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Progress on 'take it or leave it' football talks

Key agreements for sports journalists covering football have moved a step closer after a marathon meeting with the league authorities resulted in a new proposal for the press.

The Society of Editors, Newspaper Society, the NUJ, and professional bodies including the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the Periodical Publishers’ Association and the Football Writers Association, all took part in an 8.5-hour meeting to thrash out the latest details with Football DataCo – an organisation formed to protect the league’s interests.

But despite the progress with the authorities the alternative to the solutions put forward is no presence at all in the press box.

A system of accreditation is thought to be the best solution to overcrowded press boxes where there might not be room for bona fide journalists, or “professional” journalists, as the Premiership and Football League defines them.

The newspaper industry was worried it could be left to the football authorities to decide who reported from matches and who did not.

There was a fear reporters and researchers for websites, WAP services, mobile phone messaging and statistics providers would all have to be licensed along with the national and regional press.

But there will be no “licence” to be signed as some clubs had previously requested and press passes will be dealt with by individual clubs – reporters signing in at the clubs where conditions would be displayed.

Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell said: “The football clubs have agreed that what they wanted to achieve can be achieved without extra bureaucracy or draconian controls.

“They did not want to interfere with traditional reporting and this will not affect the way newspapers report on games.”

But some controls, such as rules on when websites and other electronic media can be updated – which will protect the clubs’ own exclusive SMS messaging, for example – will not be popular.

The new proposals, outlined below, are being put to Society of Editors’ members.

The football authorities will inform clubs of the new arrangements in time for matches at the start of the new season this weekend.

It would be up to members to decide whether to accept the conditions or no longer report from press boxes.

Press Pass Terms and Conditions:

Press Accreditation (permitting the holder to attend a match in the press box) is issued to individual members of the press who attend matches on behalf of specified, accredited organisations.

Access is subject to terms and conditions, including:

  • prior notification of the identity of the reporter;
  • details of all the publications, print and electronic, to which copy will be supplied;
  • reporters are only permitted to produce or file articles – there will be no audio commentary, moving pictures, photographs, audio, visual, text or data streaming allowed, or any statistics, score updates or performance data, other than for inclusion within the article;
  • the resulting report can only be published after a certain time has elapsed during the match, in a move wich looks set to restrict instantaneous reporting via the Internet, for example – it allows one report between the 20th and 25th minute, one report at half time, one report between 65th and 70th minutes, further reports at the end of the match and in the event of extra time a further report can be published at the end;
  • statistics gathered from watching the match can only be published at the end of the game;
  • reporters must be insured.

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