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Football reporter banned from Premier League club

A south coast sports writer has been banned from his local football club just months after a complete shut out on his newspaper was lifted.

Portsmouth FC has taken exception to a match report written by Neil Allen, chief sports reporter and Pompey writer with The News, about the club’s 0-0 draw away at Hull City last month.

This latest expulsion comes three months after peace broke out between the paper and the club following a five-month ban on all News staff because of its story regarding alleged damage to the FA Cup which Portsmouth won last year.

Neil, who has reported on the club for 18 months, is not allowed to attend home matches, press conferences, speak to the players and coaching staff and visit the club’s training ground.

News sports editor Howard Frost told HTFP: “The ban is indefinite. Jordan Cross is taking the main responsibility but everyone else is chipping in.

“It seems a bit petty. If (manager) Paul Hart wants to take exception, that’s his prerogative.

“It’s generally normal for managers and journalists to fall out but Pompey could have just said ‘Paul doesn’t want to speak to you’ and left it at that.

“Neil is disappointed. He can accept Paul Hart’s stance but we fail to see why Pompey have to ban him completely over an opinion piece – an opinion many fans shared after that match.

“Pompey are a little bit quick when it comes to the local media. I think the nationals have written far worse things about Paul Hart but they don’t act upon it.

“We could sit down and talk about this – our editor is in the process of trying to arrange a meeting and a lot of our readers have been very supportive of Neil.”

Portsmouth FC director of communications Gary Double said: “Neil was banned after an article criticising the manager Paul Hart.

“In my opinion, he made his position untenable. I talked to the editor straight after.

“It’s not the first time Neil has transgressed as far as we are concerned.

“He was in a privileged position, interviewing the manager three times a week, and we felt the article overstepped the line.”


Rob Steen (06/11/2009 09:26:33)
This really is the thin end of an extremely worrying wedge. Where will it end? With reporters being denied access unless they write uniformly bland and flattering copy. As for the claim that Neil was privileged to be given three interviews in a week, have Pompey forgotten what the function of a newspaper is? As I have always understood it, it provides free publicity for the club. The worm, it seems, has turned.
Yours disgustedly

Chucky (06/11/2009 09:34:11)
What next? Will Portsmouth ban papers for publishing league tables because it negatively shows them bottom of the league? Absolutely ridiculous.

Mark Sale (06/11/2009 10:09:16)
Given the recent (and continuing) changes in ownership at Portsmouth, you’d have thought the powers that be would have wanted to stay connected to the local press/local people?
This seems a short-sighted and divisive move on the club’s part.

Ex-Portsmouth News (06/11/2009 10:22:22)
In recent years the club has had a very fragile relationship with the paper.
It is certainly the club’s view that The News should not report anything negative and act as a cheerleader. Perhaps the club will be more appreciateive when it drops down into the Championship and no longer receives coverage in the nationals.
A few years ago, the then press officer at the club was told by the managing director, after a dull 1-0 win “I want a very positive spin put on this”, to which the press officer responded “Sure I’ll tell the assembled press pack we won 6-0!”
The press officer left soon afterwards.

Simon E (06/11/2009 10:22:54)
So, let me get this straight. Pompey are bottom of the league. They drew with another relegation-threatened rival and played poorly in the process. They appointed Avram Grant as a director of football earlier that week.
Neil then wrote a story suggesting that the job of the manager of the bottom-placed club in the league was under threat?
Hardly an overstatement or even a overstepping the mark as the wonderfully-titled Director of Communications puts it.
Pompey need to realise just how many of their fans read the paper. I seem to recall the paper producing supplement after supplement praising the team after the FA Cup win so they can hardly be accused of having an agenda.

Derren Howard (06/11/2009 10:26:06)
Would Portsmouth try to ban Skysports or the BBC if one of their reporters had said the same thing on TV? They should lift the ban immediately.

Si B (06/11/2009 10:53:53)
Happening more and more with clubs failing to treat their regional media with the respect they are due. I’ve had conversations with football clubs who openly admit deliberately issuing news post deadline so that club media get the exclusives and they avoid leaks via press. Yes their content is commerce but thgey are very quick to expect support when they are trying to flog tickets or new footy shirts. Can’t work both ways!

mac the hack (06/11/2009 10:58:49)
Nothing new having suffered the same treatment by Shrewsbury Town a decade ago but papers now have the balls to make it a public issue than just ignore it.

Journo 1 (06/11/2009 11:44:57)
So the article overstepped the line? Are Pompey suing Neil Allen for defamation then?!
Discrace, I hope Portsmouth get relegated.

Rob (06/11/2009 12:15:12)
This is an absolute disgrace. Clubs are trying to control the local media to such an extent now it is ridiculous. With the local media’s role in the cimmunity dwindling (and let’s be honest, it is) it is almost as if many clubs smell blood. They believe the papers now need them more than they need the papers, so they attempt to control them. The arrogance in football is now going unchecked and the only people in a position to stand up against this sort of rubbish is the nationals. The fate of our profession is in your hands, national sports writers.
With Grant in, I bet Hart is gone by Christmas.

Journo 1 (06/11/2009 12:48:21)
Also, if the opinion of a local sports report really has made Paul Hart’s position untenable then Portsmouth FC need to take a long, hard look in the mirror at themselves regarding best practice.

FootballReporter (06/11/2009 13:17:09)
The way that football clubs are trying to control the regional press is an absolute joke! These papers do everything for the clubs they follow- yet as soon as anyone is critical- clubs complain. Grow up and get real

Gaz (06/11/2009 14:10:04)
Blimey, you lot really are coming cross as very bitter hacks!
Neil Allen has had priveledged access to the club and players, more so than any other journalist. Is it any wonder that Paul Hart felt betrayed when he read what Allen had written about him? (or have you not actually read the original article?).
And… I used to buy the News every day and the Sports Mail every weekend; however, the News’ format has changed into that of a tabloid, contantly overhyping non-stories and with consistently negative articles about Pompey therefore I don’t hardly ever buy it any more. I would also only buy the Sports Mail when there is something interesting in there (which isn’t very often to be honest).
So, I’m with Hart on this one. If Allen wants to attend Fratton Park then he should buy his match ticket and sit in the stands like everyone else.

Big Al (06/11/2009 14:22:14)
Gaz – your surname is not Double is it?
Your attitude is pathetic and typical of a blind fan who believes Pompey can do no wrong.
So, because Neil Allen is allowed access, he ‘betrays’ Paul Hart by writing his opinion? He’s not there to write great things all the time, no matter how many times he gets access to the club.
Also, your view that The News writes ‘consistently negative stories’ is total drivel.
I buy The News and most of their articles are upbeat and positive. It’s f
ans like you who only acknowledge the ones that aren’t saying everything is great which, in the past few months, it certainly hasn’t been.
With your 100 per cent pro Pompey views, you should go and get a job at Fratton. They’d love you there.

Beener (06/11/2009 14:31:29)
So much for our society of free speech. We might expect this sort of thing from Behind the Iron Curtain FC in Stalins era, but in the UK in the year 2009. Wake up Pompey! Pompey Wake up!

Mookle (06/11/2009 14:47:05)
The article was written in a NEWS paper, which has a duty to report the NEWS. Not just some club-approved propoganda aimed at convincing people that everything in the Pompey garden is rosy, when it most certainly is not.
I thought this was 2009, not 1984.

Rick (06/11/2009 15:02:37)
Football Clubs are supposed to ban hooligans and thugs from entering the stadium, not reporters writing stories in a local paper in a country of free speech.

Simon E (06/11/2009 15:24:26)
Hmm, Gaz and Gary Double. One and the same maybe?

Gaz (06/11/2009 15:35:52)
Big Al – No, I am not Gary Double or anyone else at the club. Furthermore, I don’t know how you arrived at those character traits from my comment but I am not about to doubleguess who you are. I am just a normal season ticket holding fan well aware of what has happened and is still happening at the club. I stand by my distain of the current News style of reporting (and lack of substance). Indeed, I find it frustrating that the News does not have any real journalistic instinct in investigating and reporting on the real issues facing the club. If Hart should chose to treat Neil the same as any other journalist (ie no *special* access to the training ground; *exclusive* staff, player and management interviews) then that is his prerogative. Banning him from the Media Box is probably a step too far (although the News itself is not banned); I don’t believe he has been banned from buying a ticket in the stands.

Russell Anderson (06/11/2009 16:03:01)
The club’s stance is pathetic! If they banned everyone who didn’t think Paul Hart was up to the job they only be getting attendances of 5 o6 thousand!

Big Al (06/11/2009 16:10:51)
Two points there, Gaz
– I think The News’ sports editor has said above that they don’t have much of a problem with Hart’s stance. It is, however, ridiculous to ban Neil Allen from the club totally, therefore he’s not being treated the same as any other journalist, is he?
– Secondly, I’ve listened to The News’ Pompey Talk today and I’ll think you’ll find Neil has been banned from buying a ticket, too, as he has to smuggle himself in to the last game.
Do you think that’s ‘probably a step too far’ too?

Gaz (06/11/2009 16:18:34)
Big Al – Seeing that I’ve already said it was probably a step too far to ban him from the Media Box, then obviously yes it would be a step too far if he was banned from entering FP in any capacity (if that is true). With your skills of deduction and interpretation do you work for the News by any chance?! ;o)

Hot Metal (06/11/2009 16:38:28)
Another example of football’s Thought Police at work. It seems you’re not allowed to have an opinion these days unless it’s a ‘positive’ one

Big Al (06/11/2009 16:55:54)
Sarcasm missed on you then, Gaz
If you want the truth on whether Neil Allen is banned altogether from Fratton, check the club’s official website. Fans like you love that 100-per-cent positive bastion of truth.
(By the way, I’m being sarcastic again)

Journo (06/11/2009 17:06:57)
Gaz, you’re right – why can’t the paper be positive. Pompey are having a fantastic season and I can’t think why on earth anyone would think the arrival of Avram Grant might lead to a manager leaving at some stage.

Journo (06/11/2009 17:07:00)
Gaz, you’re right – why can’t the paper be positive. Pompey are having a fantastic season and I can’t think why on earth anyone would think the arrival of Avram Grant might lead to a manager leaving at some stage.

Aged Hack (06/11/2009 17:15:34)
It really is a sad state of affairs when journalists start getting banned over supposedly negative match reports.
Is this really going to persuade people to start writing nice things?
Let me guess, this Double character has no journalistic background.
Shame on you Portsmouth Football Club, you have sunk to new depths.

Gaz (06/11/2009 17:18:58)
Big Al – I’m sure you realise that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit and you obviously have a problem with anyone who has a different opinion to yours/The News’. I’m really not that bothered that Neil Allen has been snubbed by Hart (and I still don’t believe he is banned from FP altogether). I would of course check the official site to confirm this but I believe the chief writer is Mark Storey so not much point there then! I think I’d better leave this strange journo-world now, it’s way too introspective here!

Ex-hack, current fan (06/11/2009 17:21:05)
Having worked as a journalist at Fratton Park in the time of Gary Double and still attend as a fan I have seen first hand what a manipulative creep Mr Double is. I have never seen a Press Officer (I can’t bring myself to call him by his title) spend the whole game on the sidelines welcoming players out of the tunnel and ‘high-fiving’ as they come off! He should be in the press box getting a relationship with the people who matter to his job. A good PR person keeps journo’s close, gives them enough to fill the papers and not go hunting for more intrusive stories. Portsmouth used to be very open with the local media – gave them two windows a week and they could ask to speak to anyone they liked, if they were not interested then fine, maybe next week. The papers, local news and radio were full of great free publicity. In this current climate of low attendances and bottom of the league they should be doing all they can as next year they’ll be begging for one sole journalist to turn up – trust me.

Dammo (06/11/2009 19:03:44)
I have to say that reading back over some of your comments I’m astonished at the outpouring of vitriol.
Do you all seriously think that owning a press pass makes you some kind of special being ? That you can write or say whatever about whomsoever and never be challenged?
If any one of you were to write an article about your local pub, saying that the landlord waters his bitter and the sarnies are stale; would you then be surprised if next time you went in , he refused to serve you ? Would that be an infringement of your right to free speech? would it hell.
Portsmouth football club has no power to control the press and it’s puerile to try to make that the issue here.”Football thought police”indeed.
This is not a new situation with Neil Allen – He’s been excluded before.
Pompey have done nothing to stop the guy from saying and writing what he wants, but they are surely under no obligation to furnish him with beer and sandwiches while he’s doing it.

Dave Martin (09/11/2009 09:44:36)
Dammo – I don’t think you’re quite getting it.
Your pub inallergy would be wrong on the journalist’s part because that would libelous (if it were untrue). However, in Neil Allen’s case it was opinion, something everyone is entitled to have.
And Pompey have stopped Neil Allen writing what he wants and they won’t allow him access to trining or matches.

Paul (09/11/2009 11:36:53)
Will Portsmouth also ban the BBC cameras and radio after their radio commentator called this game the worst Premier League game ever?
Oh, thought not.

Journo1 (09/11/2009 12:38:05)
Yes Neil can buy a ticket in the stands but why should he have to when reporting on Pompey as part of his job?!
I’m an Arsenal fan and couldn’t believe it when I went to an atmosphere meeting (they obviously don’t work for matches against smaller teams) in February and some ‘fans’ criticised a fanzine for being too negative when Villa looked like finishing in the top four!
Are you one of those partisan, stick your head i
n the sand fans too Gaz?