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|| News Item: Posted 1998-09-21

NFL Sideline Rules (cont.)
By Robert Hanashiro

Though we are in week 3 of the NFL season, the new sideline rules instituted by the league is still creating alot of discussion. Here are two recent posts on NPPA-L:

-Joe Traver: APSE Newsletter story on new NFL sideline photo guidelines:

By Jeff Miller
The Dallas Morning News

Those time-worn cheers "Hold that line!" and "Push 'em back, way back!" could enjoy a rebirth on NFL sidelines this season following the implementation of new photo restrictions by the league.

As part of the new televisiion package that the NFL signed with Fox, CBS, ABC and ESPN starting this season, photographers in general now are allowed only within 15 feet of the field instead of within 12 feet. And that area from 12-15 feet from the sideline is now exclusively reserved for hand-held cameras for the network that is televising the game plus NFL Films; there's no such exclusive zone in the end zones. The new restrictions were announced in July in a memo from the NFL.

Most APSE members and photographers questioned recognize that preferential treatment comes from being partners in such a multi-million dollar deal and hope that the quality of still photography for their papers won't suffer.

"The new rule itself isn't necessarily terrible," said Joe Traver, a free-lance photographer based in Buffalo N.Y., a past president of the National Press Photographers Association and a frequent shooter at NFL games. "What it comes down to is, it's an anti-photography rule.

"They made that three-foot area a sacred place. I can understand the fact that their companies have paid to strike a special deal; I have no problem with that. But there are too many other people in that area."

Traver shot three NFL games during the season's first two weeks--Buffalo- San Diego, Buffalo-Miami and the San Francisco-Washington game on Monday Night Football. He complained of being blocked out in San Diego by ballboys and in Washington by numerous security people who stood in the new zone while enforcing the policy.

"We're now stuck behind a hundred security guards in their little Jack Kent Cooke shirts who stand in front of us trying to enforce this rule," Traver said. "In San Diego ... there must have been five or seven kids all wearing a big 'X" holding balls. They stand in front of you and just watch the game. "Guys, excuse me. You just need one at a time and you can kneel.'

"I'm willing to accept the rule, but we have to wake up the NFL when it comes to policing this stringently."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he was unaware of complaints such as Traver's and that both the NFL security staff and officials from the stadiums would look into those matters. Aiello said only two to four cameras should be in the area, that the NFL Films crews have been told to kneel and that ballboys are under the jurisdiction of game officials.

"There will be some debate; that happens whenever you change something," Aiello said. "We anticipated that and explained (the rule) as best we could. There are still great shots from NFL games showing up in newspapers all across the country."

Aiello said that, according to longtime ABC executive Dennis Lewin, the networks have long asked for such a sideline privilege and only received it during the recent negotiations. Not only is it meant to provide a premium position for the "event producer" but also improves the quality of shots from upper-level cameras by keeping more people farther from the field.

Moving photographers, including TV crews not televising the game, back from the playing field isn't a new issue in sports. There were times when baseball photographers were allowed on the field in foul territory near home plate before they were moved into photo boxes near the dugouts. And Aiello says NFL photo access is still among the best in sports, in part because of the size of the field.

Garry Howard, sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is less concerned about the effect on photography as he is the message that print journalism must accept a secondary role.

"The print media seems to be taken for granted," Howard said. "There's an assumption out there that (people in newspapers) are all going to be out of jobs soon. But when you look at the combined readership (of newspapers nationally), we're not far behind (television). And I look at how many people are pulling up our websites every day."

The photo staff at The Sporting News was immediaately concerned that quality would suffer when it learned of the new restrictions. TSN shoots between three and six NFL games on a typical weekend. Photo editor Albert Dixon admits that early returns have been acceptable, but he's concerned in the long term.

"There's no question it reduces the quality of the photos, reduces the angles," Dixon said. "In practice so far, everything has been fine. But I'm worried about playoff time, when there will be 15 times the number of photographers at every game."

Louis DeLuca, a veteran sports photographer for The Dallas Morning News, also believes problems are inevitable.

"I can see where there will be a situation where it's six seconds left,first-and-goal and a TV guy decides he wants to be where you are," DeLuca said. "...It's going to get kind of ugly."

(Note: Joe Traver is a former president of NPPA and is a freelancer in the Buffalo, NY area.)

-Alex Brandon: RE: The New NFL Rules

To discuss further what Joe Traver has brought up, I've shot this season in Denver, Green Bay, St. Louis, and here in New Orleans while on assignment covering the Saints (Hey don't laugh they're 2-0 in the regular season).

At all games I keep a copy of the new NFL rules with me, and in several instances it has come in handy. In St. Louis, the parabolic mic's were in the new zone. The rules clearly state that only those people wearing the red NFL vests are to be in the zone, and the rules specifically state that parabolic mic's are required to be back with the rest of us. (This would of course apply to local stadium security, if they don'thave a red vest get them outta there!)

In St. Louis, it took showing the copy of the rules to the head PR guy, and he took it up with the TV people and by the 2nd quarter the problem with the parabolic mic's was cleared up. Also the people pulling the cables for the TV cameras in the zone are not allowed to be in the new zone. I had to point that out to the folks here in New Orleans and to their credit they cleared it up in a couple of minutes.

My take on this, is if they are going to make new rules then they should play by them.

But on the other hand, the NFL Films guys have gone out of their way at the games I've been at to NOT stand in front of someone else. And I thanked one guy in St. Louis for being nice about it.

But, I am concerned that when it gets later in the season, in some of the bigger markets, there is going to be much less room to move over when they decide to stand in front of you. Just remember they are not EVER going to kick out a TV guy doing the live telecast, but you and I will be gone in the length of time it takes to say "TV timeout."

I'd be interested to hear what others have had happen in other places.

(Note: Alex Brandon is a staff photographer at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans)

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