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Every Fan is a Reporter

The ongoing row between the Premier League and the Football League and a media coalition of nine national newspapers looks set to rumble on. The coalition agreed not to cover this weekend’s matches in the Football League (The Community Shield was exempt as it is an FA event), simply relying on television coverage for match reports. The row involves complex details on precisely what, and more importantly when, journalists may report on matches. This includes live blogging which newspaper websites have started to adopt. With no agreement currently in place, clubs threatened to ban press photographers and journalists from attending matches, so nine of the largest media groups  decided to stand together and not attend any of the matches this weekend.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute - two things are clear - as usual it is the fans who will suffer. 

Whilst Clubs have the right to maximise their revenue - and that is what this row is all about at the end of the day - restricting free reporting is missing one vital aspect of the communication era we live in - every fan is in effect now a reporter.

Whilst the parties agree an update in the media deal is necessary, trying to restrict what the press can do during a game when thousands and thousands of fans at a game are texting/­tweeting/­filming and spreading that information around the nation as things happen seems a bit pointless.

If you extract the logic to this dispute - the next thing you know - fans will be banned from using mobile phones and ipads at games.

Another worrying aspect of this dispute for some is that the traditional autonomy clubs have in deciding who reports from their ground is being eroded with the Premier League and Football Leagues own joint venture - Data Co vetting press access for the media coalition. But not every club towed the line aty the weekend, with for example the Daily Telegraph reporting from both Brighton and West Ham games.

In the longer run the other disgruntled body will be sponsors. In particular shirt sponsors who will not get the picture coverage they might expect, and ground sponsors who will not get the reported mentions they too expect. Whilst this exposure is hard to measure it is undoubtedly important - and sponsorship values will erode if the dispute were to last for any length of time.


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