The Evening Standard has hit out at Tottenham Hotspur FC for banning it from covering home matches and press conferences.
The North London club issued the ban after it took offence at a series of articles published in the paper by its sports columnist – and Spurs fan – Matthew Norman, which criticised the club’s chairman Daniel Levy.
The Standard has said that it hopes to sort the problem soon, and in the meantime will continue to publish full coverage of Spurs games and news.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry that Tottenham Hotspur’s management board has taken this decision. Matthew Norman has trenchant opinions and is a passionate sports fan who sees things from a spectator’s point of view. His column obviously deals with controversial issues and his comment is often about the most senior people in the game, including high-profile London chairmen and owners. It is important for the freedom of the Press that our columnists have the right to free comment, however much others may disagree with what they write. We have always made clear we are happy to publish the views of Tottenham’s management, and we hope that they will reconsider their position. In the meantime, we have assured our readers that we will continue to publish full coverage of the games and background news on Tottenham.”
A Spokesman for Spurs told Press Gazette: ‘We fully accept that it is the prerogative of all journalists, columnists in particular, to express their own opinions and comments, with the licence to be critical if the situation demands. We do not accept, however, highly personalized, deliberately insulting comments directed at a club individual, on a sustained basis over many years regardless of events or achievements or even direct contact.
‘We have not taken this decision lightly or in haste, but rather at a stage when we find it impossible to justify an on-going, professional relationship with this particular publication. We have received a great deal of support from our fans in taking this decision.”
When asked if it was a permanent ban, Spurs said that they are open to discussion. ‘Other clubs have banned various newspapers from time to time so this is not out of the ordinary.”
Barry Newcombe, chairmain of the Sports Journalists Association, said that Spurs should be focusing on what’s important. He told Press Gazette: ‘It’s unusual for any sports club to take this sort of step against a paper which they clearly in the past have had a good relationship. I assume that spurs have taken this view because they’re feeling really sensitive about the issues that the Standard raised. In all sport you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.
‘Spurs have had a less than good start to the season and it looks as though they’re on the back foot and this is a pretty sever step to take. You could say that they’ve created even more pressure for themselves by taking this stand, though they obviously wouldn’t take this view, but it’s now something else to think about instead of the main drive which is to get something going on the pitch in the right direction.”
Standard columnist David Mellor yesterday attacked Levy’s conduct, saying ‘Does he really think that the Standard is so weak-kneed that his pathetic little ban will make us say black is white the next time he does something stupid? You want respect, Levy: how about showing us some?”
Mellor wrote in yesterday’s paper: ‘Whether you agree with Matthew Norman or not, or even if you couldn’t care less what happens at White Hart Lane, is it really acceptable, in a free society, for Mr Levy to try to make it impossible for London’s newspaper to report the activities at one of London’s biggest football clubs?’
This is not the first time a football club has snubbed the media. West Ham United, placed an interview ban on ITV’s London Tonight earlier this year after following a report of a drugs raid at Faces nightclub in Ilford. The report made reference to the fact that West Ham players regularly visited the night spot, although no West Ham players were at the club on the night of the raid.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has also refused to give interviews to the BBC.