By CHRISTOPHER DAVIES
MEMBERS of the Football Writers’ Association have praised the press facilities at Euro 2012.
Not only is the entertainment on the pitch first class in Poland an Ukraine, Ian Ladyman, northern football correspondent of the Daily Mail, said: “There have been no complaints about the facilities out here.”
Ladyman has covered games in Warsaw, Kiev where he is based, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lviv. He said: “The broadband is wired in both the press rooms and the press boxes. No passwords are needed, you just get a cable, put it in your lap-top and you are on line straight away. This is much more reliable than a wireless connection where you can lose the wi-fi. I was in Donetsk on Friday for the Ukraine v France game which was delayed for an hour…Friday night deadlines are always tighter and then the match was put back an hour because of the weather…the last thing a reporter needs to do is to worry about whether he’s going to be able to file.”
Magnificent as the stadium in Donetsk is, it is open to the elements with no shelter for the press box which was not good news when the heavens opened on Friday. “We were given plastic sheets to put over our lap-tops which kept them dry but it meant you couldn’t see the screen. Maybe it doesn’t rain very often in Donetsk in the summer but whether it’s a shower or a thunderstorm the press box will get wet.”
This is a problem also encountered at some English stadiums and while football writers do not expect luxurious working conditions, they need a roof or cover over what is their work place like others who use computers, telephones and notepads.
Ladyman continued: “There are television monitors in the press box, usually one set per four journalists while all the usual UEFA statistics are on hand. The headphone translations at press conferences have worked well.”
The mixed zone, where players – if they wish – can speak to the press after matches have been, according to Ladyman “less mental” without the South American media. “But I wish the authorities would section off the written media and radio and TV. We still have the situation where a player comes over to talk to us and suddenly a radio mike is thrust in his face, so what he says could be broadcast to the world. But that’s a small gripe, the mixed zones have been OK and the players have been pretty good at talking to us.”
Most teams have players who, win or lose, are media friendly with the usual suspects believing it is not part of their duty to speak to the press and by extension, the fans.
Ladyman was particularly impressed by Sweden when he went to their training camp with David McDonnell (Daily Mirror) and James Ducker (Times) the day after they had lost to Ukraine.
“It was in the middle of nowhere, it took us two hours to find so we were a little late for the press conference. But we were able to ask the two players put up questions in English and we chatted to [ex-Bolton striker] Johan Elmander in a sort of mixed zone after the Swedish press officer asked him to do something with the English media. That was very helpful considering they had lost the night before.”
Ladyman’s biggest criticism is the lack of hot food at media centres. “I know many share this view – when you are there for five or six hours, even longer, it is very frustrating that there is virtually no catering. I’ve covered three World Cups and this is my second European Championship and this the the first time I’ve had this problem. Previously there has always been some hot food available but here it’s been pretty lamentable.
“In Warsaw and Kiev there is what they call a McDonald’s cafe but all that’s available is really smoothies and salad. On the UEFA web site it says under facilities that there will be a restaurant at each venue where you can get hot food. That is not the case. At Kharkiv and Donetsk there weren’t even sandwiches, we were just offered cake or a muffin. That’s not enough when you are there for so long. Given how big and powerful UEFA are these days, I don’t know why they couldn’t arrange for a big pot of spaghetti bolognese for the media. We’d happily pay for it.
“Games in Ukraine, where there is a two-hour time-difference, don’t start until a quarter to ten at night. By the time the match is finished it’s almost midnight and then there are press conferences and mixed zones before writing the re-write. We’re still in the stadium at 2am.”
A game of two days but all UEFA do is to let football writers eat cake.
Ladyman’s travel between venues has been by air, eliminating the problems of cross-border train journeys which have caused fans such delays. One aspect of Euro 2012 that affects everybody is the cost of accommodation with hotels averaging out at £200 per night. “They actually cost £120 a night but when there is a game on it’s £400 which ups the average. In many cities, if you want to see a game they insist you pay for three nights.”
One newspaper – we’ll spare them public embarrassment by not naming them – was left with a bill for £500 for one night in a hotel that was not used. When the thunderstorm arrived in Donetsk on Friday and it looked at one stage that the Ukraine v France match would be delayed 24 hours the newspaper panicked and jumped the gun by booking a hotel for their reporter for an extra day. It was non-refundable.
Ladyman gave the press facilities 8/10 – his main beef, excuse the pun, the lack of hot food.