One might have imagined covering Chelsea Football Club would be a dream assignment for any sports journalist.
But an email that has found its way to Axegrinder, sent by Adrian Curtis to his sports desk colleagues at the Press Association, reveals that life for certain hacks at Stamford Bridge is no bed of roses.
Curtis describes his email as a ‘constructive note’to ensure everyone is aware of the ‘constraints’PA staff have to work under at the high-spending West London club and to explain ‘why there is no follow up for the away team on occasions”.
The email goes on: ‘Firstly, we are not allowed down the tunnel full stop. The dailies have full control. This goes back at least four years to PA’s decision not to send anyone to cover Chelsea’s pre-season tour of America.
‘The decision proved costly as while on tour the dailies and [director of public affairs] Simon Greenberg hatched the now infamous ‘no tunnel access for PA and Friday presser 04.30 embargo’ – which is still with us today.
‘This was duly sanctioned by Chelsea because, in THEIR eyes, we couldn’t be bothered to cover their USA tour. This has meant that for the last four/five years, I have covered Chelsea â€¦ on virtually a wing and prayer in terms of follows, as have other reporters.
‘We have managed to to get follows for the Blues using contacts with the Chelsea website guys, CFC TV and the Standard. Getting access to away teams, unless they somehow feel duty bound to provide anyone else bar the manager for a post match presser, is nil.
‘If I was to try and barge my way into the tunnel, as I have done on numerous occasions (successful once and then restricted to three questions before being booted out) then I would now be escorted off the premises.
‘There is one door managed by two goons at all times. They question every one who tries to get into the tunnel and even the dailies are escorted through it.
‘All other PA London reporters covering Spurs, Arsenal, West Ham, Fulham etc, get either an away manager for a Monday briefing or are allowed access to the tunnel to players.
‘Chelsea, sadly, don’t help us full stop in terms of access and nor can I see it ever being any different unless the powers that be at PA lean heavily on the shareholders to pass the ‘PA access to Chelsea tunnel’ message down the line to the respective papers and their sports editors.
‘Frankly, getting a Chelsea follow of any description for a 15.00 Xsmit on Sunday is a minor miracle, never mind the away teams.
‘This note is merely a helpful guide as to the working constraints we are placed under at Stamford Bridge. It is only from the good relations we have with certain other people who are allowed in the tunnel that we get a Chelsea follow.
‘Sometimes, these people send us tunnel quotes from Chelsea players on Saturday night or Sunday morning at great risk to their own tunnel acces, particularly the Standard, who are not obliged to give us anything at all, but do so – often pleading with us to embargo it until 18.00 on Sunday because they fear the wrath of the dailies and the end of their own tunnel access.
‘Chelsea do not believe they exist to satisfy PA and its customers, hence their indifference to our tunnel access. The only time we get full access to the players post-match is Champions League games because Chelsea cannot control a UEFA event as much as they would like to.
‘But even then they hand pick players for the broadcast/agencies, radio, dailies and sundays.
‘I would say every London reporter who has covered Chelsea in the past has done a magnificent job in getting something out of nothing from the Blues players at Stamford Bridge after a domestic league/cup game.
‘Their efforts should be saluted. But the chances of a follow from away players is even more difficult without tunnel access as per Stoke’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
‘Hopefully, this has been of some help.”
Axegrinder hopes also that the ‘goons’at Stamford Bridge have a sense of humour and will give Curtis a warm welcome on his next visit.