Hull hath no fury like an indignant club chairman

By Caitlin Pike

Reporters
and photographers from the Hull Daily Mail were denied access to Hull
City Football Club as a dispute between the club chairman, Adam
Pearson, and the newspaper escalated into a public row.

The
dispute, which the Mail had been trying to resolve amicably for two
weeks, began when the paper filed a complaint to media regulator Ofcom
about its stories being used on prospective radio station KC 107.3FM,
which Pearson partly owns.

The paper was concerned that its news
and sports reports were being used word for word in bulletins during KC
107.3FM’s trial broadcast, which ended last month.

When Pearson
heard about the Mail’s complaint to Ofcom, he began sending faxes on 15
April to Mail editor John Meehan and managing director Phil Inman. One
of the faxes said: “If you attack one company you attack them all.

You
cannot expect to attack a company which I have invested significant
funds in and expect co-operation from my other two companies, that is
naive beyond belief.”

In subsequent faxes he said he was in shock
that the paper was complaining to Ofcom over stories based on quotes
given by his employees. He also threatened a complete withdrawal of the
Mail’s access to Hull City AFC.

On Saturday 16 April, two Mail
photographers and Hull City reporter John Fieldhouse were denied access
to the KC stadium. Two and a half hours before kick-off, Pearson sent a
fax to the Mail’s offices saying the relationship between the Mail and
any company Pearson had an interest in “is totally and utterly
finished”. Pearson changed his mind about continuing to restrict access
to the Mail’s staff when Hull City Council, which owns the stadium,
stepped in. The Mail’s access to the club’s players and managers is
however being blocked.

The dispute was thrown open to the public
when Pearson published an attack on the Mail in last Saturday’s match
programme. The Mail responded by publishing its account of events as a
front page splash and on its website.

Meehan said: “It is
incredible that Mr Pearson has acted in this way. Our complaint to
Ofcom was entirely legitimate – Mr Pearson’s reaction is not.”

Ofcom responded to the paper’s complaint over KC 107.3FM by saying that it was beyond its remit.

The
new fm commercial radio licence for Hull is likely to be advertised at
the end of 2005. The Hull Daily Mail has announced that in view of the
dispute, it has decided to have nothing to do with any of the bids for
the new radio licence.

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