A sports journalist who is among those barred by Newcastle United Football Club has praised the city’s rugby club for helping him out when he unavoidably missed a match.
Mark Smith, the rugby correspondent for the Newcastle Chronicle, The Journal and the Sunday Sun, was unable to get to the Newcastle Falcons’ LV Cup rugby match at Gloucester on Saturday because the M42 motorway was closed.
He set off at 8am for a 4.30pm kick-off but endured four hours stuck in static traffic and turned back as the game got underway, when he was still 45 miles from the stadium.
However, the club was sympathetic to his predicament and set up a telephone press conference with director of rugby Dean Richards after the match to ensure the three titles were still able to cover the game.
Mark praised the club for helping him out and said its media relations were much more “forward-thinking” than those at Newcastle United.
The football club has banned journalists from the three Trinity Mirror titles from accessing media facilities at St James’ Park or speaking to the manager and players, because it was unhappy with how a fan protest against owner Mike Ashley was covered.
Mark said: “In 14 years of covering rugby I have never missed a game.
“Despite 13 hours spent in the car I never got anywhere near Gloucester, but the Falcons were very accommodating even after a heavy defeat and made sure I had telephone interviews to deliver something near to our usual comprehensive level of coverage.
“The irony was not lost at a time when the city’s football club will not take questions from our reporters, even at away-game press conferences we are actually attending in person, but thankfully the rugby club are much more forward-thinking in their media relations.
“As with any regional paper we have our spats and often write articles the rugby club don’t like, but they appreciate we have a job to do and that we are vital link between them and their supporters.
“They also value the fact we send a correspondent to every single game despite the challenging economic implications. This year alone I have covered two Falcons matches in France, one in Romania, Ireland and Jersey and am travelling with the team to Italy next month.
“We remain committed to offering the best coverage of the club at a time when many papers are cutting back on travel, and co-operation like we received on Saturday goes a long way.”