Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New NFL Sideline Rules Irk News Photographers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New NFL Sideline Rules Irk News Photographers

Article excerpt

Now they must stay 15 feet back from the sideline, behind TV cameras, NFL Films crews and groups of 'special pass' visitors

A DECISION BY the National Football League to create a new sideline zone for television and NFL Films crews -- at the expense of newspaper and other news photographers -- has sparked a controversy over the growing problem of sideline congestion.

The policy part of an agreement inked earlier this year between the NFL and TV networks, establishes a two-tiered system for photographing games. CBS, ABC, ESPN and Fox together are spending roughly $17 billion for the rights to broadcast games over the next eight years.

Currently, all sideline photographers -- whether electronic or print -- work from 12 feet behind the sideline, marked in white. A new 3-foot zone, marked by a yellow line, is being carved out for network and NFL crews. They will be restricted to three individuals -- two network and one NFL photographer -- who must kneel.


The new line will push newspaper and other photographers three more feet back to 15 feet from the sideline. The new rule, effective with the upcoming preseason games, doesn't apply to end zones, where photographers shoot from behind a 6-foot line.

Newspaper photographers say the rule will make it more difficult to get good shots without someone walking in front of the lens.

"This is a zone created for the networks and NFL Films which is the NFL.... This was written into the new contract," said Robert Hanashiro, a staff photographer for USA Today.


He's worried that other professional sports leagues, such as Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, might try to follow suit and further restrict photographers.

Julia Schmalz, a sports photo editor at USA Today who also oversees NFL assignments, said the new rule will not make photographers' jobs any easier.

"It hurts our access by giving them (television, NFL Films) better access," said Schmalz, who added the newspaper is deciding how to respond to the new rule.

Rich Clarkson, who heads the National Press Photographers Association sports committee, said that while the new zone doesn't create an insurmountable problem, it raises the larger issue of sideline congestion.


In a letter to Greg Aiello, a top NFL communications official, Clarkson said the new line "further back from the network crews is, as you can imagine, not being well received by those responsible for still photographs of the game. …

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