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January 16, 2018

Young photographer is latest victim of equipment thefts from sports stadiums as £10k in kit stolen

By Thomas Kavanagh

A young photographer has become the latest victim in a string of camera equipment thefts from sports grounds across the UK.

Micah Crook, a freelance for photo agency Pinnacle, had more than £10,000 worth of kit stolen at an FA cup match at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC, on 6 January.

The 22-year-old (pictured) said: “This has put a halt to my photography career and ambitions, as I have no equipment.”

He said the theft has already resulted in him missing out on photographing his team, AFC Wimbledon, at Wembley and that it could result in him pulling out of photographing April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.

The 22-year-old has since started a fundraising page to help try and recoup his losses, raising more than £6,400 of his £8,000 goal so far.

Since the age of 15, Crook has worked on a fruit stall to save enough money to buy photography equipment, which can costs thousands, and has now returned to the stall to try and save some money to restart his career.

He told Press Gazette: “I felt embarrassed that I had to ask people, but I couldn’t raise that kind of money. Slowly I’ve become less embarrassed and more proud.

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“My faith in humanity has been restored. There are so many people out there who are willing to help. Stuart Macfarlane, the Arsenal photographer, has even donated a Nikon D3S. I owe him a lot.”

Crook’s misfortune is one of many in a long line of thefts in sports grounds across the UK, with reports from football, rugby, cricket and boxing venues surfacing.

“Old grounds don’t have the facilities and security that some of the new grounds do,” said Crook.

“It’s unfair to say the clubs aren’t doing anything, I just think some are not doing enough. I’ve heard of several thefts across different grounds. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time until this happens again.”

A spokesperson for Fulham FC said: “A theft of photographic equipment occurred prior to the Club’s fixture against Southampton earlier this month which is being investigated by the Club internally and by the authorities.

“The club has kept in touch with Micah to provide a contribution to his funding and we hope that this incident has not discouraged him from carrying on with his passion for photography.”

Other photographers have also spoken about the problem. Freelance lensman Matt Wilkinson had more than £10,000 worth of photographic gear stolen in December while he worked at a Huddersfield Town match.

“I was obviously upset by this, not least by being unable to complete paid work on the night,” he said. “On the night, the stewards did no more than say they’d keep an eye out for it, and security did little more than take my name and phone number.”

“The club have absolved themselves of any responsibility by saying that it is a matter for the management company of the stadium, as [the club] are simply tenants of the property.

“They got back to me… saying they couldn’t see anything untoward on CCTV footage. I asked if I could view this footage and was refused on the grounds of ‘data protection’… fans were not through turnstiles at the time of the theft.”

Tim Dale, security manager at Kirklees Stadium Development, the management company for Huddersfield Town’s stadium, said the security team deny refusing access to CCTV footage and maintain that “every effort” was made to recover the stolen items.

He added: “I would ask that any photographers, media, or indeed anyone, take responsibility for the safety of their belongings and not leave any bags or other equipment unattended where it could pose a risk to its own security or the security of the Stadium site.”

Janine Self, co-chair of the Sports Journalists’ Association (SJA), said she first heard about the thefts through journalists on Twitter.

“It was disturbing to hear that so many photographers, most of whom are SJA members, have been the victims of theft in recent weeks and months and it’s something we will be discussing in depth at our next committee meeting,” she said.

“What happened to Micah Crook was particularly unfortunate. The way that the industry has flocked to help him is heart-warming after what must have been a weekend of mental turmoil for the youngster.

“Hopefully he will raise the funds and be able to afford replacing his kit.”

Self has urged photographers who have suffered equipment thefts at sports grounds to get in touch, either via the SJA’s Twitter feed or by contacting the organisation directly.

Affected photographers can also contact freelance photographer Richard Washbrooke who is compiling a database of all recent incidents of camera equipment theft.

He hopes highlighting the issue will force sports venues to consider the needs of photographers. To contact him email richard@washbrooke.com.

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