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Coronavirus: What’s future for sports journalists, others?


Thousands of journalists across Europe and beyond are victims of coronavirus. Not, in most cases, because of infection. But because, like so many others in the sports industry, the bottom has fallen out of their professional and domestic lives.

Their livelihood has gone and with it the source of income which pays the rent or mortgage and feeds their families. Overnight.Of course they are not alone. Fear of falling ill is paramount. But many millions are being hit hard by the mass closure of business and education in governments’ haste to withstand the infectious onslaught. In the sports media context that means friends and rivals and colleagues, known and unknown.

For them coronavirus could not have come at a worse time. This is an era in which the internet has swept print aside with a consequent loss of tens of thousands of journalists’ jobs. Once, not so long ago, freelances were a minority. Now, in many places, they are the majority.


Hence the heartfelt plea of one colleague on social media within minutes of English football shutting down: “I know I’m not alone but if anyone has any work they can push my way …”

Initial statements from leagues and national associations have set early April as a target for a resumption. Wishful thinking. Health experts forecast the pandemic raging for a further three or even four months. Anyone who believes he or she knows sport’s restart date has lost the plot.

A handful of countries have raised the prospect of some minimal, limited support from the social welfare system. Even where applicable it can be only a drop in the ocean for workers rendered helplessly vulnerable by the insidious evolution of the so-called ‘gig economy.’ Freelance journalists are in that category.

Who knows? Sport’s suspension may also mean a last full-stop for many sports publications, tipping even more colleagues into the abyss.
Already many sports journalists’ associations are studying possible measures of support.

A statement from the UK SJA said: “We are acutely aware that the shut-down of sport in this country will impact many of our freelance members, causing inevitable financial loss and hardship.


“This is an industry run on self-employment, which means no government assistance under current legislation. We are currently looking at ways we can be of practical assistance in what are extraordinary circumstances.”

The English Football Writers Association has set up a working group headed by committee member Philippe Auclair not only to offer help and support but join efforts to lobby members of parliament on behalf of the self-employed in general.
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FWA chair Carrie Brown said: “Freelance journalists always plan for a worst case scenario but this is an unprecedented climate with work opportunities and income switched off immediately.

“The FWA has added its voice to MPs lobbying Government for protection for the self-employed in all sectors and it’s imperative we are heard.

“We have also set up a working party to offer advice and support to our members who are facing a potentially lengthy period of uncertainty. Their welfare and that of their families is of paramount importance and we will do everything in our power to support them.”
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