An international media coalition has completed an agreement with the UK Football League and Premier League to improve the terms on which photographers and journalists can cover football matches – a breakthrough in the troubled area of rights between publishers and sports administrators.
The landmark deal comes after News Corp, Fairfax and AAP declared they would not send accredited journalists to the 2015 Rugby World Cup because organisers demanded news outlets forgo digital publishing rights enshrined in fair use provisions of Australian and New Zealand law.
The UK football agreement was negotiated by the News Media Coalition (NMC) which represents the interests of major news agencies, publishers and photo agencies, particularly around access to international sporting events.
The three-season agreement comes after a string of incidents in recent years where football clubs have placed restrictions on reporters, banned individual journalists and in some cases entire publications from their clubs.
The BBC this month announced a boycott of the Glasgow Rangers’ matches and press conferences after the club banned senior football reporter Chris McLaughlin and Times columnist Graham Spiers for what was perceived as negative reporting.
“This exclusion of sports journalists without proper process, explanation or justification is highly objectionable and is insulting to journalist professionals,” NMC executive Andrew Moger said.
“It is easy and sometimes convenient for some sports administrators to forget that objective sports reporting of what occurs within stadiums is of value and significance to fans, the public generally and also to clubs themselves.”
The long and complex football agreement contains provisions for raising concerns of reporters, a framework to facilitate more top-level dialogue between the NMC and the clubs and leagues and is designed to be more flexible to adapt to the evolving media landscape in the digital age.
While the NMC has dubbed this new agreement a success, the issue of journalist access to sporting events remains complex, especially because publishing rights differ from country to country.
In Australia and New Zealand, news entities have the right to publish limited action footage of sporting events on their websites, even if they are not the exclusive rights holder.
This legal right was the main point of contention in the 2015 Rugby World Cup negotiations. Australia news outlets were required forgo that Australian legal right, give organisers copyright ownership of some material and agree to other reporting restrictions in exchange for official accreditation.
While the breakdown of the World Cup negotiations disappointed media outlets, Mr Moger praised the sports reporting landscape in Australia.
“In some respects sports journalists look with some envy at the way Australian counterparts are able to operate,” Mr Moger said. “And through the good work of the Australia Code of Sports News Reporting, contention around access and rights has reduced.”