The Wiltshire Times Series has been banned from the press box at Chippenham Town Football Club.
It comes after the company’s Chippenham News published a story about manager Tommy Saunders, who has been suspended from his Ministry of Defence job in the Pay and Personnel Agency while an investigation is carried out into alleged misuse of the telephone system. He has denied the allegations.
The club has stopped co-operating with the paper and will not allow reporters to talk to the players. It has suspended the paper’s pass into the ground for matches. Reporters are now paying to see matches.
Editor Toby Granville refused to pull the story despite threats from the club. “We ran the story because it is in the public interest. It is taxpayers’ money that he is paid by and he has a very high profile in this area.
Regardless of their threats to ban us, we weren’t going to stand by and let a football club edit our paper.” Granville said: “The story was run by other regional titles, including the Western Daily Press and the Bath Chronicle, but the club said it would not be banning them – just us because ‘we ran it first’.”
Sister titles the Gazette & Herald and Evening Advertiser, Swindon, are not affected but the club has told the Times that if it runs copy from the two then they will receive the same treatment. Copy from last Friday’s paper was lifted from the other two titles.
Granville said: “We haven’t tried to antagonise the situation but the football coverage we ran last Friday was lifted. We’re waiting to see if Saunders stands by that threat. Then he’ll be at a loss because we’re the only local publicity the club gets. I think they realise that if they do decide to ban our sister titles, they’ll have no publicity whatsoever.
It is a shame for readers and fans because they will suffer most.” Granville added: “It is a bit of a nightmare because a lot of people buy the paper for the football coverage.” He said the Times had always had a good relationship with the club and that, until recently, Saunders wrote a column for the paper.
Chippenham Town Football Club was unavailable for comment.
By Mary Stevens