Wot No Coverage?

Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to contact me expressing disappointed at the lack of live coverage of the Aintree Festival.

As a couple of you have pointed out, this is the only major festival we do not cover live.

Allow me to put the matter into some context and explain why there was no live coverage of the meeting.

I first applied to cover the Aintree Festival two years ago and the request was declined due to lack of space in the media centre. An explanation I was, naively it turns out, happy to accept at face value.

I was offered a “Limited Media” pass which I accepted. However on the first day of the festival it quickly became clear the “Limited Media” access was not going to work.

This allows access only to the ground floor level of the course, making race viewing difficult (and that was on the Thursday, the quietest day) it would have been virtually impossible on the Friday and Saturday.

There was also the matter of filing updates. Aside from the practical issue of having to carry several batteries to power the laptop, there was the matter of finding somewhere to file the updates, that’s assuming a decent 3G signal could be found (I’m told this year there was no working Vodafone signal at the course at all, so I would be totally stymied). Sitting on a “park bench” or the floor of a packed bar, trying to file updates, is not a practical option.

To cut a long story short it was impossible to file updates and without access to TV replays it was impossible to produce proper race reports. So I cut my losses.

At the end of the day a Limited Media badge is nothing more than a glorified Tatts admission ticket.

Last year I applied for accreditation again. I heard nothing from the course about the success or otherwise of my application. I eventually contacted Aintree about ten days before the meeting to ask about my application. I was told “you will be given the same access as last year,” i.e. limited access, “and your badge will be posted out today.”

I told them “thanks but no thanks” and explained why the limited access was not any good and suggested they saved the postage cost and did not bother sending my badge out.

Fair enough that was their decision and I, again, accepted it.

This year I applied yet again, making a case as to why I needed access to the Media Centre.

I actually thought I had cracked it this time, third time lucky, as, on March 14th, I received an e-mail from Aintree saying my application for accreditation had been “approved”. The first time I had received such a mail and I was, obviously, delighted.  

On the basis of that e-mail I went and booked accommodation for the meeting, made travel arrangements and geared up the web-site to provide the full coverage.     

Roll forward to 31st March the envelope arrived from Aintree. I opened it and what did it contain? A Limited Media badge again!

So the e-mail of 14th March was actually misleading in it made absolutely no mention of the access being limited. I have since checked with those who had been given “full” accreditation and they received exactly the same e-mail as me.

It am also surprised Aintree offered me limited media access after I had pointed out last year that such access was as much use as a chocolate teapot, they clearly do not keep notes.

I have since found out  the reason Aintree will not give me access is  “(press room access) for websites we have to restrict as we'd have to accredit everyone who applied.”

That is debatable, they are already selectively allowing some web sites access. They can find space for one of their team to send Tweets and update Facebook. They can find space to allow Sporting Life’s Blog which contains little material information about the racing. They find space in the press room for the Racing Post’s “trackside live”, which provides just limited coverage.

Yet they are unable to provide space for the only website which provides extensive, comprehensive  pre and post-race reports of the racing direct from the course.

It is patently obvious Aintree have not looked at the website when making the decision regarding accreditation. They only need to look at the coverage, from Cheltenham Festival for example, to see why the Limited Media access simply will not work.

Interestingly I have since been told there was plenty of space in the media centre over the course of the meeting and there would have been plenty of space for me.
I fully accept it is at Aintree’s absolute discretion to whom they provide accreditation to, that is not the issue.

For me the main issue is not whether I have access or not but my credibility, I advertised reporting of the meeting based on the mail saying I had accreditation. By not being able to deliver that coverage my credibility and the credibility of the site is compromised.

If they never intend giving me full accreditation in the future then fine but they should tell me so and I will no longer waste their time or, more importantly, mine applying again.

That is why there was no coverage from Aintree.

I am sorry I misled those of you who follow the site and who were expecting full coverage. I am sorry I had to leave a hotelier in the lurch at what is probably their busiest couple of days of the year, I sincerely hope they managed to re-let the room.

Aintree were offered the opportunity to respond to the above. They did reply after it was published but requested their reply way not published, clearly I will respect their wishes. All I will add is their response failed to recognise the concerns raised.

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