The massive interest in European football means the pressure from the sporting media continues to increase and the work of the UEFA Media Committee is vital in helping the world's media bring the game to fans around the globe.
Formed last year partly as a response to the recent exponential growth in both football and media outlets, the committee deals with many media issues relating to UEFA and the game. The committee heard how an estimated 10,000 journalists from over 100 countries descended on Austria and Switzerland to cover UEFA EURO 2008™ and how the optimum environment for them to work was provided, resulting in 85 per cent of media representatives rating the facilities at all eight venues as "good" or "very good" in a post-tournament survey. "The media is part of football, we have to look at the big picture and strive for transparency," says Media Committee chairman Mircea Sandu. "It's up to us to make sure the spectators can see what happens in football, and that does not only mean what happens on the pitch. Football is a whole host of activities that finish with a match."
The on-line Media Information System (MIS), which allowed journalists to access information concerning all 16 competing nations at the UEFA EURO 2008™, complemented press kits and official pre- and post-match press conferences to give the media the opportunity to provide in-depth coverage of the tournament. Players were also obliged to pass through a "mixed zone" after games to enable journalists to conduct interviews. Mr Sandu said a balance had to be struck between allowing players time and space to do their job, and giving journalists a chance to do theirs.
"At a final tournament, for example, there are many efforts made to help the media," said Mr Sandu, who is also a UEFA Executive Committee member. "The opening or closing minutes of training sessions may be observed, press conferences are organised before or after training. Flash interviews take place for the teams after matches, everything is open. The most important thing is to allow as much access as possible, but at the same time to protect the game and the players."
Accreditation for major tournaments and competitions, such as the UEFA European Football Championship and UEFA Champions League, can be a delicate issue, and the committee is keen to offer its advice on potential methods for selecting and issuing accreditation. It is also keen for UEFA to continue to forge links with international media organisations, and to seek a common platform for knowledge-sharing on media experiences among UEFA's 53 national associations.
One of the most important new factors to be reckoned with is the power of the internet. UEFA's official website for UEFA EURO 2008™, euro2008.com, racked up a massive 1.3 billion page views, while its parent site, uefa.com, continues to be the definitive site for UEFA club competitions, with up-to-the minute details on goals and key incidents available on-line on matchdays. "That is an extraordinary development," said Sandu. "It is very important in football to be able to transmit a key event, like a goal or an important statement, in a direct and efficient way."
The wide range of media available to the football-loving public means very little now escapes the attention of supporters sitting in stadia or in the comfort of their homes. Mr Sandu insisted the advent of mass media was good for the game, and gave the committee a crucial role to play. "It's a very important committee, because it ensures the right conditions for the media to be able to transmit to supporters and the general public the relationship between the players on the pitch, the refereeing, the tactical organisation of the teams etc," he said. "It's very important to give people this opportunity to have a complete understanding of everything that is going on in football."
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