LONDON – Media coverage of the opening of the Premier League season could be disrupted after a breakdown in talks between the league and media groups over reporting restrictions.
The Premier League and Football League have been in negotiations with newspapers and news agencies for several months over the terms of game coverage. The Premier League begins Aug. 13.
The News Media Coalition, an international body aimed at protecting the ability of news organizations to cover major events, said the leagues suspended talks Wednesday. The group includes The Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, Britain's Press Association and British newspapers.
The coalition said the leagues then circulated an interim "access contract" containing restrictions on editorial freedom, which the news organizations had rejected at the start of discussions.
"These controls impose highly restrictive limits on the use of news content produced at football grounds," the group said in a statement.
Among others things, the coalition said, the rules include league controls on how and when news can be published online, and how news can be distributed to fans in Britain and overseas. They also require users of content to obtain and pay for permission from the leagues for their coverage.
"The leagues have refused to even consider the latest proposals and seek to impose last year's terms by default," the coalition said. "These are unacceptable to the media who have repeatedly made this clear to the leagues."
The media coalition said it remains committed to the talks and is ready to resume negotiations with the leagues.
"In the absence of meaningful discussions, news organizations are in the process of identifying how best to serve their readers including loyal fans with independent news and analysis," it said.
The AP said it was pushing for a resolution.
"We're hopeful we can reach a sensible resolution soon so that we can provide customers and fans throughout the world the coverage they've come to expect," said Lou Ferrara, AP's managing editor for sports. "We also want to make sure that organizations can use our coverage, or material from other outlets, without restrictions or additional costs."
The Premier League and the Football League, which represents the 72 clubs below the top division, said they have been negotiating in good faith on a new agreement for media accreditation that provides an "appropriate level of protection for their intellectual property."
"It has been made clear from the start that we are willing to improve areas of the agreement that are of importance to the media covering our matches," the leagues said in a joint statement.
With no sign of an agreement being reached before this weekend's start of the lower divisions, the leagues said they proposed that the existing rules be extended on an "interim basis" with a seven-day termination clause until a new deal is reached.
"Unfortunately, as yet, the NPA and international agencies have not taken up that offer, which creates the possibility of disrupted match-coverage in newspapers," the statement said. "This serves nobody's interests. ... We remain open to further negotiations and are hopeful of reaching a satisfactory conclusion as soon as possible."