that the regional and local press titles are able to cover the Games effectively and that their readers will continue to benefit from the unique knowledge and expertise of local newspapers.”