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Journalist hits out at football club’s ‘unprecedented’ ban on colleagues

Anthony VickersA sports journalist has hit out at a football club’s ban on two of his regional daily colleagues – saying it serves “no good purpose”.

Anthony Vickers, left, of the Teesside Gazette, has criticised Middlesbrough FC after fellow sports writers Dominic Shaw and Jonathon Taylor were told they were not welcome at the club.

The restrictions imposed upon Dominic and Jonathon have led the Gazette to boycott Middlesbrough’s press box, despite club officials stressing both Anthony and Phil Tallentire, another journalist with the newspaper, are still wellcome.

Anthony has reported on the club for 20 years, but has now declined a press box seat in solidarity with his colleagues.

He described the situation as “unprecedented” in a comment piece for the Gazette.

Wrote Anthony: “The Gazette has been a constant, supportive presence in the matchday mix throughout Boro’s history; check out your scrapbook and memory boxes. The Gazette is central to how the unfolding story of the club has been told down the years. So to find ourselves estranged without formal explanation is a very sad situation.

“We are all committed journalists eager to do our jobs to the best of our ability. Our professional lives are closely entwined with the club and we are all dedicated to reflecting the unfolding news, views and emotional landscape around Boro. We want the club to be successful, stable and healthy.

“A ban can serve no good purpose for ourselves, the club or the wider public of Teesside, including the tens of thousands who don’t or can’t go to games and who primarily have their image of Boro shaped via The Gazette.”

The club has yet to offer a formal explanation on the reason behind the ban on Dominic and Jonathon, which escalated after the former was denied access to new manager Garry Monk after a pre-season friendly last month.

Anthony added: “Over the years many local papers have been banned by clubs for various lengths of time over a variety of issues – the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal were banned after a front page news report of a protest march against [Newcastle United owner] Mike Ashley – but it is almost unknown for named individuals to be banned without reason while colleagues remain welcome.

“This is unprecedented and unacceptable. The club can not be allowed to choose which individuals report on them. It may seem a trivial issue to readers and some may say: ‘Well just send the other two lads then.’ But there is a key principle of free and fair reporting at stake here.

“To ban individual reporters feels instinctively wrong. It is wrong. For that reason, and to maintain our own editorial independence and integrity, we have declined to operate in a straitjacket.”

“It is an awkward and unfortunate situation and we regret how it has evolved and how it is perceived by the Teesside public. But we won’t stop doing our jobs. We’re looking forward to Saturday’s game, banned or not.”

Middlesbrough FC has ignored HTFP’s repeated requests for a comment on the issue.