Man U 'rights and access' deal ends picture dispute

Man Utd: set up official online picture agency

Manchester United is to allow independent sports photographers back into Old Trafford as part of a major “rights and access” deal struck between the club and the press this week.

At the same time, the club has signed a four-year deal with Getty Images for the worldwide distribution of its own pictures.

At the start of the season, Man United launched an online picture agency to sell its own pictures to the media and controversially cut the number of photographers allowed to cover home matches.

Editors were concerned that other big clubs would follow United’s lead and restrict free press access to grounds (Press Gazette, 22 August).

The Newspaper Publishers Association – which is involved in talks with numerous clubs, sports federations and other event organisers – challenged United’s approach from the beginning and has been involved in talks with the club. It felt United had failed to recognise the mutual benefit to sports and the press which had come from a more open policy.

Under the new arrangements it’s understood that:

Up to 60 newspaper, agency and independent photographers will have access to the ground.

Club photographers will get preferential positions around the touchline.

Newspaper camera positions behind goals will be restored.

Press conferences restrictions will be abandoned.

There will be no curbs on copyright exploitation beyond those umbrella agreements reached between the NPA and the Premier League.

The NPA is still hopeful that a level of access to training sessions, trophy celebrations and occasional access to players and club will also be given.

NPA director Steve Oram said: “We are pleased that Man U involved us in dialogue and, though the result is not perfect for newspapers, we expect this club and others to see that we can both get greater value from working together.

“We understand that Getty Images has also played a key role by not demanding that photographers from their agency competitors be locked out – as some other bidders for the distribution business had discussed. Both the press and clubs – and indeed their sponsors – need good photography. But no newspaper staffer, agency or indeed club photographer can always get the best images. We all need varied sources and new innovative approaches to bringing sport to the eye of the reader – not less.”

Getty Images said that, as part of its agreement, Man United had “modified its access policy” and added that it would come into effect at the home game against Portsmouth on Saturday.

According to Getty, the club’s online picture agency had led to an increased demand for images from editorial and commercial customers.

By Jon Slattery

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