The editor of London Tonight Stuart Thomas has said he will not be forced to succumb to a “back-slapping” agreement in response to an interview ban placed on the ITV news programme by West Ham United football club.
West Ham accused London Tonight of irresponsible journalism and issued it with a one-on-one player interview ban for the rest of the season 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.
Thomas said: “All we did was report the facts – their players are regulars at the nightclub that was raided. It’s worrying that they think they can swap access to their players for a guarantee of no negative coverage.
“I have no desire to be involved in any kind of ‘you slap my back’ agreement.
It’s a real shame, as obviously it’s West Ham fans who’ll suffer because they won’t see as much coverage of their club.”
The raid on Faces, outside which West Ham player Anton Ferdinand was arrested in October last year, resulted in 11 arrests and the nightclub being temporarily closed down.
The report made two references to footballers, opening on: “It’s a favourite venue for footballers and their wives, but [West Ham player] Teddy Sheringham and [Chelsea player] Joe Cole will be glad they didn’t pop down to Faces nightclub in Ilford last night…”
and ending with: “So it looks as if West Ham’s players might have to find somewhere else for their post- PHOTOGRAPH: REUTERS NEWSDESK: 020 7324 2385 The Audit Bureau of Circulation has vowed to “monitor the situation closely” after a dirty tricks row broke out this week between London’s two free afternoon papers amid allegations of paper dumping.
On Monday, London Lite owner Associated Newspapers released footage taken by former detective inspector Phillip Swinburne of vendors working for News International’s thelondonpaper dumping copies in bins. thelondonpaper hit back and released photographs (above) of copies of London Lite, which it alleged had been dumped in bins.
Associated first accused NI of dumping copies last month when thelondonpaper increased its print run from 400,000 to 500,000 a day.
In a statement, ABC said: “ABC do not currently know the extent of what is being alleged and whether this relates to any publisher’s claim or ABC certified figures at this stage.
“ABC has a strict compliance and complaints procedure in place.
If anyone believes any of the rules which have been set by the ABC council have been infringed, the ABC complaints procedure will ensure a full investigation and the details of any upheld complaints communicated. ABC will follow these industry agreed processes and continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Although the report did not imply that any West Ham players were there on the night of the raid or involved in drugs, West Ham said that they felt it was unfair that players were named in a report completely unrelated to the club.
A spokeswoman told Press Gazette: “They mentioned some of our players by name and the comment at the end was very flippant. The point we are trying to make is that our players weren’t there that night, and to mention our players and our club in relation to a story that’s about a drugs raid, was in our opinion unnecessary and quite irresponsible journalism.
“We feel we’ve been targeted by the media a lot in a negative way this season, which is fair enough, but it angered and offended a lot of people here.”
West Ham also commented that London Tonight journalists were not regular visitors to the football club, and according to them, had only conducted a handful of interviews with players in the past two years. They will review the ban next season.