A very fair question..
I worked for a newspaper from mid 1990 until July 2007.. Whlist shooting film we would shoot all the big games.. For those in Australia, we would drive 100klms or more for an ARL game, to shoot a Saturday/Sunday afternoon game, drive back, process and print..
We were part of a much larger masthead.. When were went of to digital in 1999 we used images from other photographers from the same masthead more and more.. Images were posted on the company's intranet Australia wide.. We would also use images shot by sports agencies affiliated with the newspaper..
We shot fewer out of town sports events but still shot big local games.. The good news is,, we never had any lay offs.. I could always remember there being 10 fulltime photographers and two casuals..
Also,,Australia is one of the few western countries which still employs staff photographers.. A lot can be said about unionisation..