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Columnist hit by latest football ban as FA sidesteps issue

Greg Dyke

A Scottish newspaper columnist is the latest journalist to have been hit by a ban from a football ground.

Graham Spiers, a columnist for The Herald and The Times, is understood to have been told by Rangers FC to stay away from Ibrox, as was BBC journalist Chris McLaughlin.

It follows a ban on the Glasgow-based Daily Record in February this year, which was told it was no longer welcome at matches or press conferences.

The move is the latest in a series of football access disputes concerning regional journalists, which have involved Blackpool FC, Swindon Town, Rotherham United, Newcastle United, Southampton and Port Vale.

Graham is reported not to have been told why he has been banned by the football club but said it would not affect him greatly as he was a columnist who no longer worked as a Rangers reporter.

Tweeting about the ban, he wrote: “Apols if people can’t grasp this. I’ve been to a few games at Ibrox. But I’ve not been a beat-reporter around Rangers since 2012. #banned”

Rangers Football Club had not responded to a request for a comment at the time of publication.

The latest ban came as Football Association chairman Greg Dyke, above, sidestepped calls for the sport’s governing body to put a stop to the growing practice.

Last month, the National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet wrote to Mr Dyke over what she called the “worrying trend” of media bans.

He has now replied, saying he agreed with much of what the NUJ said but adding that the issue was “not within the power of the FA”.

Mr Dyke wrote: “As a former journalist, censorship of the media is an issue about which I have strong personal views, and I agree with much of what you say.

“In this instance the clubs are members of the leagues in which they play and it is for their leagues to set down requirements for the clubs.

“I asked my team here to speak to the leagues to check their positions and the Premier League and Football League both confirmed that beyond those media obligations which are placed upon a club via broadcasting agreements, it is up to the club to decide its own engagement policy with the media.

“Unfortunately this is not within the power of The FA and I am sorry to not be able to offer you more help on this topic.”

The NUJ says it now plans to write to the football leagues on the issue.

Michelle said: “I am glad Greg Dyke has supported our view that censorship of journalists by football clubs is not acceptable. Although it is not in his gift to direct these clubs to drop the bans of reporters, I hope his words will have some influence on the other football chief executives.

“I will be writing to the Premiership, Football League and Scottish Professional Football League asking them what their view is of this sort of censorship. If football is to maintain itself as a grassroots sport, local football correspondents must be free to write reports for their local communities and the fans.”