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|| News Item: Posted 1998-08-28

Leading Off: New NFL Sideline Rules A Disaster
Rant of the Week

By Robert Hanashiro

After covering four NFL pre season games in four different stadiums on the west coast, the one thing I can say is that the new "network zone" on the sidelines has been a total bust!

For those not aware of the new "network zone," it is a 3 yard space between the field and the sideline photographers. Only three people are allowed to work in this area: 2 network cameramen and 1 NFL films cameraman.

The new rule has been interpreted differently at each stadium.

In Oakland, the Raiders misread the diagram sent to the team by the League and they drew an EXTRA line, putting photographers another 9 feet back.

In all four stadiums, cable pullers and sound dish holders stood in the zone in front of photographers. In Oakland, sheriff deputies wandered the sidelines in the new work zone. And in San Diego, the Chargers allowed the local radio station broadcasting their games to have reporters and sound personnel wander the new work zone, often standing in front of local shooter just before the snap of the ball.

While nobody disputes the NFL's right to do whatever they want (hey, let's face it: money talks and networks have ponied up $1 billion for the broadcast rights) but they have to enforce their rules consistently.

Enforcement (or the lack of it) has always been the issue with me. The NFL has created a two tiered working situation on the sidelines. And anytime there are the "haves" (the TV networks) and the "have-nots" (the rest of us poor bastards) you are promoting an atmosphere of unrest.
A recent meeting was held in NYC to discuss this very issue among editors of large newspapers, the Ap and sports magazines.

I will advise when/if I hear the outcome of this confab.
With the regular season just over a week away, an equitable solution does not seem to be forthcoming.

The only thing I can suggest, is to do what Brad Mangin did Monday at the Raider-Tampa Bay game: seek out a team or league official and CALMLY and RATIONALLY discuss the errors in enforcing the new "network zone" and also identify people on the sidelines who are not REALLY working (for example: fans with point and shoots; bozos from local TV and newspaper outlets who copped extra credentials and are just taking up space).

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