Sports reporters need to stand up against "pathetic" bans says Channel 4's Thomson

Stephen Chapman's picture

Channel 4’s Alex Thomson has used his blog to criticise football club’s for banning reporters and his own profession for not fighting back.

It comes following the latest ban, this time enforced by Newcastle United because of a story written by the Daily Telegraph’s Luke Edwards. He isn’t the first, Manchester United for one banned the BBC for quite some time, nor is he likely to be the last.

Thomson, however, believes there is fault on both sides:

“I’m increasingly astonished at the casual brutality and slimy sycophancy which characterise one particular aspect, one particularly miserable little scene of British football journalism. It reminds me that I’ve seen this kind of paranoid bullying of a cowed and terrified media elsewhere in the world from people who wear khaki, not tracksuits. But the pathology is similar.

“It’s this bizarre thing in British football where reporters or even entire organisations are banned (i.e. censored) for doing their job, in a way which would surely never be tolerated in any other media field in Britain.

“This is what the nastier and more corrupt regimes around the world do – pick on individuals and organisations, safe in the knowledge that the rest, the herd, are far too cowed and terrified to do one goddam thing about it.”

He points to a press conference he went to at Rangers, where nobody was allowed to ask a question: “And nobody thought that odd. Ratko Mladic, the Serb General currently facing a war crimes indictment once did this near Sarajevo I recall.”

On Sir Alex Ferguson’s ban on the BBC, he added:

“And guess what? Yet again nobody did a thing about it – the media (BBC included) just trotted on with their creepy Yes Siralex, No Siralex, Three Bags Full Siralex thing as if nothing had happened and for years you got Mr Notsiralex interviewed on MOTD and everybody pretended this was totally acceptable -normal – in modern Britain.”

He continues:

"What’s more dispiriting even than that game is that the bovine north-east press pack (just like Manchester and Glasgow) simply appears to accept this state of affairs.

“Where’s the boycott of Old Trafford, St James’s Park, Ibrox and Celtic Park? Where’s the solidarity? Where’s the sense that a free and fair media matters a hell of a lot more than a bunch of football managers who think they can come over all Stasi because they’re so damned precious they can’t take any stick?

“It’s pathetic. It’s inexcusable. It’s another reflection of the tawdry morality in modern British football. And the media from Sky Sports (with their oh-so-cosy first question in the press conference) and the BBC to local papers should call time on this. Where is the Football Writers’ Association? Next time this happens wouldn’t it be a fine thing if there was nobody at the manager’s press conference and no cameras or radio at their match?”

You can read the full article  on the Channel 4 website.