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JMPUK's return to football

Published on Tuesday, 30th June 2020, contributed by JMP UK

It’s been a long three months of no sporting action due to Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. But last week saw the football world return to some sort of normality. Both the Premier League and Championship football will finish the season behind closed doors, with fans having to make do with televised streaming of the games from the safety of their own homes.

Despite the fanless matches, the return of football has been much-anticipated by fans everywhere.  With strict social distancing measures in place, staff and personnel permitted to attend the live games will be limited. It’s been a quiet few months for our sports photographers, who are usually kept extremely busy capturing all the football action, week-in and week-out. With the sport resuming, they’re as excited as ever to head back. Except for this time, it’s a little different…

Here’s what JMPUK’s Head of Photography, Rogan Thomson, had to say about his return to football in the “new normal”:

“My first week back working in football after the 3 months Covid-19 enforced break has all been a bit surreal. With the Sky Bet Championship season looming our client Bristol City, first of all, required a shoot of fresh stash from new kit provider Hummel, ahead of them going on sale this week in readiness actually for next season.”

“This shoot was to be carried out under strict social distancing measures put in place by the club’s designated Covid-19 response officers. First of all, we could only have access to two players, and only myself and the club’s media representative who was shooting video were able to be on set with them. We had to maintain 3-metre social distancing at all times and the shoot had to be outdoors where the risk of Covid-19 transmission is reduced. The 3m distance from the subject presents challenges with achieving angles I might normally lean towards on a shoot of this type.  We shot around the back of a stand at the stadium but with new unseen product were limited on locations by staying out of sight from the flats and houses that overlook that area.”

There was also rigorous protocol regarding the clothing the players would wear, which came in sealed packets and could only be handled by the individual players themselves. Finally, I was required to wear a face covering and gloves and to disinfect my cameras before and after the shoot. All in all, we had happy players and a happy client so not a bad return." 

“Next up was a behind closed doors friendly for Bristol City away at Southampton, and an opportunity to get a taste of the new regulations we will face in the sports photography business at stadiums all around the country. Southampton were following Premier League protocol on the day but it will largely be the same in the Championship as well.”

“Everyone is expected to arrive at the ground in separate cars, and we must leave enter the ground wearing a non-surgical face covering, and keep them on until we later return to the car to leave. We also cannot enter now until 60 minutes before kick-off. To get into the stadium my temperature was taken with a non-contact thermometer, and questions asked about Covid-19 symptoms. Normally I’d head straight to a photographers room but these are no longer operating. On this occasion, there was only me and Southampton’s club photographer but in league games, there will now be greatly reduced capacity.”

“The stadiums are now split into traffic light zones telling everyone where they can and can’t be. Anyone in the red zone must be subject to regular Covid-19 antigen testing. Essentially we can now work in the green and amber zones, which is the stands and in certain pitchside spots at certain grounds, but movement may be limited (eg no changing ends at half time). We are also now expected to leave the stadium ASAP after a game and file images from the car ideally. All this is manageable if frustrating, but the leagues have planned this return meticulously and they are prioritising everyone’s safety which is reassuring.”

“As for the images themselves, we now have lovely empty stands to contend with. For photographers that means ugly backgrounds. Shooting down from the stands cleans up your picture, although it could be argued this is such an unprecedented time those ugly backgrounds maybe tell the reality of Covid-19 football better. It’s a whole new world for us, for now at least…

…but damn it feels good to be back.”

“Next up was a behind closed doors friendly for Bristol City away at Southampton, and an opportunity to get a taste of the new regulations we will face in the sports photography business at stadiums all around the country. Southampton were following Premier League protocol on the day but it will largely be the same in the Championship as well.”

“Everyone is expected to arrive at the ground in separate cars, and we must leave enter the ground wearing a non-surgical face covering, and keep them on until we later return to the car to leave. We also cannot enter now until 60 minutes before kick-off. To get into the stadium my temperature was taken with a non-contact thermometer, and questions asked about Covid-19 symptoms. Normally I’d head straight to a photographers room but these are no longer operating. On this occasion, there was only me and Southampton’s club photographer but in league games, there will now be greatly reduced capacity.”