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Football club lifts ban on regional daily after talks

A football club which barred a regional daily’s journalists from press access has now lifted the ban after talks were held.

A reporter and photographer from Stoke daily The Sentinel were prevented from using media facilities at Port Vale Football Club last month as the club demanded £10,000 from the title for access to the press box and press conferences.

The ban came into force on the same day that the title published an article about a delay in the arrival of limited edition football shirts.

It meant reporter Michael Baggaley had to pay to sit in the stands to cover a home match against Gillingham and the paper carried no pictures of the game after its photographer was barred.

But following talks between the paper and Port Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite, the ban has now been lifted.

A story in The Sentinel explained that Mr Smurthwaite had been unhappy at the way journalists had handled confidential information relating to a story in May about the departure of former Vale chairman Paul Wildes and it apologised for the upset.

The paper said: “We are pleased to announce that Port Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite has lifted the ban on giving The Sentinel access to the press box and press conferences at Vale Park.

“After several days of discussions, both parties have worked hard towards a resolution in the certain knowledge that a dispute between the newspaper and football club does neither party any favours.

“The Sentinel is sorry that Mr Smurthwaite was upset at the way in which Sentinel staff handled confidential information about the football club in relation to a story back in May regarding the departure of former Vale chairman Paul Wildes.

“On reflection, Mr Smurthwaite acknowledges that this information was used by The Sentinel for the good of the club.

“We believe Port Vale and The Sentinel are mutually beneficial and that a successful, positively publicised Port Vale is good for our city.

“The Sentinel looks forward to reporting on Vale’s promotion push as the season progresses, and we look forward to working with Mr Smurthwaite and his team.”

Editor Richard Bowyer told HTFP he was “delighted” that the ban had been lifted.

He said: “We believe it is really important for the fans and the community that The Sentinel can freely report from Port Vale’s games.

“It is essential that we have a good relationship with the club, it doesn’t benefit the paper or the club if we fall out.

“It has taken some hard negotiations to sort out the problem and get the ban lifted, but we are now pleased that our relationship with the club has been mended and we can move forward.”

The ban on The Sentinel came at the same time as a similar one by Newcastle United, which affected journalists from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, The Journal and the Sunday Sun.

This ban remains in place, denying reporters access to the press box and press conferences at St James’ Park and leaving them having to pay to sit in the stands.


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  • November 7, 2013 at 7:34 am

    Mr Smurthwaite was upset, so the paper caved in. You won’t want to upset Mr Smurthwaite in the future then will you Mr Bowyer, even if it means not publishing a genuine story of public interest?
    What a snivelling reaction. No wonder some local papers are losing credibility with their readers.

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  • November 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Sounds like a bit of a climb down by the Sentinel. Probably necessary to resolve the situation after some lengthy negotiations (two days?) but all that stuff in the paper can’t be of much interest to the readers. They just want to read about the club not the paper’s problems. As for the Newcastle situation….sitting in the stands with the fans? Welcome to the real world, folks. Any good sports reporter will relish the challenge of reporting that way and showing the club they can rise above their ridiculous and petty-minded ban. If the reporters have got contacts, which I am sure they have, then sod the stupid stage-managed press conferences. Fight back with quality stories and reports.

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  • November 7, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Det Sgt Grungebucket – What rot. Find me one single sports reporter who wants to sit in the stands with the fans while trying to update a website, take notes, write a report etc etc. As for contacts, again, what rot. I presume you’ve never been down this route? Because it is soul-destroying

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  • November 7, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    So many soccer club chairmen are little caesars. That’s why they take on the job.
    Newspapers, however, should not be in the business of kow-towing to these people.
    Report games from the stands, dig out exclusives and – if justified – embarrass the hell out of them.
    No good journalist needs press conferences for his material. Most soccer types talk cliche-ridden rubbish anyway.

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