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Volume 10 No. 22


EPL Newcastle United has banned three local newspapers from representation at matches and press conferences over "their coverage of a recent supporters' demonstration" against "controversial" Newcastle Owner Mike Ashley, according to George Caulkin of the LONDON TIMES. In the "aftermath of a damaging 2-1 loss at the Stadium of Light, their second in succession to Sunderland," journalists from The Journal and Evening Chronicle were prevented from posing questions to Newcastle Manager Alan Pardew. It was "subsequently confirmed that both they and their sister title, The Sunday Sun, have had their access to Newcastle withdrawn." Newcastle "took exception to The Evening Chronicle publicising a march by fans in protest at Ashley’s running of the club, which took place earlier this month." Newcastle communicated to the newspapers that the ban was agreed to by Newcastle Football Dir Joe Kinnear, Pardew, Secretary Lee Charnley, Finance Dir John Irving and the press office (LONDON TIMES, 10/28). In London, Simon Bird reported the Evening Chronicle "carried a front page story the day of the march debating the issues, and also a measured and balanced editorial inside the paper." Newcastle officials, however, are "so furious it was given publicity, they have withdraw all cooperation with the local papers who produce up to 50 pages a week of Newcastle United coverage." The ban became public knowledge when Pardew appeared at his post-match press conference "at the Stadium of Light, which the journalists were not banned from." When "Journal chief sports writer Mark Douglas asked Pardew how he he felt Newcastle had played," Pardew said, "Sorry" before Newcastle Head Of Communications Wendy Taylor "intervened and said he could not ask any questions" (MIRROR, 10/27).

SMALL-TOWN PAPERS 'FUNDAMENTAL': Also in London, Ian Ladyman opined "Ashley doesn't like criticism." We "know this." The Daily Mail "has had its privileges withdrawn in the past." So has the Daily Telegraph. Closing the door "on the local papers is something else entirely, though." In places like Newcastle, papers like the Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun are "fundamental to daily life, either in the printed form or digitally." Newcastle is "that kind of city." It's a place "where the nuts and bolts of daily life still matter." It is "the same 200 miles south in Staffordshire," where "Stoke-on-Trent's local paper -- The Sentinel -- matters, too." Yet this morning "its readers are learning that one of their local clubs, Port Vale, have locked them out after a cluster of what owner Norman Smurthwaite perceives to be 'negative' stories" (DAILY MAIL, 10/28).

A 'NUISANCE': Also in London, Luke Edwards wrote "Ashley does not like newspapers." We "are a nuisance to him." The "decision to ban them came after several threats had been made via the club’s media department that they would be if they continued to offer negative coverage of the team and the club." Ashley’s "suspicion of the media, and newspapers particularly, has deepened since he became involved in football." Part of that is because he is "under more scrutiny, but mainly it is because he has never grasped the fact a football club is a business that is part of the entertainment industry." Like every other "area of the entertainment industry, coverage is subjective." Newspapers get to "give their verdict on all of these things for free because it is, in effect, free advertising." It is a "mutually beneficial relationship and has always been so." Ashley, though, is "one of the Premier League chairmen who want to make newspapers pay to cover games." His calls have "thankfully" been "rejected by the Premier League who realise they need newspaper coverage" (TELEGRAPH, 10/28).

Foundation of Hearts Chair Ian Murray "is hopeful a 'massive' week for the embattled Tynecastle club" began Monday with Ubig finally "being declared bankrupt," according to Alan Temple of the SCOTSMAN. The ruling "had been due to be made last Thursday, but a third successive delay to proceedings in Lithuania meant a frustrating wait for the fans’ group, who are preferred bidders for the club, and administrators BDO." A hearing "is now expected to take place at Kaunas District Court" Monday which will see the fallen investment giants -- which hold around 50% of the shares in Hearts as well as £8.2M ($13.2M) of their total £28.4M ($45.8M) debt -- "declared bankrupt." That will allow BDO "to begin the process of negotiating with whichever insolvency practitioner is appointed to run Ubig’s affairs; a pivotal step as they work towards a company voluntary arrangement." They "have already been boosted by last week’s news that Ukio Bankas" -- the club’s largest creditor with £15.5M ($25M), as well as a 29.9% shareholding and security over Tynecastle Stadium -- has "agreed in principle to back a CVA." Murray "is praying the meeting goes ahead, insisting the pattern of delays in Lithuania could become a concern" (SCOTSMAN, 10/28).