A regional newspaper which was banned by its local football club for 14 months has declined to back a supporters’ boycott of an upcoming Premier League fixture.
Newcastle United fans had called on city daily The Chronicle to lend its support to their protest, which will see thousands miss Sunday’s home match against Tottenham Hotspur.
The supporters have organised the boycott over the running of the club by owner Mike Ashley, and his perceived lack of ambition.
The calls come after United recently announced a record annual profit of £18.7m in 2013-14, although critics say the club is being “run into the ground” .
A Chronicle poll last week revealed 90pc of readers backed the planned demonstration, which provided a front page for the paper on Friday, pictured below.
However in a comment piece for The Chronicle, editor-in-chief Darren Thwaites explained while it would support the right of those taking part in the protest to do so, it would also support those who planned to watch the match.
He wrote: “Those who stay loyal are not doing so to endorse the Ashley regime. Most will equally desire change, although many will question what form that might take.
“There’s no doubt a weakness of the boycott plan is that no-one has really been able to articulate what change looks like and how it can be made to happen.
“Our position is that every fan has to decide for themselves – and their decision should be respected. Our role is to present all sides, allow all opinions and explore all alternatives.
“And let’s make one thing very clear. We’ve taken our approach because we believe it’s the right thing to do, not because the club has told us to.”
Journalists from The Chronicle, along with sister titles The Journal and the Sunday Sun, were banned from United’s St James’ Park stadium between October 2013 and December 2014 after the club objected to their coverage of a previous protest by supporters.
Darren says the titles have “held the club to account with some of the most powerful sports journalism ever published in the mainstream press.”
He added: “The fact the ban is over and dialogue has re-opened doesn’t mean we’re now the club’s apologists. It’s just responsible journalism to present all viewpoints and then allow fans and readers to draw their own conclusions. And that’s exactly what we’re doing here.
“We’ll be criticised by some for not giving unequivocal backing to the boycott. But that’s fine. That’s healthy. We won’t shy away from the debate and we’ll cover every aspect of the proposed boycott without fear or favour.”