Over the years chairmen and committee members of the FWA have given advice to the 92 clubs about their press facilities. Around a third of them benefited, the last being Colchester which has proved to be a great success story. Three years ago we set up a Facilities sub Committee made up of myself, Tony Hudd and Jim Van Wijk and arising from an incident at Southend’s Roots Hall – when a steward declined to give some our members a programme and a team sheet – I wrote to Lord Brian Mawhinney, the President of the Football League, and asked him for a meeting.
I told him many of the smaller clubs are lagging well behind and although we realise they have financial problems, a number of changes could be brought in which wouldn’t cost a lot of money. We proposed a name for it – “Operation Goodwill.” Our committee met him and John Nagle on December 12, 2006 and we persuaded them to carry on the dialogue. We met again in the following February and we gave them 35 questions which could feature in a questionnaire sent to the 72 clubs. The questionnaire was sent out and 52 clubs responded. We felt that the errant 20 should have been ordered to take part but nothing happened! We supplied a list of suggested improvements, like compulsory programmes and team sheets, proper interview rooms, improved criteria for press boxes, adequate refreshments, a press officer for each club and many of these have been implemented.
A further meeting took place on October, 2007 and representatives of the clubs, the BBC and IRN joined in. One of the ideas was for one of our members, Jim Van Wijk of the PA, to submit a Best Practice for a journalists’ day at a Football League match. Charles Runcie did the same for the BBC. That proved to be invaluable. We suggested there should be a Media Handbook and the FL produced one for this season and sent it to the clubs. At a subsequent meeting, they agreed to issue two handbooks in future, the other one for journalists.
We welcomed the League’s plan to introduce a two tier structure with CCC clubs having a higher minimum requirement (40 seats in each press box, work tops) and a minimum tally for Division 1 and 2 (20 seats). The minimum number of power points provided should be one per seat in the CCC and one per two seats in Leagues 1-2 (with a minimum of 10). These proposals are going to be put before the League agm in June, also media rooms are going to be compulsory and in the lower Leagues, they should provide a similar room or a dedicated area under cover. (The FWA have had a number of complaints by our members about Blackpool’s open air interview arrangements!).
We also welcomed their approach about excluding people who are who not properly accreditated. These cards are the only acceptable forms of proving identity: the FL ID card, UK Press Card, AIPS card and the NPA card.
John Nagle has agreed that we should meet twice a year to review these matters and from our side, suggest new ideas to make things work better. I have written to Lord Mawhinney about the American idea – in the major sports in the USA they let the press in to the locker room. He went on a tour to the NFL recently and he might be persuaded to adopt the idea in Divisions 1-2 where some clubs cannot afford to put in press rooms. We think it would vastly improve relations between clubs and journalists. Fulham were pioneers in that field in the Sixties under Tommy Trinder they won a reputation as being the friendliest club in the country.
Others who have tried it, like Reading, soon dropped the idea……. but they did get promotion that year!