31 July 2014

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Freelance jobs at risk as PA cuts cricket coverage

Around 20 freelance reporters could lose work over a decision by the Press Association to downgrade coverage of county cricket ahead of the new season.

PA Sport will no longer pay for journalists to report directly from cricket grounds and will instead generate coverage from its head offices, based on score updates and Twitter feeds.

The move may also affect county cricket coverage on regional newspapers, some of whom rely on PA to provide cricket reports.

Now the Cricket Writers’ Club backed by the Sports Journalists’ Association has written to the England and Wales Cricket Board to complain about the decision with the season barely a month away.

Mark Baldwin, The Times cricket writer and the chairman-elect of the club, said: “The Cricket Writers’ Club is deeply concerned about what this will likely mean for county cricket coverage, generally.

“It is conceivable that some county matches this summer will be played with no written media in the press box at certain times, as a lot of regional freelances see the PA contract as the basis for their commitment to attend every day of their county club’s home matches.

“The CWC has written to David Collier, the chief executive of the ECB, to make him aware of the development and to outline our grave concerns at the ramifications of the PA decision – for English cricket – and he has already replied to say that the Board ‘shares our concerns’ and promising to raise the issue with PA.

“We are now awaiting the outcome of that.”

The national news agency tried to cover county cricket in-house once before, in 2001, but quickly reconsidered the decision after a barrage of protest from their subscribers among national and regional newspapers.

Supplying copy and scores to PA is a mainstay of many regional freelancers’ annual incomes and several cricket writers have contacted the Sports Journalists’ Association (SJA) to express their anger.

SJA secreatry Steven Downes added: “This is the latest example of the erosion of the worth of proper journalistic values, and it undermines, yet again, the work of many of our members.

“How PA can fulfil their obligations to the ECB when they do not staff county cricket matches remains to be explained.

“The SJA calls on PA Sport to reconsider its position and ask them to make a decision that will uphold the integrity of its county cricket coverage.”

A Press Association spokesman said: “The Press Association has a strong commitment to covering cricket at all levels.

“But when planning how to allocate our resources this year we took the decision to bring coverage of the county game in-house.”

3 Comments

  1. Scoop

    Shame, although the fact the coverage was basically topped and tailed running copy made it very hard to use, especially working to tight deadlines if it needed cutting to space. Took a hasty re-write, and if you knew nothing about cricket it could be rendered practically meaningless by the sub. Still, another great English tradition goes down the pan.

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  2. Paddy Briggs, London

    As a member of both the SJA and the CWC I regret this decision by the PA. But the sad reality is that to spend serious money reporting events which few attend and is only of minority interest to the general public makes little sense. County Cricket has already long since passed the point where it generates much media interest and captures much space on print other media. A few media will still report it because they agree to do so as part of other deals (e.g. International cricket rights). But if I was an Editor with a limited budget would I pay to send journos to County games? I doubt it.

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  3. michael Stanford, London

    The fact that county cricket attracts relatively small crowds (although some counties attract better attendances than others) does not mean that there is no interest in the game. On the contrary. People are as keen as ever to find out how their local counties are doing, which would seem to make decent coverage in our newspapers all the more important. The fact is that a County Championship match lasts four days and taking a couple of days off in these straitened times is a non-starter for most people. But that certainly does not mean that they are not interested in reading about how their team is doing.

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