There is hope that the row between the press and the Premier and Football Leagues over allowing football writers access to matches next season may soon be over.
A simple admission form, which has the backing of journalists, press officers and the newspaper industry, is before the leagues for their approval.
Football DataCo boss David Folker is submitting the form, which does not deal with the contentious issue of journalists supplying information to online services, to his board.
Members of a press working party have made it clear to Football DataCo that their scheme banning journalists supplying digital information is unworkable.
Their counter proposal will give the leagues knowledge of who is working for whom in press boxes.
Media organisations, freelances and agencies would fax clubs the standardised form. The club’s press officer would approve or refuse, and the reporter would be asked to countersign the form when collecting a press pass, stating any additional work they may be doing at the match, said Gerry Cox of Teamwork Sports Agency and the executive council of the Football Writers’ Association, who is a member of the working party.
The forms would then be passed on to Football DataCo.
"It has become clear that some of the biggest clubs in the land had not agreed to centralised control of press boxes and restrictions being placed on journalists," said Cox.
"Hopefully, the situation has come to a satisfactory conclusion. We feel that we have offered a positive way forward in terms of the working arrangements in press boxes, without resorting to any of the heavy-handed measures initially proposed by Football DataCo."
Steve Oram, director of the Newspaper Publishers Association, commented: "We have grounds for believing the form will be accepted."
Cox said Folker was unable to give any assurance that the leagues would not try to impose a system of conditional entry to press boxes on the eve of the season. "We may have to warn our members to be on their guard about this and certainly not to sign away any of their rights to report on football matches," he added.
Negotiations continue on a second front. The leagues want to charge a web licence for newspapers’ websites, proposing a £25,000 fee for betting sites and £5,000 for newspaper sites reporting their matches and publishing pictures.
Newspaper and agency representatives have met DataCo and told them they will resist a web licence.
They are said to be exploring alternative arrangements to enable them to gain access to matches and publish and sell pictures widely without paying a licence fee.
They have put forward a proposal for payments for text and photographs of between £100 and £3,000, according to the size of the site.
By Jean Morgan