Increasing number of journalists banned
30 October ~ Like anyone who works in the public eye, politicians and football club chairmen can expect to be asked questions and held accountable. Although Will Turvill's article on reporter bans in WSC 321 says it would be melodramatic to compare them to state regulation of the press, it is interesting to note that at a time when MPs and newspaper editors are at loggerheads over proposed changes to press regulation, relationships between some clubs and their local papers have also been strained. Newcastle United and Port Vale have both revoked press privileges from local titles in recent weeks.
The League One club's chairman Norman Smurthwaite has even demanded £10,000 a year from the Stoke Sentinel for access. They are not alone: the WSC story outlines local paper bans at Crawley Town and Barnet, while Nottingham Post reporters have also faced restricted access at Forest.
Following Newcastle's derby defeat at the Stadium of Light last Sunday, reporters from the Evening Chronicle and the Journal were not allowed to question Magpies boss Alan Pardew. The city's other newspaper, the Sunday Sun, is also understood to also be banned from St James' Park after the trio covered a supporter protest march against owner Mike Ashley.
Meanwhile Vale owner Smurthwaite banished the Sentinel for asking the question on the lips of 1,000 supporters who have waited months for a £55 limited edition shirt: "When will they be delivered?" He then gave out caps-locked verbal volleys on Twitter and appears to be alienating people in the same way Eddie Mitchell did at AFC Bournemouth last year. After reporting that then-chairman Mitchell's credibility was at "an all-time low" following an on-pitch rant at supporters, the Daily Echo found access gradually restricted before a full ban.
I had previously undertaken work experience on the Echo sports desk and on the Cherries' press team, so when a month passed with no sign of any bridges being built, I was able to set up a meeting to unite the warring factions. As Mitchell and Echo editor Toby Granville eventually agreed, both institutions need each other. In an ideal world, the newspaper gets potential punters interested in the football club, they turn into regulars and will then be hungry for more stories from the paper.
Mitchell entered the two-hour showdown armed with a page of advertorial he wished to pay the Echo to print, but left with an understanding that while they might see things from different angles, the two needed to work together. Clubs issuing bans need to come to the same realisation that Mitchell did. Rather than thinking that journalists owe them, chairmen should revel in the amount of free advertising they are given in the local area. Andy Lloyd-Williams