Reporters and photographers from the Hartlepool Mail and the Northern Echo have been banned from the press area at Hartlepool United matches after they refused to sign a commercial agreement with the club’s management.
The Hartlepool Mail’s football writer Chris Young has been paying the entry fee on the gate after the club refused to give him official accreditation. Reporters from both papers are banned from post-match press conferences and mixers with players.
Today’s edition of the Mail said: ‘Today we bring you pictures of last night’s stunning win over West Bromwich Albion courtesy of another media organisation that heard about our plight and agreed to supply our readers with images from the game.”
The story added that the pictures ‘may be the last you see in your Mail”.
Mail editor Joy Yates told readers: ‘The Mail and The Northern Echo extensively cover all that is Hartlepool United but we are now being prevented from doing that. It is a sad situation, but we will endeavour to bring you the best possible coverage.”
Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell said that too many football clubs were ‘biting the hand that feeds’them by restricting media access.
He said: ‘Local papers are their biggest supporters reporting on them and encouraging them in good times and bad. Without them, the clubs would have precious little publicity and with gates that are pitifully low they need all the help they can get.
‘They seem to think they can emulate the big Premier League clubs which are more about business than sport, raking in profits from gambling and television and from abroad while over charging their real fans.”
Satchwell questioned what the clubs’ sponsors would make of ‘the unnecessary curtailment of exposure of their brands through photography”.
The Echo had been supplying the paper with pictures but has since been banned itself. The Mail claims the club has threatened to ban any other media outlets that help it by supplying pictures.
The Echo illustrated its match report today with a Roy of the Rovers-style illustration, in the absence of photos.
The club refused to comment and chairman Ken Hodcroft could not be reached for comment.