Football clubs and the media have a tetchy relationship. It is regular practice for Premier League clubs to ban the media from media briefing and press conferences when a manager has been unhappy about something written or said. Sometimes, as a football fan and as someone who works in PR, you do wonder sometimes whether it is because of the comment about football or the damage it might be perceived to do to the ‘brand’.
For clubs like Manchester United, where Sir Alex Ferguson seems to have an ever revolving door of journalists who have been banned from his media conferences, the impact is minimal. After all, he refused to speak to the BBC for eight years and it didn’t seem to do much harm. But what about clubs lower down the leagues.
Today, the Daily Echo in Bournemouth has published a stinging attack on its local club after it has been banned from attending matches at the club’s Seward Stadium. It appears as if there has been a growing discontent by the current owner and management team about the tone of coverage received during recent months.
The points the newspaper make in its defence are robust and get to the nub of a newspaper’s role in supporting its local club. It quotes the 700 back pages leads since 2009 and the support it gave during administration. The newspaper will have undoubtedly played an important part in helping put ‘bums on seats’ at a club that needs as many fans – and part-time supporters – through the turnstiles as it can get.
As someone who has been involved in the administration of two football clubs – Bury and Barnsley – I know the importance that local media play in keeping the clubs alive. The ‘Save our Shakers’ campaign, which received widespread media support, was a fundamental in helping Bury come through tough times.
It will be interesting to see how the Bournemouth situation plays out and I am sure that the club will come to realise that they need the local newspaper more than the newspaper needs them.