Blackpool Gazette football writer Will Watt made the plea to the sport’s governing body after his newspaper was barred from speaking to players and management staff at Blackpool FC.
While The Gazette has been told the temporary ban will be overturned once the football season starts next month, at present only current “local media partners” are given access to the club’s squad.
Last month Will’s colleague Steve Simpson was locked out of a press conference, which was called to announce the appointment of the club’s new manager Neil McDonald.
It is the latest in a spate of bans issued by clubs which have seen some local newspapers and other media barred from the press box for as long as 14 months.
As reported by HTFP yesterday, Swindon Town has extended its current media ban by axeing pre-match press conferences, while Rotherham United, Newcastle United, Southampton and Port Vale were all involved in media access disputes at some stage last season.
No explanation for the Blackpool ban has yet been forthcoming from the club, which is currently embroiled in a battle between supporters and controversial owners, the Oyston family, over a perceived lack of investment.
On Saturday supporters staged a protest by invading the pitch during a pre-season friendly at Lancaster City, culminating in the game’s abandonment, though no mention was made of the incident in a match report on the club’s website.
In a comment piece for The Gazette, Will wrote: “Events at Lancaster on Saturday were at least good news for journalists – they highlighted what life would be like without us.
“This summer we have experienced the restricted world of controlled reporting at Blackpool FC.
“As you’re probably aware, The Gazette aren’t presently allowed to speak to anyone at Bloomfield Road, though no explanation has been provided by the club. Only ‘local media partners’ are being given access to players and the manager until the season starts.
“I’d like to think most supporters reading our recent coverage wouldn’t have been aware of the lack of access, except perhaps for the rare use of some pretty bland interviews with new signings from the club’s official website.”
He added: “I’m not having a dig at Pool’s media department, who are simply following instructions, their hands are as tied as anyone and social media criticism their way has been a little unfair.
“In truth official club sites like to act like credible sources of journalism, offering ‘exclusives’ and ‘breaking news’, but they can only provide club-sanctioned PR and highly selective reporting. For balanced, objective coverage, that’s where the media comes in.”
Will went on to call for change in the FA’s policy, which would see football clubs banned from banning media outlets.
“Maybe the FA should follow the lead of the NFL in America, which outlaws the practice of clubs banning the media,” he wrote.
Will concluded: “The ‘media partners’ situation isn’t unique to Blackpool. Newcastle recently gave one newspaper and one broadcaster exclusive interviews with new manager Steve McClaren, having struck an agreement with them.
“If those with exclusive access are wary of jeopardising their special status, open and honest reporting is at risk. Toe the company line or you could be out.”
Swindon Town FC announced yesterday that the club would not be holding pre-match press conferences for the forseeable future, with interviews instead being conducted with players by the club’s in-house media team.
The FA has yet to respond to HTFP’s request for a comment on the issue.