Bristol title says sorry after football backlash

The Bristol Evening Post has published a public apology after its coverage of a Bristol City player prompted accusations of club bias and an apparent attempted boycott of the paper.

The Post's story about a fan who attempted to punch player Bradley Orr mentioned him having last year been jailed for affray in its second paragraph and went into further details of other violent attacks involving him and other team-mates.

An online petition started by a disgruntled fan has attracted 200 postings — although some appear to be multiple postings from the same individuals. An online "fans' forum", not officially linked to Bristol City FC, has also criticised the paper's coverage.

The article sparked accusations of bias reporting towards rival team Bristol Rovers because of the way it mentioned the previous convictions.

On a special letters page related to the issue, editor Mike Norton said: "I find it hard to disagree with these fans and the many others who have contacted us about this story. In short, we got it wrong. Bradley Orr was the victim at Ashton Gate. His recent criminal past was irrelevant to the story, as was that of Steve Brooker, Dave Partridge and Scott Brown.

"To mention their recent history was an error of judgement. It was the wrong decision and I would like to apologise for it.

"However, what I cannot agree with is how some fans — particularly some who have written to us online — then take a leap of faith to the conclusion that the story was indicative of some kind of Post bias against Bristol City.

There is no such thing. Anyone who reads the Post every day will know that."

One posting was from a person claiming to have withdrawn a five-figure advertising contract with the BEP and others claimed to have cancelled subscriptions.

A BEP insider told Press Gazette: "I know some comments have been taken off the site. You do have to wonder whether they are true or not, but if anyone has cancelled advertising or subscriptions then a lot of pressure has been brought to bear.

"Our view as journalists is that we have done nothing wrong and are upset that the reporter has been put out to dry when the editor has apologised.

"We believe that mentioning the previous convictions put the story into context, but in hindsight maybe we could have made them less prominent.

We were certainly surprised when the editor apologised."

The Bristol Evening Post declined to make an official comment to Press Gazette.

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