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Football club’s press pass policy panned by regional daily

A regional daily says its reporter will be forced to pay to attend a promotion crunch match due to a non-league football club’s media accreditation policy.

The News, Portsmouth, is now considering how it will cover Havant & Waterlooville’s away game at Boreham Wood tomorrow due to the latter’s policy of allowing the visiting team to allocate their own press passes to media channels which cover them.

Havant have been designated two press passes for the second leg of the Football Conference South play-off semi-final, which The News says have been given to the club’s own staff.

While the paper says it has no qualms with this, it believes the home club should have judged its application for a pass on its own merit rather than letting the away team choose.

Boreham Wood's Meadow Park home ground, pictured during a friendly match against Arsenal last year

Boreham Wood’s Meadow Park home ground, pictured during a friendly match against Arsenal last year

Boreham Wood currently lead the tie 2-0 over Havant, who are nicknamed the Hawks, after the first leg.

The winner of the semi-final will have the opportunity to advance into the Football Conference National, the fifth highest level at which the sport is played in England, should they win against the victor of the other semi-final.

Havant matches are usually covered by freelancer Kevin Ricketts, who has headed up The News’s coverage of non-league football for the past 15 years.

The News has raised the issue with the Football Conference, which said it is up to the home team as to how they handle press requests.

Deputy sports editor Rob Atkins said: “For the first time in my career, we are effectively being charged for the privilege of covering a football match.

“This is because Boreham Wood do not consider all press pass applications on their own merits. Instead, they simply hand two passes to each visiting club to distribute as they wish.

“On this occasion, the Hawks have plenty of their own media personnel travelling to the game and will use the tickets for themselves.

“I have no qualms with this. It’s a big game and we would do exactly the same in their position.  But why is it left to the Hawks to decide if we get a press pass or not? The game is not being played in Havant.”

Discussing Boreham Wood’s accreditation policy, Rob added: “The net result is you have club men, populating club websites with pro-club material for free, while genuine journalists are left haggling for entry at the turnstiles.

“I’m sure both parties would be happy if Boreham Wood gave us one pass each and then said if we wanted to bring additional staff, they would have to pay the entrance fee. That would be simple and fair.

“As it is, they have just washed their hands of the whole thing and said it is the Hawks’ decision.”

Boreham Wood FC say in addition to the two press passes available, Havant & Waterlooville have been given 13 boardroom tickets and 24 complimentary tickets which could have been issued to The News by the away club.

Grant Morris, Boreham Wood’s communications and media manager, told HTFP there had been between 40 and 50 requests for press passes for the game.

He added: “Our policy throughout the whole season, whether play-offs or in the Conference South season, is to issue two press passes to the media team of each visiting club.”

Grant said The News would be given access to the press box should the paper choose to send a reporter to the match.


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  • May 1, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Can’t be rocket science can it? Ring Boreham Wood up and ask for another one.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 10:46 am

    How often does the News attend Waterlooville’s away games I wonder?
    I sense a bit of cherry picking here.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Mike. Thank you for your comment but you might want to check your rocket science textbook. We contacted Boreham Wood in the first place, as we would any club we visit. They said only two were available and the Hawks have them. End of.

    recarder. We cover every Hawks game. Home and away. There is no cherry-picking here. We are just lucky enough to have a freelancer prepared to travel. I appreciate this is unusual in the current climate of regional newspapers.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    It’s a good few years since I covered non-league football. But back then a press pass was essential to ensure ‘privilege.’ Writing a report after paying for admission left the reporter and publication open to legal action should any remark be challenged (particularly if a player’s competence was questioned). I’d be interested to know the current position.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Rob Atkins. Apologies. I did you a diservice. That’s good you cover every away game. Is the freelance paid? Some of the JP papers have no sports reporting staff at all and rely on heavily biased sent in copy that is not paid for. Of course, it is mostly crap.
    Hope you get it all resolved.It does seem stupid when you give them regular coverage.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Ex-Insider… I remember hearing similar reasoning behind press passes but I, too, have no idea whether it still stands.

    And that was my reason for being so open with David. I’m interested to know whether genuine sports journalists out there are coming across these obstacles on a regular basis or whether this is an anomaly?

    I understand why people outside of the industry will think it is ridiculous we are getting upset about paying an entry fee. I’m guessing LOL is being sarcastic? At which point, I know he is not a sports journalist. Certainly not a qualified one. Similarly Mike. Clearly missed the point by a West Country mile.

    But maybe that’s it. Maybe the days of sports clubs welcoming press with open arms and understanding the mutual benefits a strong relationship can bring are gone?

    Social media and clubs launching their own websites, TV channels etc has given rise to this idea they can do without their local rag. Fortunately, Boreham Wood are the only team (in any sport) we have come across so far to take this a step further and ask for money to report on their fixtures.

    But will they be the last? I’m guessing not. And if that’s the case, do we begin to give more weight, more column inches, more website space to those clubs who are proactive, who are hungry and appreciate the coverage but are currently getting overlooked?

    So to rant but this is not a tight-fisted old hack looking for his next free lunch. I’m genuinely interested in the changing dynamics at play here.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    redcarder… Yep, he does get paid. As I said, we are very lucky. We also still have our pink on a Saturday afternoon!

    But you’re right, the reliance on UGC is growing. And if this relationship between clubs and their local press continues to shift, it will only get worse. Say we swerved this match, given the costs (and our bosses would probably back that course of action), the only way to deliver the same depth of coverage to our readers would be to rely heavily on information given to us by Havant & Waterlooville’s media guys. And that, as you say, is going to be heavily biased – not to mention amateur – copy.

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  • May 1, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    I rest my case. I’m glad Grant has repeated on here what he said to me earlier this week. Boreham Wood’s policy is to “issue two press passes to the media team of each visting club”. So there it is in black and white… professional journalists are now out-ranked by amateur writers populating club websites and club social media. Maybe I’m alone but, for me, this is a dark day.

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