Soccer


Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. It is the main sport in most countries, played by millions of people, with the professional game generating billions of dollars of revenue in television rights, sponsorship, advertising, marketing and ticket sales. Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has more than 200 members and the World Cup played every four years is, alongside the Olympics, the most important event in the sporting calendar.

Reuters is renowned for its soccer coverage which reflects the importance of the sport. Soccer forms around 30 percent of Reuters sports file. Our coverage spans domestic league football, continental club football, friendly and full internationals and includes the major youth international competitions.

Each country has its own powerful football association, which runs the sport domestically. These FAs are in turn affiliated to confederations, which run continental club and international competitions such as the European Champions League or the African Cup of Nations. The confederations are: UEFA in Europe, AFC in Asia, CAF in Africa, CONCACAF in north and central America, CONMEBOL in South America and OFC in Oceania. Reuters uses these acronyms with a brief explanation e.g. European soccer’s ruling body UEFA. The confederations are under FIFA’s umbrella and the relationship can produce power struggles and disagreements over tournament regulations, funding, player transfers and the laws of the game. These provide good copy. Reuters covers FIFA, based in Zurich, and UEFA, based in Nyon, Switzerland, closely, staffing the main meetings. www.fifa.com has links to confederation and FA Web sites.

FAs and domestic leagues also have a bearing of every aspect of the game and need to be followed closely for stories on discipline including drug abuse, transfers, refereeing, television rights, sponsorship, finance, corruption, match-fixing and other stories.

The clubs themselves also provide a rich source of copy. Some big clubs may be struggling financially and these stories need to be monitored (Lazio, Parma, Fiorentina and Leeds United are recent examples). In others there may be power struggles or takeovers by big companies or wealthy individuals (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City). Many European clubs are quoted companies so their activities will have an effect on domestic equities markets. Soccer is an increasingly global business and big clubs are looking to expand their businesses overseas. Manchester United and Real Madrid have been adept at this. Big clubs have linked with smaller overseas clubs (in China, South Africa etc) as nurseries for new players and to expand their influence. This is a trend likely to become more widespread. Many stories will require equities or general news codes as well as sports codes.

The cult of celebrity is stronger in football than in any other sport and players rival film, soap and rock stars for their pulling power. David Beckham is one of the most famous people in the world. Interviews, human interest stories, offbeat angles all score well for the most famous players. Reuters sports is not, however, in the business of free publicity, celebrity hype or sleaze purveying so stories need to have some sort of sports news angle.

Injuries and recovery news, involving big clubs or well known players/internationals fuel copy. Spates of injury can have a big effect on club or international form and updates are always welcome.

Other off-field stories include violence and hooliganism, which may be at club or international level. England and other northern European countries have a reputation for soccer-related violence and produce good stories about security and police tactics before and during big international fixtures or tournaments. Trouble between club fans can happen anywhere, however, with east European countries, Italy, Turkey and Latin America all hit in recent years. Real disorder, injuries etc should be storified even if we do not regularly cover the league involved. Crowd surges, freak accidents, firework injuries, collapsed stands, fans attacking the referee etc all produce stories no matter where they happen.


Contents

Scheduled Coverage

Domestic football

The depth of regular Reuters coverage of domestic leagues in Europe depends on the soccer profile of the country. We cover England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany in great depth with previews, including injury news before each weekend or midweek of action, fast leads, brief match reports, updates and extra updates/quotes pieces each day/group of matches plus sidebars as merited. The level of cover for cup games especially in early rounds is slightly lower (highlight big matches otherwise general round-up) except in England where the prestige of the FA Cup merits more cover. Some cup semi-finals and all cup finals in these countries will be staffed and arrangements discussed with the soccer editor/desk. On Sunday during the season London puts together a round-up of action in the big leagues. Big five carry their own slug e.g. BC-SOCCER-FRANCE/, BC-SOCCER-ITALY/JUVENTUS

Other European leagues – Other important European leagues such as Portugal, Netherlands and Russia will file weekly league reports as well as fixtures and results. Others will not file only when there is some significant development. An east European round-up is filed on Monday covering Croatia, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. All stories involving leagues not in the top five should be slugged BC-SOCCER-EUROPE/ followed by the country. All bureaux should regularly contribute by filing two or three para brief stories for round-ups of European soccer news issued several times a day by London. These can be injury, transfer, human interest, quotes etc briefs that might not merit a stand-alone story.

Latin American soccer – Our coverage is co-ordinated in Rio de Janeiro by Brian Homewood. We file separate stories on the Argentine, Brazilian and Mexican leagues and a round-up of the other eight. BC-SOCCER-LATAM/SAMERICA). The round-ups usually run early on Monday. We welcome on and off-field stories from any other centres and from the Spanish Language Service SLS which Brian also monitors. Be careful with Latin American names for soccer players the use of which varies depending on which country they come from (similarly Spain and Portugal). See entry in Style Points below.

African soccer - Our coverage is co-ordinated by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg with a weekly round-up of news from the continent. We also run South African league results. Spot stories from all centres are welcome.

Asian soccer – We cover Japan’s J-league and South Korea’s K-league with wraps weekly as well as previews and sidebars on merit. Other countries on merit with coverage expanding due to the increasing popularity of the sport in China and elsewhere.

  • Middle East coverage – No routine coverage outside Israel though interest is growing and several high profile players are moving to the Middle East to earn big money at the end of their careers.


International Club football

The most prestigious regional club competition is the European Champions League which pits the best performing clubs in national leagues in the previous season against each other in group tournaments and knockout rounds. It is immensely popular and generates millions in advertising, sponsorship and television revenue as well as gate receipts. Europe also has the UEFA Cup where Cup winners and lower-placed clubs compete. In Africa clubs compete for the African Clubs Cup and the Confederations Cup and in South America for the Libertadores Cup.

Champions League - Reuters coverage of Champions League is very thorough. The Champions League starts in August with three qualifying rounds for teams from smaller countries and for third and fourth-placed sides from the top nations. The competition proper begins in September with eight groups of four teams playing on a league basis. Matches are where possible staffed and bureaux should advise Sports Desk well in advance who is staffing and who backstopping in the office. The group stage finishes in December when the top two teams in each group qualify for the knockout stage. The third team joins the third round of the UEFA Cup and the fourth team is eliminated. If teams finish with the same number of points permutations are complicated. Call Sports Desk for advice. The first knockout stage starts end February, followed by quarter-finals in March/April, semi-finals in April and the final in May. Early the day before matches, which are played on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings Sports Desk issues a preview package with team news, statistics etc. Bureaux will be advised on the level of preview material they should provide and should file by Sunday night. Any breaking news on injuries etc or fresh quotes from coaches/players/club officials that might affect a forthcoming Champions League tie should be filed when it happens irrespective of the package, however London will update the package with late-breaking news. Clubs are required to hold news conferences the day before Champions League matches and these often produce stories.

On matchday – A four-paragraph story on the whistle, followed by a 350-400 word update with match detail then quotes piece after managers’ news conference. Managers/ coaches are required to give a news conference and supply players for a mixed zone. Trunk can be updated with extra background/stats or telling quote on merit. If the main news point of the evening arises from the news conference the trunk will need updating. We can run brief sidebars – serious injury etc. A follow-up story should be filed early the next day throwing the story forward. For semi-finals and final and other high-profile games, coverage will be boosted with London reinforcing staff. Sports Desk will advise requirements.

UEFA Cup – A big draw matches sides from very weak leagues with top teams so quality is variable in early rounds. Top leagues supply fifth and sixth placed teams plus cup winners. Others their second or third sides and cup winners. The tournament, usually played on alternate Wednesdays to Champions League, lasts from September to May with group and knockout rounds. Sports Desk will write a preview on the Monday before matches and will advise what input is required from bureaux. Spot stories with team news, big name injuries etc should be filed separately as usual. We may ask for leads from selected games. Any newsworthy items from others – mass sendings off, big scores, hat-tricks etc should also be storified. London will run a wrap and advise requirements. Later rounds (round of 16 onwards) will need match reports with games monitored off television or staffed.

Libertadores – Run in a similar way to the Champions League but qualifying varies from country to country depending on their domestic arrangements.

First round: nine four-team groups. Round of 16 (octavos de final) made up of nine group winners and seven best runners-up which can require more than one playoff. The SLS covers all matches from the first round group stage with a lead. Rio uses all this information to file a single wrap on the night’s play (generally Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). The knockout stages are the same (minus standings). African Champions Cup, Confederations Cup – Coverage co-ordinated by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg with previews and wrap on similar lines of Libertadores.


International soccer

World Cup finals and continental cup finals (European Championship, African Cup of Nations etc) are designated as special projects with their own teams of reporters covering in the host nation.

The qualifying competitions last up to three years, however, and require detailed coverage from participating datelines. The draws for qualifying competitions are staffed from London (World Cup, European Championship) or by our Latin America, Africa and Asia specialists.

Before matches we need stories on squad announcements which are usually made some 10 days before a match. Send full squad first, first names and surnames with club in brackets, listed under goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards. Note: Make sure you use the correct Reuters style for clubs which may not always exactly match the way they are referred to locally. If a player plays in the league of another country do NOT add the name of that country e.g. Thierry Henry (Barcelona) NOT Thierry Henry (Barcelona, Spain).

For main matches (desk will advise) follow the squad announcement with a story detailing who has been left out/included since last match and why, injuries, suspensions etc. The story should contain the word squad in the headline and should add the squad at the bottom. Over the following days file spot stories about the squad, late injuries, player/coach comments etc. For high profile matches Sports Desk will ask for a separate preview from host dateline. Visiting team’s home bureau should contribute as well as requesting material for an overall curtain-raiser to groups of fixtures. These are filed early the day before matches. Subsequent news stories affecting the match should be filed as spot and previews updated.

Matchday – Reporters should contact the desk as soon as they are at the venue/in position. For important matches a four-para lead also goes on the whistle (last-second goals permitting). File bare bones of the story with ramifications for qualifying. Update usually 350 words with match description as soon as possible thereafter. On high profile matches we can squirt quick relevant quotes/statistics into a second update. This may be done on desk from television or at venue. High-profile games may need only six paras total. Desk will advise. Quotes piece on high profile games follows after attending managers’ news conference/mixed zone. We may need a follow-up the next day. Consult London desk on this.

Friendlies

Friendly can be a bit of a misnomer for these matches as they are often played with intensity. Friendlies – matches that are not part of an official competition – are played during rare lulls in qualifying or before big tournaments, such as World Cup and European Championship. Managers use them to try out new players and combinations of players and usually use substitutes freely to give several players a run-out. Matches between leading soccer nations, big rivals, tournament participants etc can produce good stories and are covered at almost the same level as competitive internationals with squad announcement, previews as requested, lineups, fast lead, update etc. For friendlies between lesser soccer powers consult the desk on the level of cover required.

Transfers

Transfers provide a great deal of off-diary copy. In Europe’s top divisions, transfers are allowed only during two periods of the year – July/August and January and activity can be frantic then, but speculation continues throughout the year.

Reuters does not indulge in idle speculation about transfers. However, the development of a transfer of a player from one club to another is sometimes highly speculative but also correct. As soccer writers and reporters we must develop a sense of when a transfer is likely to happen and when it is just newspaper talk. Any journalist covering the sport closely develops this sense or instinct over time.

Sometimes there is no usable source because the clubs involved, the player and his agent will say nothing on the record. Sometimes newspaper pickups may be the only source of a story but we can usually read between the lines and know when a transfer is likely to happen or not. If in doubt, speak to the Sports Desk first. We also keep records of the most expensive signings.

Testimonials, benefits, club friendlies

Not generally covered except when they have specific news value – top name retirement etc. Evaluate on merit. If in doubt, consult.

Age group

We cover the finals of World Youth Cup (under-20) as an assignment, reporting on each match. We provide limited cover of under-17 World Cup.

Olympic Soccer

We do not cover the Olympic Soccer qualifying competitions but we do occasionally do a merited story arising from Olympic qualifying. The Olympic finals consist of both a men’s and women’s tournament which we cover from the Olympic city.

Women’s soccer

Although slowly growing in popularity and widely played especially in China, the U.S. and Nordic countries, we do not, as a rule, cover women’s soccer. A few leagues are now professional/semi-professional but the women’s game lacks sponsorship and investment to raise its profile. Offbeat brights, features and strong news angles are, however, welcome. We maintain some low level cover of the women’s World Cup.

Penpix

Before World Cup and continental championship finals as well as major Cup finals we need squad penpix. Penpix should be brief – three or four lines on each player.

Factboxes

We issue factboxes regularly for soccer e.g. on a leading player/coach who is moving, on a club that has signed several players/on disasters, accidents and deaths/on clubs in trouble or having won a trophy. Before/after big tournaments or cup finals we also run stats with previous winners etc.


Style points

  • free kick – two words.
  • team mate – two words.
  • goal kick – two words.
  • extra time – two periods, each of 15 minutes, two words.
  • spot kick – two words.
  • left back – two words.
  • centre forward – two words.
  • right wing – two words.
  • wing back – two words.
  • Goalkeeper – one word, also keeper with no apostrophe.
  • Halftime – one word.
  • kickoff – one word.
  • playoff – one word.
  • Champions League – upper case, no apostrophe.
  • Nations Cup – upper case, no apostrophe.
  • Premier League – upper case.
  • Primera Liga - Spain, capitals.
  • Ligue 1 – France, capitals.
  • Serie A – Italy, capitals.
  • Bundesliga – Germany.
  • keeper – no apostrophe.
  • Group Three – for qualifying groups etc, use capitals.
  • Defeat by/loss to – NOT defeat to.
  • Metres – not yards or feet.
  • hard fought – avoid this cliché. Most competitive games are hard fought.
  • crucial – another cliché to avoid.
  • star, icon, legend – banned, we never use these clichés.
  • veteran – similarly frowned upon. Give age or number of years in game.
  • v – not vs or versus.
  • stadiums – NOT stadia.
  • World Cup – capitals.
  • European Championship – capitals and singular.
  • FA – no need to spell out football association, no points, takes a singular verb.
  • FIFA – world soccer’s governing body, takes a singular verb.
  • UEFA – European soccer’s governing body, takes a singular verb.
  • Players’ names – This is a minefield, particularly with Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American names. Broadly speaking Brazilian, Spanish and to some extent Portuguese players are referred to by a single name or two names which could be a first name, a surname, nickname or diminutive (-inho) e.g Pele, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Pauleta, Xavi, Gutii, Ricardo Carvalho. Where a player is known by a composite name such as Roberto Carlos or both names such as Paulo Ferreira, both names should be used throughout. Other Latin Americans are almost always referred to by their surname in the media even though most have a nickname for team mates and friends. Many national associations (from more traditionalist countries such as Peru and Guatemala) give the full names of players including second name and second surname (Jose Maria Perez Gonzalez). In Spanish speaking countries the surname we use is usually the penultimate name, in Portuguese speaking countries it is the last name. In rare cases in Latam a player uses both surnames (like Boca Juniors’ Guillermo Barros Schelotto). Some South American players who have worked in Spain/Portugal may end up being called by their nickname e.g. Kily Gonzalez as he is universally known rather than Cristian Gonzalez even in the lineups. Similarly Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is always known as such and never Jerrel Hasselbaink. Turkish players are also often known by their first name at second reference. If in doubt (and there is often doubt until a player becomes established and well known) consult desk or bureau of origin.

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