FA 'went ballistic' over Star's Beckham scoop

The Ipswich Evening Star rebranded itself the England Star and put on 2,000 extra sales when England played Croatia at Portman Road.

But the daily fell foul of the FA because it had the temerity to publish an unsanctioned story about England captain David Beckham. Two reporters from the paper got past FA security to scoop an exclusive interview with Becks as well as photos.

When the Star put the story on its front page, FA officials were so enraged that they banned Star staff from entering Portman Road. Reporter Georgina James secured the Beckham scoop when a source told her, two months ahead of the England game, that the team would be staying in the Five Lakes Hotel. She booked a room to coincide with the England team’s stay and then ensured that she and fellow reporter Nick Richards were in the lobby when the England players passed through.

They approached Beckham and secured a quick interview. He also posed for a picture.

Star editor Nigel Pickover said: “It meant that on the day of the match we had a lovely front page and page-three pictures thanks to a reporter’s brilliant instincts. I thought nothing more about it. Then I got a call from the Ipswich Town press officer, he said, the FA had gone ballistic saying we’d broken agreements. I’ve never made any agreements with the FA.”

Evening Star reporters were refused entry to the ground. Two photographers, in the ground, were made to wait in a room. The stand-off continued for about half-an-hour until Pickover, via the Ipswich Town press office, persuaded the FA to back down. He said: “I just said we were coming to do our job. I told them what the ramifications were if they hadn’t let us in. You can imagine what a story that would have been.”

The Star changed its masthead to England Star for two days with 10 pages of match coverage on the night of the game and 12 pages the day after. With 30,000 fans in town to watch the game on the night of the match the souvenir edition sold an extra 2,000 copies.

The Evening Star will not benefit from any re-sales from the picture spreads because the FA forced Star photographers to sign away their rights to the photos at the beginning of the match. This is in keeping with growing trend among football ruling bodies, and clubs, to control and profit from match photography.

Pickover said: “The FA provided a marvellous day at Portman Road, it became a silly sideshow that a local paper was held at the gate because they were upset that we had a harmless story about David Beckham.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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