Police step in as Echo reporter doorstepped

Stoddart: banned from press box

Police were called last week after Darlington Football Club chairman George Reynolds was involved in an incident outside the home of a journalist employed by the Northern Echo.

A neighbour called the police after Reynolds was seen shouting at football reporter Craig Stoddart on the doorstep of his home in the Eastbourne area of Darlington.

A Durham police spokesman confirmed: "A statement has been taken from Mr Stoddart and inquiries are at an early stage."

Stoddart, who is in his first job for the Echo and his first season covering the team, was woken by Reynolds ringing the doorbell at 10am. He stood at the door in his boxer shorts while Reynolds allegedly told him in no uncertain terms what he thought of him.

Stoddart said: "It was a bit weird seeing the chairman of the club on my doorstep. He was not in the best of moods. He made it plain he doesn’t like me and that he thought I was conducting a one-man campaign to turn the fans against him.

"In the immediate aftermath I was a bit shocked. I never expected him to come round and see me. I am disappointed our relationship has got to this stage. I would rather have a working relationship with him."

Reynolds – a former safe-cracker who served time in prison before becoming a multi-millionaire businessman – banned Stoddart from the press box last month, accusing him of mischievous reporting.

Stoddart, a season ticket holder at Darlington FC, covered the last home game of the season from the terraces after editor Peter Barron insisted he had done nothing wrong and would not be replaced.

It is the latest in a series of controversies to surround Darlington FC after a bitterly disappointing season in which Reynolds’ relationship with players, fans and the media has become increasingly strained.

The club made national headlines in February when players staged a mass walkout after Reynolds’ wife Susan made a speech at a fans’ meeting in which she said it was not unknown for players to throw games.

At the end of April, a giant banner was erected outside Darlington’s new Neasham Road Stadium, claiming Century FM presenter Paul "Goffy" Gough was gay. Gough, a married family man, considered taking legal action.

Reynolds denied he had anything to do with the banner but told the Northern Echo: "I’m not taking it down. I’m leaving it until Christmas."

The banner, was, in fact, taken down later that day.

 

By Jean Morgan

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