Swindon Town FC extends local press ban to all media as it signs up to Fanzai smartphone app

Swindon Town Football Club is apparently planning to control all its media coverage through a new app called Fanzai this season. (Picture: Reuters)

The League One club has already ‘banned’ local daily newspaper the Swindon Advertiser since the start of this year.

The Advertiser is barred from attending press conferences at the club and its media requests and questions are ignored. It has not been given a reason for the ban.

Chief sports writer for the paper Tom Bassam was told by club chairman Lee Power that “he got all the coverage he wanted from other media outlets in Swindon”.

But now it seems that other media outlets are getting the same treatment.

In future it seems that all media activity, beyond an obligatory post-match press conference with the manager, will be through Fanzai.

Advertiser editor Gary Lawrence said: “They just want to control media output for the club and don’t want journalists asking questions. All interviews are conducted by the PR team and journalists aren’t made welcome.”

Fanzai describes itself as the social platform for football players and football clubs and is available as an app for smartphones.

Head of sport at the website Total Swindon Sam Morshead wrote about the new arrangement today.

He said: "For whatever reason, most likely found somewhere in the rubble of the News Of The World, the public love to hate what’s written in the press, and the men and women who write it.

"Nowadays, Swindon Town, it appears, are much the same. They seem to be plagued by apprehension, insecurity, control freakery or a combination of all three. They appear to be staunch advocates of opaque customer service and dictated narrative.

"Recently, the local media was informed the Robins would not be holding any pre-match press conferences, midweek press conferences or new signing press conferences for the foreseeable future. This information came by way of a phone call with no accompanying written reasoning…

"What Swindon Town will produce ahead of its matches in 2015/16 – as it conducts pre-game previews solely on its own website – will be little more than promotional bluster. Movie trailers minus the CGI or dramatic voiceovers. Articles so chemically sterile they ought to be used for cleaning urinals."

Morshead concludes his piece by warning readers that if local journalists are replaced by a PR-driven app providing club news they will be the losers in the long-run.

"Perhaps the senior hierarchy of the club think they can go it alone. What happens when they need a public voice to stand beside them in times of trouble? Maybe they feel the media is unnecessary. It’s within their rights to think as much.

"But fans of the club – people who work hard to earn their entrance fee – should envisage a reality, in however many years from now, where the local press does not exist and all that fans of lower-league teams can rely on is the sanitised PR created simply to ensure the next 8,000 gate.

"No real questions, no real answers, no real accountability.

"That is what Swindon Town have made abundantly clear as being their preferred future. Is it yours?"

Swindon Town appears to be the only football club which has signed up to Fanzai. The app also provides a media platform for around 40 professional footballers.

Swindon Town did not respond to a Press Gazette request for a comment.

UPDATE:

Swindon Town has posted the following statement on its website:

"The club are very disappointed and surprised in the way in which our new media arrangement has been portrayed locally and presented to the national media.

"So we are very clear: the football club are looking to start something different this season. Bearing in mind the change in training facility (which is a considerable distance from Swindon), our in-house journalist, Tom Otrebski, will be conducting interviews with players, management and staff during the week as well as producing a lot of behind-the-scenes material that will engage the fans and give them more of an insight into how the team and the club is run.

"This will be distributed on all the club's official media channels and also on a new and exciting media platform called Fanzai which the club have decided to trial. This was first trialled on Saturday during Town’s pre-season friendly with Everton.

"Fanzai is a family-friendly app which is free of the profanity and abuse that users may experience on existing social media. Fanzai’s unique approach to social media is something that club decided to align themselves with and launch our media output through.

"For the avoidance of doubt, post-match access and the reporting of matches by the media will remain exactly the same as last season. There is not a blanket media ‘ban’ as is being reported. We are trying something fresh which we feel will give supporters a new insight into their football club."

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