Writer banned over football safety story

A reporter has been banned by Grimsby Town because he revealed the football club was too tightfisted to pay for an ambulance to be on hand at home games.

Grimsby Evening Telegraph football reporter Stuart Rowson made the revelation in a front-page story two weeks ago. Since then, he has been banned from the press box and club employees have been instructed not to speak to him.

The club wrote to the newspaper and accused Rowson of “inaccurate and misleading reporting”, but has yet to reveal what the alleged inaccuracies in his story are.

In response, the newspaper is considering legal proceedings against the club for libelling its reporter.

Rowson’s original story claimed the Grimsby club had decided not to pay the £360 fee to have paramedics on standby at a number of home games.

He put the allegation to the second division club and a senior executive admitted the cut had been made because league rules say an ambulance is only needed when the crowd exceeds 5,000.

Rowson told Press Gazette that 18 months ago the Telegraph ran an “Up the Mariners” campaign when it seemed likely the club would be relegated, helping to secure sell-out gates at the last two home games for the first time in 20 years.

He said the newspaper had also campaigned to support a recent share issue launched to shore up club finances. He said: “We’ve helped them as much as we can and this is how we’ve been repaid. “It’s a shame because we’ve got such a great relationship with the players and the manager and everybody there.”

Grimsby Evening Telegraph editor Michelle Lalor said: “I was amazed – I thought it was a complete overreaction.

When you’re a newspaper dealing with a football club at such a close level, there are bound to be times you write things they don’t like. But you expect people to react in a professional manner.

“This was something they didn’t want us to print, but we are confident it was factually correct; we’ve made checks and double checks. “I could understand why they are unhappy about the story, but to react in the way they have is not cricket.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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