A community newspaper in Tottenham has been denied a Spurs season pass after appointing its first football reporter with the aim of expanding its audience.
Tottenham Community Press, which launched in 2016, hired Haran Naresh in mid-July in an attempt to boost readership and advertising revenue but has been denied a press pass by the Premier League’s accreditation body Football DataCo.
Even after some intervention from the club the paper has been told it must apply on a game-by-game basis, leaving no guarantee it will get in.
Naresh will have to watch the first game of the season, Sunday’s clash with Manchester City, on Sky Sports after being told the stadium was “over-subscribed”. This means he will miss out on access to players and press conferences.
James Cracknell, editor-in-chief of the not-for-profit Social Spider Community News group, told Press Gazette he had expected bureaucracy and form-filling but had not imagined access would be a problem as a local newspaper dedicated to Tottenham.
Reflecting on what he described as a “broken” system, he asked: “If a local newspaper can’t cover their local football team, where have we got to?”
He added that it feels like the Premier League has “lost touch with their roots”.
A Football DataCo spokesperson said it “treats all requests for accreditation fairly and consistently, recognising the local, national and international appeal of English football”.
Naresh, a sports journalism graduate who was hired under the Government’s Kickstart Scheme which creates new jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds, put in a request to Football DataCo last month but was told that because the paper had not previously covered a certain number of games it would be denied – even though the paper had never had a football reporter before.
Cracknell, who described the requirements as a “vicious circle”, then took up the case and was told Football DataCo was not yet sure what the allocation was going to be despite the rapidly approaching start to the season.
He said: “It felt a little bit like they were just coming up with excuses not to help us to be honest.”
Football DataCo suggested talking to Tottenham Hotspur directly. But although the club was apologetic and sympathetic, and offered to put in a good word with Football DataCo, it said it cannot itself guarantee accreditation because of the centralised process.
The club had initially told Cracknell by email on Monday: “Unfortunately, while we are able to increase space for media this season, we are still slightly limited in how many we can accept.
“Therefore we have to give priority to those that are fully on the DataCo system for the season and are established media outlets such as the national papers.”
Cracknell told Press Gazette: “We were a bit put out by the reference that the Tottenham Hotspur press office made to established national media. That doesn’t sit well with us because if a local newspaper can’t cover their local football team, where have we got to? That’s an important relationship – the football club with the local community.”
Cracknell said Social Spider’s aim was to fill in the gaps that have been left in local media in London and that its titles are “steadily growing… step by step”. Tottenham Community Press is published in print each month but the group is moving away from its print-first model with more investment online.
“This next step was let’s hire a football reporter and that felt like quite a positive move to make but now we’re kind of stuck that we’ve got this football reporter and he can’t get into Tottenham Hotspur Stadium,” Cracknell said.
Naresh will also cover the Spurs women’s team for which accreditation is expected to be easier with lower demand. He is also writing about the impact of the club on the local community and the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, which the paper has frequently covered in the past.
Social Spider’s other local papers are the Waltham Forest Echo, Enfield Dispatch, EC1 Echo and Barnet Post.
Tottenham Community Press is the first to hire a football reporter as it has found it hardest to secure advertising revenue and Cracknell had the idea that one of the reasons people still buy the South London Press, where he used to work, is because of its strong football coverage.
Picture: Pool via Reuters/Richard Heathcote