This story on the media guardian website provides the background to a major fallout between the regular snooker press and World Snooker.
What follows is a long, somewhat self-regarding explanation of what it means and why it matters.
I fully accept that it will bore many of you to tears but this is an issue important for myself and my colleagues in the press room.
The Press Association is the UK’s national news agency and supplies copy to virtually every national and regional newspaper in the country.
These papers rely on the PA copy for a whole range of stories, including in sport, as they cannot have a journalist covering every single event everywhere in the world.
It is therefore important that the PA copy is informative, impartial and gives an accurate account of any particular story.
For the last 44 years, Everton’s News Agency, run by Clive Everton, the editor of Snooker Scene, has supplied snooker stories to the PA and covered tournaments for them.
Another agency, Lancaster and Crowther, has done so for around 25 years.
Earlier this month, each agency received a letter from the PA sports editor to inform us that he would no longer be requiring our services.
When asked why, he replied that they would be doing the coverage in-house from now on. Furthermore, they said they will be taking most of their stories from worldsnooker.com in future and that the PA had ‘enhanced its relationship with World Snooker.’
According to worldsnooker.com’s terms and conditions, users of the site cannot “modify, copy, reproduce, re-publish, upload, post, transmit, rent, loan, sell, lease, license, sub-license or distribute any material on the Site or create in any way content and/or derivative works based on the content of the Site or the Site itself or services provided by, or on behalf of World Snooker in whole or in part without our prior written consent.”
The governing body readily agreed to the PA’s request. It seems to suit both sides. PA get free copy and therefore save money and World Snooker get to have their spin on events on the main news wire.
In a letter to World Snooker complaining about this new arrangement, the Snooker Writers Association said: “Worldsnooker.com is a corporate website that does not give an accurate account of what happens at tournaments. Any controversy is basically played down or even covered up. The bland tone of its coverage will result in PA stories that are not going to interest sports editors in carrying copy on a sport that is already struggling for coverage.”
World Snooker responded that the approach from the PA came as a “complete surprise” and appears to believe they had no choice other than to accept.
Well actually they could at least have considered the knock-on effect for the sport as a whole. They could have contacted the SWA to talk it over with them or demanded certain requirements from the PA as to the scope of their coverage.
I have personally covered the qualifiers as conscientiously as I could for the PA for a decade, either at the various venues – Blackpool, Newport, Burton-on-Trent and Prestatyn – or from afar. To be ousted in this way is very upsetting.
What sort of coverage is a guy sat in the PA office going to give them now bearing in mind worldsnooker.com offers only scant reports on them and sometimes none at all?
When something controversial (ie interesting) is said or happens at a tournament, only those newspapers with specialist correspondents present will carry coverage because worldsnooker.com won't mention it.
The regular snooker press are a committed (some of them should have been) group of people who have written about the sport for many years, often from a position of deep affection for it.
Now this cosy new relationship between the PA and World Snooker will result in even less coverage of a sport already struggling for space in newspapers.
When I started in this sport, The Daily Telegraph and Times were guaranteed to carry a reasonable sized report on a day’s play from any tournament no matter what had happened.
Now, it is rare for either paper to include more than a paragraph.
It has to be a really good story these days for sports editors to be interested. Uncontroversial PR of the sort fed to PA by worldsnooker.com is not going to appeal to anyone.
Some of my colleagues are even talking about no longer going to tournaments.
Players are now warned that they will be disciplined for even the mildest of statements. At the Northern Ireland Trophy in August they were all given a letter advising them to answer ‘no comment’ to even routine questions.
By the time of the final in Belfast there were no journalists present at all.
World Snooker in their letter to the SWA write that “We very much appreciate that we need to work together with the snooker writers.”
That’s assuming there will be any snooker writers left.