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Opening Up Stadiums’ Closed Doors 

By Evangeline de Bourgoing | 7 October 2020

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Drastic health and safety protocols, travel restrictions, increased costs… These are some of the hurdles you need to overcome to cover a sporting event onsite in our current environment. Unfortunately, this pandemic obstacle course will often only lead you to arenas where access to athletes and officials are limited – with no fans to report on.   

So, is it even worth sending reporters to sporting events? Is remote coverage the future? 

We asked two Reuters Sports reporters Amy Tennery and Julien Pretot who recently went onsite to cover the Tour de France and the US Open. 

 

Ahead of the News 

Julien Pretot has been covering the Tour de France for the past fifteen yearsThis year, access was more limited than usual, but he was still able to gain a lot of insight by having access to riders and staff. “Being on site generally gives a better feeling of the event, and this year proved no different – I’ve been told by all my sources that they were more willing to talk to reporters on site than to journalists covering the event from afar” Pretot told us.  

Following the Tour de France onsite was essential because it gave him access to organizers every day and allowed him to be ahead of the newsPretot gave the following example: I could work my sources at all times and I was actually standing next to the top officials when they finalized the statement saying four team members had tested positive for coronavirus which meant that Reuters was first to report this news, far ahead of its competitors 

Being onsite also means more opportunities for chance encounters and informal chats. “We also broke the news that finish areas would be closed to the public after I stumbled across the director general of ASO (the Tour owners) one evening. Basically, we were first on all coronavirus-related news (the ones I feel our clients had the most appetite for)” he added. 

For Amy Tennery, covering the US Open from Flushing Meadows afforded her a level of access that she could not have hadhad she covered the competition from homebecause we were on site, Reuters was granted access to the U.S. Open tournament referee, after world number one Novak Djokovic was removed from the competition – this was a vital story and without that access we would have been at a disadvantage in covering it.” In fact, reporters were not provided with a written transcript of the press availability, as tournament advisors did not want it spreading beyond the credentialed, on-site reporters. 

 

Bringing Fans inside the Stadium 

Onsite reporters help fans experience what they could not have had access to: the uncanny atmosphere of an empty stadium. Some broadcasters use artificial crowd noises to simulate the usual fan-fueled atmosphere. Sports writers can make readers hear the sound of silence pervading sporting arenas with no fans 

“Reporting on the ground also gives readers an experience they won’t have otherwise. To describe the pin-drop silence at the track before the Belmont Stakes or the variety of lawn games scattered about the plaza in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium adds an entirely new dimension to coverage, to show how bizarre this era of sport is” explains Tennery.  

Covering a game in an empty stadium also gives insights on what a sporting experience is meant to be. “The view from an empty stadium is different from the view on television. At the risk of being overdramatic, it’s visceral testimony of a sporting community that’s been robbed of its ritual, collective experience and emotion. Being on site gives the wide-angle view of what people are missing because of COVID-19” adds Tennery. 

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