The sports editor of the Newcastle Chronicle series has spoken of his “sadness” at the deterioration of the newspapers’ relationship with Newcastle United.
Kevin Dinsdale, who has worked as a sports journalist in the North East for more than 25 years, was speaking after the Chronicle’s Sunday title, the Sunday Sun, gave an ironic back page apology to manager Alan Pardew, who in part blamed the local press for the team’s poor form on the football pitch.
It said: "We're so sorry: As Pardew blames the local Press for fans' anger after disastrous form in 2014, your Sunday Sun would like to apologise for losing 3-0 to Sunderland, 4-0 to Manchester United, 4-0 to Southampton, 4-0 to Spurs, 3-0 to Chelsea, 3-0 to Everton, 2-0 to Manchester City, 1-0 to Fulham, 1-0 to Stoke, 1-0 to West Brom and 2-1 to Cardiff… oh, and for headbutting David Mayler too".
Dinsdale said colleagues at the Chronicle reacted with “incredulity” after Pardew’s “nonsense comments” on Saturday and stood by the decision to print the ironic apology.
He told Press Gazette the reaction to the “apology” has been positive from the fans – who were “as dumbfounded as we were” – as well as fellow journalists, who have reprinted the back page in the national press.
Following Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat away to Stoke City this weekend, Pardew blanked a question from a Chronicle reporter before telling a press conference: “I don’t actually think the local media in the North East helped us this week. They whipped it up for whatever reason.
"I know one or two have been banned from the stadium and they probably use that as a bit of an agenda. Which is a bit of shame for us because we want them to support us.”
“It was suggested [by Pardew] that we have an agenda because of the ban – but he was wrong there,” Dinsdale told Press Gazette.
“If the results are negative, our coverage is going to be negative. The ban hasn’t affected our coverage.”
He added: “We may not help sometimes when our coverage is negative, but the fans [who held up anti-Pardew banners at the match] are just as negative as the press.
“But it’s not the fans or the media wearing the club strip and crossing the white lines. Nor do we attend the training sessions.”
Pardew’s criticism comes more than six months on from when the newspaper series was banned from the club after covering a fan protest.
Chronicle reporters are now not allowed to attend matches at St James’ Park, Newcastle’s home ground, in press seats and cannot talk to players. The club imposed a similar ban, which has now been lifted, on the Telegraph last year.
The decision to ban the Chronicle series is thought to have been backed by Pardew.
Pointing out that Newcastle is not the only club to have dished out a ban against a journalists in recent months, Dinsdale suggested that football clubs – Premier League ones in particular – believe that, with their own media at their disposal, they can be “self-fulfilling” and do not need their local press.
He also suggested that clubs think the print media are in a position to be shunned for financial reasons.
“We are not rights holders, so we don’t pay them like Sky and BT Sport, for instance,” he said.
“There is this idea that they are paying for the access.
“Long gone are the days when a club would ask us to come to the training ground and interview players.”
He added: “It is ludicrous – because we do stoke interest. We do keep interest going. And I think the local press still has a big part to play. We still put bums on seats at football stadiums.”
He described the current ban on the Chronicle by Newcastle and other bans across the country as “really sad”.
Asked if he was confident the club will eventually lift its ban on the paper, Dinsdale said: “I would hope so, but it’s ultimately up to them.
“They are not answerable to anyone but the owner, Mike Ashley. And we don’t really know what his thoughts are.”