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Locked out

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Gordon Farquhar | 15:28 UK time, Monday, 8 August 2011

The Premier league season might be due to start this coming weekend, but for some media organisations things have already kicked off in a fairly major way.

You may have noticed when you picked up the papers over the last few days that pictures and copy from football league matches has been a bit thin on the ground. Your eyes do not deceive you: It's because of a dispute over the terms and conditions for coverage of live matches that newspapers, websites and wire agencies have been asked to sign up to.

The previous agreement, set up six years ago, has now expired, and rather a lot has changed since then in terms of platforms, available content and customer expectations: In 2005, 'Twitter' was what birds did outside your bedroom window of a morning.

The media world has marched on and, so says everyone involved, must this new agreement.

The trouble is deciding just how far it should go. The Premier and Football leagues say they are in favour of the new deal removing some of the existing reporting restrictions, but their view of the world isn't as radical as the papers, agencies and websites would like.

What's developing is something of a Mexican stand-off, with on the one hand the vast majority of clubs locking out those media organisations who're in dispute, and on the other, the papers withholding coverage.

The clubs like the publicity their sponsors get via the papers and websites reportage of matches, and the brilliant eye catching pictures that draw us in.

What they don't want is their commercial revenues being hit by the availability of free content, like live text updates, interactive services and photos that compete with their own offers, and those of their partners.

The News Media Coalition, which represents many of those currently locked out in this dispute, makes a manifesto pledge to, 'ensure that the right and duty of the News Media to report any and all matters of public interest, freely and without interference, is guaranteed and defended at all times.'

So this dispute could be presented as a press freedom issue. In reality, it's a negotiation, and heels are firmly dug in: In a joint statement last week, the Leagues gave a cuffing to the news organisations over their reluctance to sign the deal offered, describing this as, 'unfortunate,' and, 'serving no-one's interests.'

They did however say they were open to further discussions, which of course is the reality: The Leagues and the clubs they represent need the media just as much as the media need them. What they're arguing over is the equivalent of the pre-nuptial agreement. The desire for marriage is a foregone conclusion.

In the meantime, if you find yourself short of a match report and some pictures, might I make so bold as to point you in the direction of the BBC Sport football page.


  • Comment number 1.

    The News Media Coalition, which represents many of those currently locked out in this dispute, makes a manifesto pledge to, 'ensure that the right and duty of the News Media to report any and all matters of public interest, freely and without interference, is guaranteed and defended at all times.'
    Football is a private business carried on behind a paywall (the wall of the stadium) and rights to access are valuable.

    Is this the press being self important again?

  • Comment number 2.

    The Premier League and Football League need to wake up and smell the coffee - the days are long gone when they could control (or attempt to control) what is reported/photographed during matches. The advent of message boards, bloggers, fans with smartphones etc., mean that the Leagues are living in a self-deluding bubble.

    Sorry, Leagues, the horse has bolted - but even if you'd known it was going to, you couldn't have harnessed and tethered it. Welcome to the 21st century..........

  • Comment number 3.

    Funny isn't it that the BBC are obviously part of this News Media Coalition but were quite happy to snuff out their own window of sedition 606. There is no way they can portray the FA/FL as the bad guys limiting access to information when they themselves have done the self same thing.

    Even with ready access to the teams the various tentacles of the press will only ever let you know about the favoured very few.

  • Comment number 4.

    Welcome to the £250k pw world of PL football, folks.

    Stop whining.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think clubs in Championship, League One and League Two need the media more than the media needs them.

  • Comment number 6.

    @zen guerrilla at not606

    Sedition? Get a grip - the 606 boards were flooded with libel, racism and pure abuse. I'm glad the BBC no longer gives it a platform.

  • Comment number 7.

    A very two sided argument, but one that again revolves around 'money' rather than what is good for the sport.

    Football clubs obviously want a bigger share of the 'revenue' that TV/internet/tabloid subscription services bring in, but not everyone reporting the news from these clubs are 'premium services'

    I was actually going to make a sarcastic point about the F1 rights, but realise there is a bigger issue at stake here.

    The Championship - and perhaps League One clubs realise that there is money to be made...somewhere.

    If the BBC/tabloids etc refuse to pay then we all know that 'someone' will - and they will then get exclusivity.

    Ultimately that will be bad for competition - and bad for the clubs themselves as they will get less free 'advertising'.

    Sport, mainly football, is the only business that I can think of in the UK that gets about 10-15 pages of newspaper space every day (maybe 1-2 for lower leagues though) and has countless websites etc reporting upto the minute news - free of charge...yet they now want to be paid for more for it? Wow!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Last year Southampton restricted photographers access over payment and rights issues - lots of fuss and the chairman was lambasted by one and all. Saints became the "South Coast Club" in The SUN etc.

    Now its the whole Football League and Premier League and virtually no coverage at all. Double standards because no one wants to offend the big boys.

  • Comment number 9.

    Yes poor coverage of football league bit rich from the BBC who showed the games at 11.55 and then didnt repeat the show not even on the red button. Very poor but its to be expected from an orginisation that will soon give up on sport.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ironic title really, the BBC seems to be locking out many F1 viewers who are being locked out of their sport at the moment!

  • Comment number 11.

    Inevitably the fans are the ones who lose out. I wrote something a bit longer on this issue over at

  • Comment number 12.

    Agree wholeheartedly with Mighty Might Town. Tens of thousands of people have been complaining to the BBC over the past 10 days. More than 30k have signed on online petition and in just a few days 14k signed a govt. epetition.

    I'm a footie fan but you have a much bigger platform than F1 fans so if we have to hijack this forum then so be it. We have had 4 blogs closed to comment over the past 48 hours - two of which have been open for more than 10 months.

    If you would like to lobby in favour of BBC removing their jackboots from the necks of F1 fans then we would be very grateful

  • Comment number 13.

    Agree with #9 thatsolney

    75 minutes for 3 divisions? I support a Premier League team so I'm not having a go about a particular team/match but this was ridiculous, there was no MOTD on why couldn't you start the season off with a proper show?! Especially as we now know by this blog that the BBC knew that there would be very little coverage in the papers the next day.

  • Comment number 14.

    KEEP F! on the BBC and lets us beable to air our views on F1 blogs, someone needs to look at the ten commandments

  • Comment number 15.


    The BBC are locking out many sports to compete with ratings.

    They should drop the drivel that is Eastenders (4-5 times a week? really?) and spend the money saved from the actors wages to fund sporting events of the nations interests.

    Is it any wonder why the British are so poor at sport? Kids today don't get to see the stars on tv as much as they used to and have little to look up to. What better way to learn than to watch masters at the top of their games.

  • Comment number 16.

    Please can we have a BBC Sports channel - don't care what you call it (how about BBC 5?) - then there can be adequate timings given to all the shows, so they don't interfere with all the other schedules eg Films, News, Soaps, which are all scheduled at specific times. I venture to suggest that if, like beer, the Beeb ran a sport ONLY channel ... it'd be the most popular channel in the world ... probably!

  • Comment number 17.

    "In 2005, 'Twitter' was what birds did outside your bedroom window of a morning."

    ..... and in 2011 it's what tweeters do inside their bedrooms all day long, only coming out a night for a bit of a riot it seems!
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    "15. At 00:12 9th Aug 2011, Gassing Pirate wrote:

    Is it any wonder why the British are so poor at sport? Kids today don't get to see the stars on tv as much as they used to and have little to look up to. What better way to learn than to watch masters at the top of their games."

    I think you'll find that the best way to learn is to get their idle little ****s off the sofa, off the computer, away from the tv and get down the local park, pool or sports centre
    .... with their big fat idle dads, if they can drag them away from the self same things.

  • Comment number 18.

    Anything that keeps soccer out of the sports pages of the newspapers is a positive as far as I'm concerned.

    As for F1 going to Sky, I can't wait. The one thing that Sky does very well is sport so I'm sure they'll provide coverage that is even better than the current BBC package, although that will take some beating.

  • Comment number 19.

    Ohhh no, poor BBC feeling hard done by ?

    Owww poor diddums.

    Could have given a $%# when you closed 606, changed the BBC news site, lost F1 to Sky etc, so why should WE care now ?

  • Comment number 20.

    To be honest i didn't notice much difference, may be different with the PL starting, but the football league (especially L1 &L2) seems to be seen as the unwanted addition by the press.
    The link you gave to the telegraph quotes Henry Winter saying that if the press fell out of love with foootball, get real Mr Winter, jounalists hopped onto football because they know what sells.
    The tabloid journalists are being the dinosaur here, don't they realise with so much access to real time data / updates, that their opinion and analysis is the old outdated mode.
    A few years ago you had to get the newspaper to re-visit what happened at the match, now with the access to viewing plaforms and websites dedicated to football, you don't need their opinion forced on you during the week.

  • Comment number 21.

    Ah, so this is what a sports blog that isn't blocked out is like.

    @Normal for Nuneaton - are you really Barbara Slater? ;-)

    Can't believe that the BBC is happy for so much sport to be dropped by the wayside in favour of reality TV.

    Was the Salford move necessary? 600 million would buy a heck of a lot of sport and quality programming, not just prop up BBC3/4 which have viewing figures in the double digits.

  • Comment number 22.

    No more blanket coverage of football? No more headlines that stretch pages and pages into the papers and relegates 'Other Sport' to just a few column inches? No more pointless stories just to fill your football quota?

    Hoo-flippin-ray for the new order!!!!!

    The quicker football implodes in its own greed, the better in my view!

  • Comment number 23.

    If that means we have less of Linekar, Hanson and Shearer then I'm all for it as they are the biggest waste of money on the BBC. Luckily enough most people can watch highlights or live matches on the internet now.

    At least this stand off will mean there's no more listening to Alex Ferguson bitching or complaining about reports!! Whay not give Man Utd a total media blackout!!

    I agree with a few others. It's high time the BBC actually did a sports channel. I mean over the next year just look at how much sport will be on and for how long during each day. If they are half decent then they could also sell it to other broadcasters to recoup costs just like it does in other areas of the BBC.

  • Comment number 24.

    Although i am a big football fan i am sick to the back teeth of constant football coverage. This is the summer season, the cricket season, rugby league season, tennis season.

    What does the BBC open every single sports report with, MAnchester United might be buying someone, but Chelsea also 'may' want this person or his half brother or something.

    Please use this extra time to write about the County Championship (in detail and not one paragraph) and the challenge cup semi finals (which were 2 of the best sportign games of the year) and not just wall to wall football GOSSIP!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Storm in a teacup. What counts is what happens on the pitch. I'm not all bothered about reading about it after the event.

  • Comment number 26.

    Call me a cynic but whatever the NMC think that they have in the way of a dispute will simply melt away once the PL kicks off. Why? Because money is the major influence here and money talks.

    The press were never over interested in lower league football because it does not shift newspapers in the same way that the PL does. Leave that to be covered by journalism from the principalities and let the NMC continue to ride the cash bandwagon...

  • Comment number 27.

    It does seem that in all walks of life the media seem to think that they are more important than everyone else. The simple fact is that most media organisations are profit making entities and are in it for the money no matter what they may say. Money may not mean much to the likes of Murdoch but it's the power it brings that he craves and I'm sure many of the executives at the BBC aren't much different.

  • Comment number 28.

    9. At 21:37 8th Aug 2011, thatsolney wrote:
    Yes poor coverage of football league bit rich from the BBC who showed the games at 11.55 and then didnt repeat the show not even on the red button. Very poor but its to be expected from an orginisation that will soon give up on sport.


    Absolutely. I was shocked to see The Football League show listed at 23.55 on my tv guide - it's not like it had MOTD on beforehand bumping it back.

    That said, the Football League show is pretty woeful. You wait for your teams match to come on and get to see about 35 seconds of it.

    There should be 3 separate shows - one for Championship, one for League 1, and one for League 2. This assumption that if you're in the football league you must want to watch all three divisions is nonsense, and just ends up compressing all the content into a fairly pointless show.

    Hell, the BBC have the rights for highlights, so can't you make a worthwhile program out of them?

  • Comment number 29.

    #17 Ramilas1 - Just about my favourite post I have ever read. Spot on sir.

  • Comment number 30.

    My belief is that in sensitive matters it should be a requirement for the would be publisher of information to obtain from the courts a Certificate of Public Interest. It should not be necessary for the target to take out an injuction at his/her expense.

  • Comment number 31.

    Stop bleating about F1. If you care that much about "your" sport go and buy a sky subscription. Don't like the fact that the BBC can no longer afford sports broadcast rights? Don't vote Tory. One of Murdoch's conditions for supporting them at the last election was that they slashed the BBC budget so that they could no longer compete with Sky.

    Bernie really doesn't need our money anyway.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'd like the papers to give the Football League some better coverage, as it's frustrating that the Premier League gets massive double page spread of facts etc. Then the Football League is crammed into every space they can find on about 4 pages.

    The Football League also need to address the issue of listening to football games online radio, when I was a student in London I couldn't listen to Portsmouth play because for 'copyright reasons' I could not listen to the match live online. However if I payed a ridiculous fee for a 'premium' TV service with the club I could. Time to change things to make it more accessible to fans who may not be able to visit the game.

  • Comment number 33.

    It's the way the business develops. Love him or loathe him, Murdoch is so successful because he identified a good way of exploiting it:
    Step 1, Identify what people like, and what they are currently not being charged (much) for.
    Step 2, deprive them of it, or restrict access, so that they will then pay (more) for it.
    It happened with football, and it's happening now with Formula 1.

    Many years ago I used to go rock climbing on some cliffs for free, and the landowners didn't much care (you can't farm sheep on a vertical cliff). At some popular sites, some landowners later started to charge money for access or car parking. Some people also set up cafes near such sites. I'm not angry or resentful about that. It's the way the business develops. There were plenty of other pieces of rock for me to go and climb on.

    The BBC needs to find other sports to report on, and popularize. It's already done it with F1. It could do it with other sports/activities. (And please try looking a bit further than Olympic sports/competitions.)
    As others on this blog have said to the BBC: Stop chasing ratings. Create them!

  • Comment number 34.

    Further to my comment #33, about finding other events to cover, and popularize.
    The BBC did a wonderful job, over decades, with Formula 1. Just because F1, like PL football, is now being removed from your financial grasp doesn't mean that the BBC should give up on some good principles. Similarly, Channel 4 also did a fine job with Italian Serie-A football and the Tour-de-France. Neither of them got much TV coverage, that I saw, beforehand.
    Why doesn't the BBC get Tim Vickery to start doing some TV football coverage from Brazil? Rumour has it that the Brazilians are quite good at football.

    I wouldn't want the BBC to take me too literally, though. Through excitable TV coverage, you have done an excellent job at increasing the ratings for English Summer Riots, and spreading them to the provinces. It seems like you didn't need to move anybody to Manchester to do that effectively.

  • Comment number 35.

    This isn't about media trying to rule the roost. It is about Football allowing the reporting of the sport to keep up with modern technology. How does it benefit football to tie the hands of trained journalists with multi million readerships and club staff on hand in the press box to provide details whilst allowing fans to tweet updates from the stands.

    That several clubs made sure that reporters were assisted last weekend to cover their clubs matches shows that they can see the benefit of working with all the media rather than just a select few.

    Seeing a live update mentioning a great goal or some controversial refereeing decision is more likely to make me want to see a match (or any other sport) than being kept in the dark.

    In the meantime maybe the members of the News Media Coalition should get out and fill their pages with some other sports. I am sure they and their sponsors would be very grateful and the sponsors of football may be able to persuade the sports rulers that we are in the 21st Century and that their financial planning is built on rocky ground. Unlike in football we have world champions in several other sports who deserve better if not just some coverage showing their success.

  • Comment number 36.

    the BBC is sliding down the slippery slope, putting their eggs in all the wrong baskets

  • Comment number 37.

    Private businesses like the leagues want it both ways. They depend on the coverage -- they can't exist without it -- but they want full control of it, and to get paid for it.

    I think the Belgian newspapers tried to do that to Google. The papers won their case, Google removed them from the index, and pretty soon the papers were begging to be taken back.


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