WAN Says Big Rugby Tournament Wants To Muzzle Press

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Another World Cup, another row over proposed restrictions on newspaper coverage.

In the run-up to last summer’s soccer World Cup, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) clashed with organizers over proposed limitations on how and when newspapers could deliver coverage of the games.

Tuesday, WAN said it is butting heads over newspaper coverage with the organizers of the another global tournament, the 2007 Rugby World Cup to be held in France next summer.

A WAN delegation met with organizers at the International Rugby Board (IRB) headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, to talk about the terms of accreditation proposed for news organizations covering the games.

“We had a full and frank exchange of the positions of sport and newspaper publishers and expect a productive and continuing dialogue on meeting the needs of both,” Steve Oram, director of the Newspaper Publishers Association in the United Kingdom said in statement.

Oram is chairman of the WAN Sports Media Working Group that was established after the soccer World Cup coverage dispute. The key sticking point with WAN is the increasing insistence by sports bodies to place restrictions on how newspapers can cover games using digital platforms. Big tournaments now sell Internet and mobile delivery rights in addition to the long-time broadcast rights to games — and they contend digital coverage by newspapers infringes on those rights.

“The sports organizations say the restrictions are needed to protect the exclusive rights of licensees, but such restrictions are often excessive and go well beyond what is needed to protect such rights,” WAN said.

WAN, which successfully fought the major restrictions that the soccer organizing group FIFA proposed for its World Cup, said in its meetings with sports bodies, it emphasizes the value of newspaper coverage to sponsors of the events, “which runs into tens of millions of euros.”

Newspaper coverage also promotes sports year-round, WAN noted.

WAN said its sports media group would be meeting on Dec. 29 with the International Cricket Council to discuss coverage issues.

Paris-based WAN represents 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries.

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