FA Better to Do

As some of you may be aware, Viva Rovers has been out of action on occasion in the past week, meaning we were unable to bring you a preview of the Ipswich Town match, and were also prevented from updating or editing the site in anyway. The reason for this was that WordPress, who host this blog-site, had received a complaint from Football Data Co. working on behalf of the FA in regard to the pictures featured within Viva Rovers.

You may recall a week ago Football Data Co. contacted WordPress on the same subject. The bugbear that time was that we were showing pictures of football league players playing football on this site and that all such images are copyrighted by Football Data Co as part of their contract with the FA and the Football League. Grudgingly we accepted this ruling and replaced the offending photos with some of our own crowd shots snapped on my mobile phone at various grounds in the past few seasons. Job done? Sadly not.

On Friday WordPress informed me that the FA, no less, had now contacted them and asked that the aforementioned camera phone pictures taken from the depths of the stands at Cheltenham, West Brom and Reading and showing no football action whatsoever were also in breach of their copyright. Not wanting to put WordPress in the middle again I contacted a representative of Football Data Co for an explanation with the following email;

I have been contacted (twice) by WordPress who host my unofficial blog-site Viva Rovers about images which Football Data Co have insisted be removed from the site. In particular match action photography which I had obtained from other sites.
I have complied with this request and removed the aformentioned images as requested.
I have today been contacted again by WordPress who say the FA are insisting I remove further images from the site. However the images they refer to were taken by me and do not feature match action at all.
Can you please inform me of what exactly Football Data Co have the rights to in this field so that I can ensure that I am not infringing copyright as I cannot see how the football league can hold copyright for any images taken anywhere in the vicinity of a football ground.

I received a short reply within a couple of hours from Mr Derek Johnston who stated (and this his entire explanatory email by the way);

Thank you for your email I regret to take a camera or equipment that records images into football grounds and use them to photograph, is in breach of ground regulations regards Derek Johnston.

Despite Mr Derek Johnston’s considered and detailed response I felt the need to press on and so pushed for further information;

Evening Derek,
Thanks for your reply.
Having attended football for many years I have to say that this is news to me. I was aware of the ruling regarding match action imagery, but was unaware that taking any photographs in a ground is forbidden.
I don’t want to be pedantic here, but could you please send me a copy of the ‘ground regulations’ where this is written, just so I can be sure of what is and isn’t allowed, because as I say, I was unaware of any universal ground regulation on this subject.
Also, may I ask how, amongst the many thousands of football websites out there, you were drawn to my humble blog?

As I had genuinely never seen this written down and I wanted to resolve the issue as quickly as possible I did an internet search for the Football League’s Ground Regulations. There was nothing on the Football Data Co website and there was certainly no detailed explanation on the back of any of recent match tickets so I continued to trawl the web, eventually discovering them in full on Cheltenham Town’s website. And I am frankly surprised at the nature of them in relation to photographs at matches.

Ground Regulation 16

Mobile telephones are permitted within the ground provided that they are used for personal and private use only provided that no audio, visual, or audio-visual material captured by a telephone may be published or otherwise made available to any third parties including, without limitation, via social networking sites.

So effectively, if you take your mobile phone to a match, and decide to take a picture of your mates and yourself savouring the occasion with your mobile and then whack it on Facebook to show everyone, you are effectively breaching copyright. All the fun of the football and all that. Whilst I was finding this out I had a further unstructured reply from Mr Johnston.

Ground regulations are part of your ticket of entry to a ground and posted at all grounds. I will send a copy tomorrow, in answerer to your question why we picked your humble blog we have good intelligence regards and all the best Derek.

I replied as follows;

Alas it seems good intelligence is no substitute for common sense,
No need to send the ground regulations as I found a copy on the Cheltenham Town website after a lengthy online search. I can’t say I have ever seen them posted in a ground, and certainly not on my match ticket, but then I suppose once I’m in the stadia I’m too busy watching the football.
I shall ensure the pictures are taken down as soon as WordPress allow me access to the site to do so as they have currently suspended my account at your request. Rest assured any future match images produced on the site will consist of artistically crafted collage interpretations made from finger paint, glitter and dried pasta.
I too wish you all the best; I hope your company’s pursuit to make football as soulless and corporate as possible is a fruitful one. In all fairness supporting Doncaster Rovers has, over the last few years, probably given me more fun and enjoyment than I am really entitled too so I applaud Football Data Co’s efforts to put a stop to this.

Unsurprisingly I never had a further reply. If I genuinely believed that the FA had nothing better to do then I would probably be a lot less irked, but this shows in many ways how the FA works. When an unofficial website uses dodgy camera phone images rather than paying them for official material they are straight in touch. Twelve years ago the club to which this site is devoted was being town to bits from the inside, unsurpisingly back then the FA were nowhere to be seen.


About glen wilson

Former schoolboy, Glen Wilson writes on football and travel and has been editor of the award-winning popular STAND fanzine since before the award.


10 thoughts on “FA Better to Do

  1. Sorry to hear about this trouble; am 100% behind you with all of this, and it’s good to hear that you didn’t lie down for loquacious Derek.

    You might want to contact Greens on Screen, who have published plenty of photos for years: http://www.greensonscreen.co.uk/index.asp. The trick may be to take the shots when the ball’s not in play.

    Posted by Lloyd | September 21, 2009, 6:52 pm
  2. Bravo on your letters to the F.A!

    It’s appalling the length they have gone to in search of a few pounds royalty payments. The money spent on one man “investigating” this site would already have far outweighed anything they could make back from you.

    Idiots, the lot of them. Viva la Viva Rovers!

    Posted by Rob Williams | September 21, 2009, 7:51 pm
  3. This rent-seeking behaviour from the FA is quite incredible. Well done for arguing your case – I am literally speechless at this. What next? Will you be no longer allowed to describe the action in the ground? Will only “official partners” be permitted to publically comment on matches?

    Posted by Lanterne Rouge | September 21, 2009, 9:06 pm
  4. I’ve heard of this lot before – though I was unaware that they were practically illiterate.

    Still, the commercialisation of football, of which this is just one example, stems from the twin shites who ran a certain commercial television station and a certain electronics company. Of course, the guidng light behind what they did was the arsehole leader of the nation at the time. It was also well known that the process by which these two shites cornered the market was tantamount to being corrupt. It was equally well known that those with the power to put a stop to those practices had a different, money oriented agenda.

    And it’s well known now that football is busy killing the geese that lay all those golden eggs.

    I shall make a point of taking as many photographs as my camera will store the next match I go to. Does this ban extend to my son playing for his school team? The Conference? The Unibond?

    I despise shits like these. And I despise the shits that allow them to prosper.


    Posted by BobG | September 21, 2009, 9:19 pm
  5. Cheers gents,

    To respond to a couple of points above. Regarding Lloyd’s suggestion, the second lot of images used and removed were shots of the stadia taken before the match had even begun. So the guys at Greens on Screen may need to be wary.

    BobG, I did my referees course last year (glutton for punishment etc.) and on that I was instructed that should I be reffing an under 16s match and someone is seen taking photographs then I am to suspend the match until the person is removed from the area or obtains necessary permission.

    I noticed on the VSC Forum discussing this topic that someone had the same idea as me as to where this ‘good intelligence’ may have come from. Each to their own I suppose.

    Now, I’ll get back to my watercolour of Glanford Park ready for Saturday’s match preview

    Posted by glenglenglen | September 22, 2009, 10:16 am
  6. I still haven’t worked out the source of that ‘intelligence’! Are you able to give a clue? Or an email?!



    Posted by BobG | September 22, 2009, 8:12 pm
  7. Bloody hell, what a load of shite!

    Sorry to read about this Glen, just proves how absolutely detached from reality the FA are.

    F*&k em and keep up the good work fella.


    Posted by Matt Smith | September 23, 2009, 8:14 am
  8. Cam I pose a question on this matter. As a member of the public I am supposedly allowed to go where ever I wish providing I am legally doing no wrong.

    I have my privacy which could & should be honoured by all elements of society.

    If I therefore attend a football match, in privacy, and yet a news hound, or photographer takes a picture at the match which includes members of the crowd (me for instance), should not the photographer or his newspaper seek my permission to print an image of me in said newspaper.

    Surely this is as much an invasion of my privacy as publishing an action picture of the match.

    I must admit that I have come across this before. A short while ago several of my friend and I were pictured at a match at Belle Vue. When I tried to get copies I was informed it was not possible under some section or other.

    Surely whats good for the Goose is good for the Gander.

    Posted by ray jest | September 24, 2009, 1:33 pm
  9. Ray,

    Last I heard, if a newspaper or magazine wanted to show a photograph then they had to get anyone appearing in it to sign a modelling contract or somesuch. And to hark back to an earlier comment, what’s the situation if said journo publishes a picture featuring any under-16 fans?

    Yes, the rules are a crock of crap. I mean, you can’t even publish fixture details on a blog any more without a license from the FA. Technically, if I put up “I’m off to the Newcastle v Cardiff match at the weekend” on my blog I’m in breach of this!

    Posted by Mosh | September 24, 2009, 6:38 pm
  10. Sorry you’ve had to endure this. There’s nothing (very) new about the approach described. You’ve probably seen this before, but just in case…


    Posted by Matt Rowson | August 12, 2010, 1:23 pm

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