Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughTweets, the press and the authorities - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Tweets, the press and the authorities - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Tweets, the press and the authorities

Football and Twitter is all the rage at the moment, what with Joey Barton attempts to transform himself into a Scouse Che Guevara/ George Orwell hybrid and Mick McCarthy’s Louise Mench-esque attempts to ban the site.

However, another aspect to the social networking site’s relationship with football passed by with relatively little press coverage this past week. The ramifications of this issue had the potential to fatally damage both football and the sporting press in the UK.

However, this did not happen due to the fact that a last minute deal was reached, or, as George in Blackadder goes Forth might have put it “the big nobs have got around the table and pulled the irons out of the fire.”

The foundations of the deal are recognisable enough to anyone that has ever been on any sports section of any newspaper’s website on any given Saturday or Sunday; the ‘live-text’ updates services which have become hugely prevalent and popular in recent years.

This coupled with the advent of Twitter and increased interaction between reporters and supporters had led to both Premier League and Football League voicing concerns over the watering down of their product, whilst reporters were angered at the fact they could only offer text or picture updates during “windows” in a match, a concept that sounds frankly ludicrous.

The agreement on press coverage of football was signed for the 2003/04 season with no provision for coverage of the sport online in the form of text updates or Twitter which was still two years away from actually being a website.

The dispute had led to limited coverage of the opening fixtures of the Football League season and the first round of the Carling Cup with reporters from national newspapers and wire services being barred from the grounds. Only Brighton and Accringtion allowed reporters into their press boxes to cover their first games of the season.

All of which sounds a bit petty to me on the side of both the Premier League and the Football League as they need the press just as much as they need TV to market their product and any coverage is surely good coverage.

That said, the national press needs to stay on the right side of the footballing authorities as the nationals are so reliant on football as a means to selling their papers now that a loss of coverage may be devastating for them. Sure they can go buy a regular ticket and sit in the stand to report on the game but anyone who has read one of these reports can tell their inferiority.

The new deal means that reporters can Tweet away all they like during games and live text updates are restricted to just a few minutes time delay, which, as far as I can tell, makes no difference to a pleb like me. Live text updates had a few minutes delay I always thought because the writer needed time to write the update and then publish whilst I’m sure most people were not even aware of their being a “window” for Twitter updates.

Still, good to know the press will stand up for itself against the behemoth of professional football and actively criticise it in the right circumstances as the Times and the Telegraph both did. It’s just a shame the circumstances are only when the press is threatened. The fourth estate indeed.

Dan Whiteway @Dan_Whiteway



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