Mail trio quit SWA after row over awards dinner

The Mail column in which Sale ridiculed the SWA

Three Daily Mail sports journalists have resigned from the Sports Writers’ Association in a row after the paper’s columnist, Charlie Sale, called the SWA’s awards dinner “ineptly run” and “embarrassingly amateurish”.

Sale’s column on 26 March also said: “The SWA shambles followed an inadequate Christmas awards dinner for sports champions, most of whom didn’t even turn up.”

Cutbacks at Sport England – formerly the English Sports Council – had meant a withdrawal of its funds from the SWA. “Now a number of sports writers will no doubt be following Sport England’s example,” he wrote.

Certainly Sale himself, his sports editor Colin Gibson and deputy sports editor Paul Newman have all resigned.

Gibson, who sits on the SWA’s general committee, said the association took umbrage at Sale’s piece.

“It was pointed out to me that they felt it was an inappropriate piece and I felt it was best I should resign from the committee and the association. My resignation has been accepted and in Charlie Sale’s case, his has been accepted with a thank-you and good riddance from Trevor Bond [SWA secretary],” he said.

“I back my columnists to have forthright views and when that was found to be unacceptable to the majority of the committee, I decided to step down. I felt it was the most honourable thing to do.”

Sale was shortlisted jointly with Steve Curry in a category at the awards dinner won by Harry Harris of the Mail’s rival, the Daily Express.

Gibson, who attended the dinner, said: “The Daily Mail was disappointed not to win awards, but my resignation is nothing to do with that. For a group of people, sports writers, who are happy to hand out criticism when it comes in their direction, we don’t seem to be too happy to take it.”

Sale told Press Gazette: “I stand by everything I said. A lot of people I spoke to thought my remarks were lenient rather than over the top. It was nothing to do with the fact that the Daily Mail didn’t win. Surely the SWA should be able to take one paragraph on the chin without bleating.”

The SWA said Sale had launched “an unwarranted and incorrect attack on the awards ceremony”.

The event attracted a full house of 250 sports journalists from almost every newspaper, an association spokesman said, adding: “The feedback and comments received both on the night and since have been overwhelmingly in favour of the joint decision to upgrade the event to a gala sit-down function and to streamline the awards.”

The SWA maintained there had been no bias against the Daily Mail group and hoped the resignations were made in the heat of the moment and would be rescinded before the next committee meeting. “Colin Gibson has been a committee member for the past two years and his experience and support are greatly valued,” it said.

By Jean Morgan

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