Soccer writer Rob Harris was unmatched in sending video, text updates and images directly from anti-ownership protests that forced postponement of Sunday’s Manchester United-Liverpool match.
AP global soccer writer Rob Harris competes against, and often beats, the European soccer media industry. Building on his coverage of the collapse of the Super League two weeks ago, London-based Harris knew he needed to attend Sunday’s match between two teams that were part of the failed breakaway league — Manchester United and Liverpool — amid rising fan anger at the clubs.
Fan demonstrations had been common outside stadiums of the rogue teams, but there was a growing sense that the protest at Manchester United would be significant. Reporters were prevented from entering the stadium about three hours before the scheduled kickoff as security concerns grew. Most reporters waited in the quiet road outside the entrance to Old Trafford, but Harris looped around to a car park on the opposite side of the stadium to get closer to the expected protests.
Knowing there was no SNTV/AP television camera there, Harris started filming the growing crowds and uploaded footage to SNTV, AP's partner for sports video, as well as to AP. He filed quick text copy by phone, reporting that protesters had broken into the stadium and invaded the field, and then more updates from the protests building outside. Harris also sent a quick photo to set the unruly scene, supplemented by photos from stringers Rui Vieira and Dave Thompson.
After finding a space by a wall, shielded from flares and the mass of the protests, Harris filmed a video explainer tweeted on @AP_Sports. But within minutes, police started to move into that area in larger numbers. As he started to withdraw, a confrontation erupted. He filmed the clashes between police and fans, pulling back as the situation escalated with glass bottles lobbed by fans. Harris then moved to the other side of the road as glass bottles continued to be thrown. Police advanced toward him with batons until he explained he was media. He was then able to upload more footage to SNTV, including the start of the clashes between fans and police — that turned out to be the only video of its kind captured.
On an important Sunday of Premier League coverage, NBCSN in the U.S. not only used Harris’ footage of the shocking scenes, but credited him for the exclusive shots.
The video and images were also used in the lead packages on BBC News, ITV News and Sky News — and were looped on news channels throughout Monday along with other protest footage shot by Harris. Four of the videos he helped gather were among AP's 10-most downloaded for the day, while in text, AP’s alert on postponement of the game moved four minutes before an alert from Britain’s top agency.
For multiformat command of his beat under difficult circumstances, and significant wins against the competition, Harris earns AP’s Best of the Week honors.