As reported on HTFP yesterday, Chesterfield FC informed the Derbyshire Times it will no longer agree to requests for interviews with players, management and other key personnel at the club after the paper ran stories about financial issues involving a football school co-owned by its chief executive.
In a statement announcing the ban, Chesterfield further claimed that for most of last season, no Times journalists attended games or pre-match press conferences and that officials were “disappointed” the paper did not cover an event staged to announce a record sponsorship deal.
But Ashley Booker, pictured above left, acting group editor of Times owner Johnston Press North Midlands, has dismissed the claims made by the club, nicknamed the Spireites, in a piece on the paper’s website.
He wrote: “During the 2015/16 season the Derbyshire Times took steps to improve its coverage of Chesterfield FC, appointing a Spireites-dedicated writer to ensure all home games and press conferences were attended.
“We published reports on every single Chesterfield fixture, exclusive player interviews, comment pieces, video content and digital coverage including web polls and picture slideshows.
“Prior to the appointment of our Spireites writer, all matches and the majority of the club’s press conferences were covered by staff journalists or freelance writers.”
The ban was put in place after the Times ran articles detailing losses of £77,000 in the 2015 accounts of the Chesterfield FC Player Progression Pathway (PPP) football school, owned by Chesterfield CEO Chris Turner and former non-league footballer Liam Sutcliffe.
It detailed recent staff departures amid allegations of unpaid wages, as well as concerns for the welfare of young people on the programmes run by the school.
Ashley added he believes this, and not the cited lack of coverage, is the sole reason for the ban.
He wrote: “If Chesterfield FC is citing [lack of coverage] as the reason for the ban, we would invite them to clarify why this was not raised with the Derbyshire Times earlier.
“We believe that this ban has been put in place as a reaction to our recent coverage of the Player Progression Pathway.”
The club said there had been a “breakdown in its relationship” with the Times, and had received complaints from sponsors, commercial partners, suppliers and an educational partner which were contacted by the newspaper after the stories were run.