A regional daily published a front-page message to a football club owner after it and its sister titles were banned from the ground.
HTFP reported last week that the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, along with The Journal and the Sunday Sun, had been barred indefinitely from the press box and press conferences at St James’ Park by Newcastle United Football Club.
Journalists from the titles were prevented from asking questions to NUFC manager Alan Pardew at a post-match press conference last weekend at Sunderland’s ground, after the club objected to their coverage of a fan protest.
On Saturday, the Chronicle published a front-page appeal to club owner Mike Ashley, headlined “Read this Mr Ashley”, which included a quote from the late former Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson.
Readers asked to describe what the club meant to them on social media under the hastag #ReadThisMrAshley with the responses printed inside the edition.
The Chronicle also gave away free posters of the front page before Saturday’s match against Chelsea, which Newcastle won 2-0, and hundreds of fans waved the message at St James’ Park in support of the papers.
The move came as journalists from the title sat in the stands on Saturday in order to provide coverage of the home game after having to pay at the turnstiles for entry.
The Chronicle’s chief sports writer Lee Ryder was joined by the Sunday Sun’s Neil Cameron and the Journal’s Mark Douglas to watch Saturday’s match and the papers have pledged their coverage of the club will continue regardless of the ban.
Editor-in-chief Darren Thwaites said: “We wanted to get a message to Mike Ashley about what Newcastle United football club really is.
“He may be the owner but the club belongs to the people. It’s a birthright in this city, a religion, a way of life. Sir Bobby’s quote sums up that feeling better than anyone could.
“We hope Mr Ashley reads it and understands the genuine sentiment behind it.”
He added: “We’re pleased to have made our feelings known about the way the club’s decisions are alienating fans and the local community.
“Equally, we’re delighted to be reporting on an excellent win, despite being denied media access by the club.”
Added Lee: “We have to deal with the situation as it is at the moment and not how it should be.
“I watched on from behind one of the goals on Saturday and the ban shouldn’t deflect any attention away from the players, the fans or the coaching staff. They were magnificent against a good Chelsea side and they get the credit where it is due.
“We still provided our readers with a live blog on the Chron’s website on Saturday with some live Tweeting thrown in.
“After the game we filed an on-the-whistle report and provided match reaction as usual.”
Sports writers from the Trinity Mirror titles were barred after the club wrote to the papers complaining about their coverage of a fan demonstration on 19 October against Mike Ashley.
It also follows the Chronicle’s refusal to bow to club pressure to call the ground the Sports Direct Arena, while the paper was also critical of the appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football.
The ban will not affect the titles attending away matches or press conferences elsewhere and they have already confirmed that journalists will be admitted to media facilities when the club plays Tottenham Hotspur away next Saturday.
The Newcastle United ban came at the same time as a reporter and photographer from Stoke-based The Sentinel were refused access at Port Vale Football Club, which was asking for £10,000 a year for access its media facilities.