Bury Free Press banned by football club for reporting on departure of striker

The Bury Free Press has become the latest newspaper to report being "banned" by a football club.

The Johnston Press title has revealed it has been blocked from covering Needham Market, a Ryman League Premier Division club, after it reported on the departure of a striker.

The club's manager, Mark Morsley, took issue with the newspaper over its reporting.

The player was fined two weeks' wages and banned for eight matches by the manager over a spitting allegation. But according to the newspaper, the player denied the allegation and the punishment was retracted after his father obtained video footage of the matchhe was accused of spitting in.

The player has now moved to Maldon and Tiptree after being put on the club's transfer list at his request.

The Bury Free Press said that when it approached Morsley about its story he declined to comment and threatened a ban if it was published.

Sports editor Russell Claydon said not pursuing the story after this threat  would have "brought the whole paper’s journalistic integrity into question and was not in the best interest of our readers".

Editor Paul Richardson said: “It is disappointing, as the Bury Free Press has covered the highs and lows of Needham Market FC for many years and, as one of the sponsors, remain committed to the best coverage we can provide. I hope the club re-considers their position when they have put everything into perspective.”

In a blog post on the football club's website, Morsley condemned the newspaper – and Claydon in particular – for the coverage.

He paid tribute to other journalists at the newspaper, but said of Claydon:  "He needs to realise that it is not the Sun or Daily Star that he works for, it is a regional newspaper that gives excellent news about the things that matter to the local people."

Morsley added: "Not only will the readers of the story see it for what it is, they will always relate this to him. 

"He clearly feels that his newspaper needs a bit of ‘shock and awe’ but I am not sure that printing the personal agenda of one individual is that. 

"I suspect that the signing of Ian Westlake or Kem Izzet that I gave to the paper as an exclusive in the past did more for the longer term circulation than a frustrated editor who runs a story that helps to reduce the sales?  

"Probably best that is not included in his CV when it is sent to Rupert Murdoch."

Claydon said: "We're proud of the role the Bury Free Press plays in this community and pride ourselves on our fair and impartial reporting. 

"On this occasion, we feel we fairly represented the views of both Needham Market FC and the player involved and it is therefore hugely disappointing that the club has chosen to take this course of action. 

"Not only does the position they put me in seemingly question the integrity of the newspaper and its journalists, but the threat of a ban they then carried through on publication of a story now deprives club supporters of great local match and club coverage.

"We hope the club will reconsider its decision for the benefit of locals who rely on the Bury Free Press for club news and updates. 

"But, in the meantime, our sponsorship of the club is not currently affected by their decision."

Press Gazette reported on numerous football club media bans last year, including Rangers, Newcastle United and Swindon Town.

Picture: Shutterstock

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