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Football club's 'media policy' sparks row over news coverage

A list of dos and don’ts issued by Cardiff City Football Club, designed to tailor the news coverage of its affairs, has led to a dispute between the club and the South Wales Echo.

The club has drawn up a new media policy which includes restrictions on journalists speaking to players about club matters while on international duty or without prior permission on away games, and also says coverage should not refer to ‘insiders’ or be of a predefined negative agenda.

The club has already banned South Wales Echo football writer Mark Bloom – leading to a war of words between the two sides.

Reporting on the three month ban, the Echo says the club took exception to an article which revealed City goalkeeper Tony Warner was to return to Millwall and quoted a ‘source’.

It also slammed the policy as a “series of draconian and unworkable restrictions on balanced reporting”.

And in a comment piece editor Richard Williams, who met with club chief Sam Hammam on Friday, said the club had not made a single complaint since he started his job in April.

He said: “Positive or negative, readers always know that our articles offer an independent view.

“Now Cardiff City are trying to tell us which reporters cover their events and how they should do it. They are even trying to determine what language we use.

“…I believe Sam should think again about this ban, and see that it is damaging to Cardiff City FC, the Echo and more importantly the fans who turn to the Echo for all the Ninian Park news.”

A statement from Sam Hammam following Friday’s meeting said: “It is up to the new editor, Richard Williams to control his own staff to write balanced articles.

“We will bend over backwards to re-establish our relationships but refuse to be continuously abused and just stand there and take it.

“Mr Williams I finally met on Friday the 1st of July for four hours.

“We both want to avoid confrontation – that is both genuine and certain – although I admit that a chance of a serious rift developing remains.

“The best result is for the Echo to admit their mistakes, accept the exclusion of their “loose cannon” reporter and resolve to have a better balanced reporting about the Club. The worst result is for them to be totally excluded from any conference, interviews, match day accreditation and exclusives.”

The website also defended the club’s media policy.

It said: “We must stress and stress again that we are not trying to implement “draconian” or “unworkable” restrictions, but are only trying to put a procedure that is just, workable and balanced which is easy to implement for all concerned.

“We even clearly wrote to them as well as all members of the media that our proposed procedures are not cast in stone and that they are open for discussion.

“In fact, we are meeting representatives of all local media on Thursday the 7th of July to discuss the situation.”