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Regional journalist slams World Cup press access ‘shambles’

Sion MorganA journalist covering the football World Cup for a regional publisher has hit out at what he dubbed an “absolute bloody shambles” after facing press access issues in Qatar.

Wales Online head of audience Sion Morgan travelled to the Middle East to report on the tournament’s opening ceremony but encountered what he has called “chaotic” and “farcical” scenes.

Sion, pictured, has based himself in the Qatari capital of Doha, around an hour’s drive from the Al Bayt Stadium where the ceremony and opening fixture took place on Sunday.

In a first-person piece for Wales Online, he wrote: “It might have just been me.  But getting to the opening ceremony and first game of the World Cup was, for me if nobody else, an absolute bloody shambles.”

With just 45 minutes until the event was due to start, the shuttle bus carrying Sion and other journalists was stuck in congestion near to the stadium.

Wrote Sion: “This is when things got a little farcical. In what I can only describe as a moment of blind panic our driver started travelling at pace back towards Doha.

“As the Al Bayt slowly disappeared into the distance, journalists from around the world brought together on one bus were suddenly speaking the same language through a universal look of confusion.

“We drove for 10 minutes, found a new road and headed back. No, that didn’t work. So we turned back to Doha again, found a new road and saw another angle of the stadium. We didn’t get any closer but we did find a car park.

“At this point the driver stopped the engine expecting us to get out. The stadium maybe a mile away.

“Some of my foreign colleagues became a little irate at this point. There was shouting. Then a police officer came onboard, then we were back on the road again, and, you’ve guessed it, headed back towards Doha.”

The journalists were then “dropped off randomly on a dual carriageway and were screamed at by police officers shouting ‘media’ and pointing down the road”.

Sion added: “Eventually we were herded in, in some sort of mad scene. And then we were in and the stadium was beautiful and colourful and exciting and I saw Wales represented with a floating shirt in a classic nonsensical opening ceremony. And that’s all I came for, to be honest.

“But the more serious point is that I did hear some others having issues getting to the stadium. And at the stadium itself some colleagues couldn’t access wifi. And that’s the point really.

“I’m just glad Wales fans don’t have to play out in the desert miles away from anywhere during the group stages. Because like everything else about this World Cup, it’s not ideal.”

Sion’s access issues came after Wales Online’s sister title Wales on Sunday marked the opening of the tournament by changing its name to ‘Bales on Sunday’, pictured below, in honour of Wales captain Gareth Bale.

Wales Online has also temporarily amended its name to Cymru Online.

Bales on Sunday

Wales Online editor Steffan Rhys told HTFP: “It’s difficult to overstate how much qualifying for the first football World Cup in 64 years has meant to people in Wales. You can see it everywhere, from children – and their parents – swapping Panini stickers in school, to record-breaking crowds in the women’s game at both domestic and national level, to the thousands of fans who have made the journey to Qatar.

“And one of the main driving forces behind this has been the way the Football Association of Wales and its national football teams have unashamedly done their utmost to make sure Welsh culture and identity are at the heart of their campaigns.

“The Welsh national sides refer to themselves as Cymru – Welsh for Wales – and the team and its fans have adopted a protest song from the 1980s called Yma o Hyd – We Are Still Here – as their unofficial anthem, which the world will hopefully be hearing an awful lot of in the coming weeks.

“At Wales Online, we are, of course, also hugely proud of our country and what our sportsmen and women do for it and we wanted to show our support too. We hope that we can keep the name changed for as long as possible, to coincide with a long Wales World Cup campaign.”