Support soccer stars' struggle!
THE FREELANCE generally lacks a sport
section - perhaps because the editor finds the offside rule more
puzzling than quantum physics. But thanks to Zoe, a subversive
videographer who's clearly more in touch with the culture,
here it is.
The Freelancecalls on all NUJ members wholeheartedly
to support the footballers in their battle over TV rights. And their
strike, if it comes to that.
As Barry Horne of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA)
told the Freelance, in early November they balloted
members "asking if they would be willing to support action
to get a fair and reasonable share of TV income." The
large sums paid by broadcasters to the clubs, he reminded us,
"are down to the players - let's not forget that."
Players remembered. Of 2315 ballots cast, 2290 backed industrial action:
that's 99 per cent.
What the players demand are, in effect, performers' rights -
so their battle closely parallels ours over creators' rights and
fees for reproducing our work.
Football was first televised in the UK in 1955. In 1956 the players
struck - and won 7·5 per cent of TV fees, payable to the PFA's
Provident Fund. Since 1998, the Premier League has paid 5 per cent of
hugely increased TV and pay-TV licensing fees, still to be used to
support poorer players.
David Mellor, writing in the Evening Standard as
players were voting, somehow forgot to spell out exactly where
the money goes when he compared "a bunch of lads who earn
tuppence-ha'penny risking their lives in Afghanistan to save us all from
global terrorism" to "a bunch of footballers, earning a million
or more a year [going] on strike". He also wheeled out that old
Tory chestnut about there being no point voting for a strike because
the employers would overturn the ballot in the High Court anyway.
Which they will probably try to do the moment action is called.
When this was written on 12 November, the clubs had just postponed
talks with the PFA. Barry Horne's position on the eventual talks
is simple: "we feel that it's time, for the good of football,
to bring these payments into the Leagues' Regulations, so we don't
have to go through this every three or four years."
Anyway, a strike would actually be good for NUJ members who do
sport for the prints - unless the clubs take a seriously postmodern
position that untelevised games didn't happen. PFA chief Gordon Taylor
reminds fans that games can still go ahead: "It used to
be a world without [TV] cameras, a football world."