Up north, there’s an intriguing battle going on between the local press and Newcastle United. The football club has declared war on three local newspapers over their coverage of a rally this weekend, protesting at the club’s management.In an extraordinary press release, Newcastle United’s head of media stated because ‘the turnout at the march renders your extraordinary coverage completely disproportionate’, all reporters from the Newcastle Journal, Chronicle and Sunday Sun are personae non gratae:
‘…the club’s owner, director of football, board of directors and team manager have reached a unanimous decision that the three NCJ Media titles, The Chronicle, The Journal and Sunday Sun, will not be permitted access to any media facilities, press conferences and player interviews at Newcastle United indefinitely and with immediate effect’
Regardless of whether you agree with how paper covered the march — see this report from the BBC if you want another summary — they are being blackmailed into writing positive stories about the club. For papers like the Newcastle Journal and Chronicle, covering the happenings of their local football club is their bread and butter. They can fill their pages with this fight for the next few days but what happens if the club doesn’t back down?
At least for now, the papers are standing strong. The editor of the Newcastle Chronicle Darren Thwaites said of the ban:
‘We may be banned but we won’t be gagged. We all want Newcastle United to be successful but it would be nonsense to pretend the fans are happy about what’s going on behind the scenes. We’re devoting more pages to Newcastle United than ever before – both online and in print – and we’ll continue to do so.
‘It’s important for fans to know that our coverage is informed and independent. We’ve no intention of allowing the club to dictate what we can and can’t print.’
This kind of fight is nothing new — see recent examples at Manchester and Southampton — but the club should keep in mind that the press often tend to be the victors when football bosses get too big for their boots. For NUFC fans, it’s another example of people at their beloved club throwing their weight around for the sake of it, and this time the local press has sadly become unwitting target.