Nottingham Forest’s dealings with the media reached a new low this week as it emerged that the club has banned the Guardian and Observer newspapers from the City Ground.
Daniel Taylor, the papers’ chief football writer and author of Deep into the Forest, revealed in his Sunday column that after attending a match in March the club had subsequently banned him — six months later — and his newspapers, citing small print in DataCo’s accreditation policy.
On 15 March 2013 the club identified the possibility that DataCo regulations had been breached. The DataCo regulations allow journalists to obtain free tickets for professional purpose.
The club sought clarification and explanation from the newspaper concerned but no satisfactory response was received. Because of this breach a ban is in place.
The statement, only released via Twitter, is the equivalent of being sent home from school because your top button was undone.
Journalists watch football for a living, it doesn’t matter whether Taylor says he was “off-duty” or not… A detailed 13-point follow-up was ignored by the club, despite the fact that it’s clear a response was received from both Taylor and the Guardian’s sport editor.
As Taylor points out in his column: “We are not alone either. A freelance reporter, with 40 years of covering the club, has been banned after asking the manager, Billy Davies, on the final day of last season, why he was holding the post-match press conference before kick-off.
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“The local BBC radio station is out of favour (though still allowed in). The Nottingham Evening Post has been ostracised. A media blackout is effectively in place and it is odd, to say the least, that the club do not want good publicity when they have started the season so well. As PR goes, it all feels a bit petty and ridiculous.”
It’s the latest pathetic chapter in the club’s embarrassing dealings with the media which appear to be driven by general manager Jim Price. After slating journalists’ stories via his Twitter account he went on to have a public spat with BBC Radio Nottingham and, presumably, is the one who has denied the local media access to players and the manager.
Last week’s public dressing-down of the Nottingham Post — when Sky Sports News and practically the rest of the UK and Ireland’s media had reported Simon Cox’s alleged dead leg — was proof that the club has stooped to petty, childish behaviour.
Despite good business during the early summer, Price raised expectations on Twitter by declaring three more signings were necessary to achieve a top two finish and at least one was close. None materialised while Adlene Guedioura left for Crystal Palace. Despite the mock surprise, “clubs had been alerted to his potential availability, for the right price, earlier in the summer.”
If Fawaz Al Hasawi is serious about promotion to the Premier League, about growing our name and presence across the globe, and continuing success he should be courting and establishing good media relations. Make no mistake, Price will be eaten alive should we ever reach the Premier League and what kind of coverage can we expect from national and local newspapers that have been banned from the press box or denied access to the manager and players.
Guardian sports editor Ian Prior said: “While newspapers do fall out with clubs from time to time and incur bans, it’s possibly unique to be banned from a ground for going to a game.”
Obviously it’s nothing new but as Channel 4’s Alex Thomson pointed out in May: “It’s time clubs who ban journalists were forced to grow up a wee bit – and well past time that football journalism and the FA stood up for the game and not the money and put a stop to this nonsense.”
You can argue that we’ve had better communication from the club than ever – but with the internet was any other outcome likely? With a regularly updated website, Twitter feed, Facebook page, YouTube highlights and Instagram photos, what more could you ask for?
Well, for some that’s enough – and that’s entirely understandable. Many have no need for the media, 3pm on Saturday is all that counts. And, equally, the club has a right to generate revenues through its website, Forest Player and other online media — on a level playing field with the competition.
But others are dependent on independent reporting and opinion — some fans like to absorb all they can, some are in exile across the world. But more importantly, what are they trying to hide? What are the wider implications? Who else will or has been banned? We’ll have to wait to see if there are any.
Some have disdain for journalists… Well, if that’s your opinion then respect the opinion of others. And at least try to appreciate those reporters that have the club’s best interests at heart — there are several at a national level who want nothing more than for our great club to succeed.
You can argue that Billy Davies likes a siege mentality. But name another Football League or Premier League club that routinely bans newspapers or reporters? If you’re going to cite Sir Alex Ferguson, don’t forget that he was probably quite pleased about any media support when his job was on the line in the days before the internet; and he’d won several league titles and the European Cup before he started banning people.
Our club should be professional, it should be respected across the country and it should be something we’re proud of.
At the moment — third in the league and playing great football — off-the-field matters should not be making the headlines. Concentrate on the football. And don’t treat us like idiots.
Press Gazette has published a letter from the Guardian to the club stating that DataCo and the Football League have confirmed that Taylor’s attendance at the game “in no way breached their regulations”.
Having had no response from the media department to a previous request, I would ask that you cite what regulation our writer, Daniel Taylor, is alleged to have breached in this matter.
The Guardian has had separate confirmation from DataCo, the Football League and the Premier League that Mr Taylor’s attendance at the fixture of March 9 last in no way breached their regulations, regardless of whether he filed a live report or not. It remains our position that Mr Taylor was present in an official capacity for our newspapers in order to inform his future writings on the club.
Furthermore, the implicit allegation that Mr Taylor was present for no other purpose than his own recreational pleasure is slur on his professional reputation and one I am unwilling to let stand without adequate explanation from the club.
I would request that, as a matter of urgency, you now provide a full explanation behind the reasons for this ban, citing the relevant DataCo regulation.