The report has been rebutted in the strongest terms by the club which told us this afternoon that the claim was ‘catergorically not true’.
It’s the latest bitter exchange between the club and one of the local papers its owner Mike Ashley has banned from reporting at the ground, and sees the newspaper claiming that a letter on official Newcastle United notepaper has been received by national newspaper editors.
In a comment piece by chief sports writer Mark Douglas it says: “ Little, though, should surprise us at St James’ Park these days. While the club are performing superbly on the pitch, they are continuing to cause ripples off it……
“They have told reporters from national titles who are working in the North East that they will no longer be given access to their players between matches this season and will instead give those “privileges” to organisations that pay them.”
It would be the first such attempt by a Premier League football club to seek money in return for access and its unlikely the newspaper industry would ever give such a proposal a favourable response.
As the club seeks to play down the row, the story has already made it over the pond to the giant NBC sports channel where it is the subject of a debate titled “Media paying for athlete interviews? Not likely. But watch this stuff closely anyway.”