An award-winning sports reporter for the Portsmouth News has told Press Gazette he was refused a press pass for Saturday’s south-coast derby because of a story critical of Southampton FC.
The paper’s chief sports writer Neil Allen, who was named sports journalist of the year at the 2010 Regional Press Awards, was refused a press pass for Saturday’s match but two of his colleagues at the paper were approved.
The News was told the press area was full for the fixture – but Allen said there were up to ten empty seats on match day.
He believes his failure to secure a pass was down to a story he wrote critical of the club and its spokesman Jordan Sibley following the Football League awards last month.
After Portsmouth was recognised for its community work at awards ceremony, Southampton spokesman Sibley tweeted: ‘Pompey win Family Club of the Year. I chuckled too. If the irony isn’t enough, they have ‘bought’ two tables at tonight’s awards.’
According to Allen, who also won the EDF London and South of England sports journalist of the year in 2010, it later turned out the tables had been paid for by sponsors.
The tweet was mentioned in a News story the day after the awards and Allen believes this was linked to his rejection from the Championship clash – calling it a ‘remarkable coincidence”.
‘It’s just very unfortunate they haven’t got the guts to admit that and they have to make up an excuse,’he said, adding: ‘The aftermath was that I was the only one from the Portsmouth News who wasn’t allowed into the south-coast derby.”
Sibley said that ahead of the fixture the News applied for accreditation for 11 members of staff including four journalists (later reduced to three), three photographers, two pitch-side photo technicians and two photo technicians.
‘Understandably for such a high profile fixture (not only a local derby, but also a top vs second from bottom of the table clash), we had a large number of requests for accreditation, and as is the case in such circumstances, had to limit organisations to a set number of reporters/photographers in order to accommodate everyone fairly,’he said.
‘As such, when returning The News’ accreditation request I accepted two of their reporters and a photographer – in keeping with the same restrictions others had to adhere to for this fixture. Despite Mr Allen’s claims, the press deck was indeed full for the fixture.”
Allen, however, stood by his claim that the press box was ‘nowhere near full”. Sibley did not comment on the Twitter story.
Allen said that local paper the Southern Daily Echo was still banned from attending matches and questioned whether Saturday’s match was possibly the ‘only football match where both chief sports writers have been stopped from attending by the home club”.
‘The way they have treated the Southern Echo over the last year is an absolute disgrace,’said Allen.
‘The Echo has been banned for nothing and they continue to be banned. It’s appalling.’Sibley did not comment on the ban.
Fortunately for Allen, at the last minute Portsmouth helped het him get a ticket for the away end – where he had a great view of David Norris scoring a stoppage-time equaliser.
Southampton prompted controversy in 2010 when it revealed that all independent photographers were to be banned from home games. Instead it wanted to syndicate its own photographs to the media.
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