The Bolton News will “stand firm” behind its chief football writer after he was banned from covering the town’s Championship side over a tweet.
Marc Iles had his media access privileges at Bolton Wanderers FC’s stadium suspended with immediate effect on Friday, which includes home matches, press conferences and access to staff.
It came after what club chairman Ken Anderson (pictured) described as an “unprofessional” tweet and a prolonged period of “negative” coverage by the journalist.
Iles had recently posted a tweet with a gif from The Muppets Christmas Carol that shows Michael Caine dressed as Scrooge saying: “God bless us everyone.”
For the past three years he has been covering financial troubles at the club, which most recently was unable to pay players and staff their salaries for November on time.
In the tweet accompanying the Muppets gif, Iles said: “I understand Wanderers’ players and coaching staff have been paid their overdue November salary this morning.”
— Marc Iles (@MarcIles) December 14, 2018
Iles wrote on Saturday that although “it has been quite clear from the owner’s recent columns and private communication that he has been looking for a reason to issue a ban”, he “did not think for one second that the straw that broke the camel’s back would be a tweet involving the Muppets Christmas Carol”.
He added: “Hand on heart, the gif which accompanied the news that staff and players were being paid their November salaries was actually an in-joke about Christmas being saved, rather than any direct pop at the ownership. In hindsight, I wish I’d just stuck with the text.”
Anderson slammed the tweet as “unprofessional” in a letter to fans published on Friday, while according to Bolton News the club also deemed it “offensive and amateurish”.
Anderson said Iles’ club media privileges had been suspended “until we can find a solution that is beneficial to the long-term future of the club”.
He added: “Over a prolonged period his coverage of the club, both in the paper and on his Twitter account, have been negative and an increasing number of his articles have been factually incorrect, which in my opinion causes unnecessary alarm to our supporters and certainly does not aid us in our search for new investment.”
Anderson said the club’s ban does not apply to the Bolton News as a whole or any of its other members of staff, adding that he wanted to maintain a strong working relationship with the newspaper.
But he said: “I fully expected the Bolton News to be supportive of Marc Iles and I accept that they are not answerable to me – however, they have a duty of care to be fair and balanced and factually correct in their reporting which I don’t think has been the case over the last few months.”
In a comment piece published on Friday, Bolton News head of sport Neil Bonnar said: “The Bolton News is unhappy that Marc has been personally targeted in this way – but we stand firm against this move by the club.
“We believe it is unfair and inappropriate but will not waver in our commitment to covering fairly and accurately the comings and goings at our proud, historic club.”
Bonnar praised Iles, saying he “clearly has the respect of everyone at the club apart from Mr Anderson, has superb contacts, knowledge and journalistic skills and puts them all together to provide coverage of the club which is second to none”.
Of the newspaper’s coverage of the Wanderers’ “desperate” financial situation, Bonnar said: “We take no pleasure from it and we make no excuse for independently and fairly covering those trials and tribulations.
“If players and staff are not being paid, it is a matter of public interest as these are people with bills to pay.”
He went on: “We understand Mr Anderson is trying to sell the football club and that constant stories about sorry financial developments will not help him do so.
“But we are not here to help Mr Anderson sell the football club – we are here to report what happens at the club for the thousands of fans across Bolton and beyond. We answer to the fans – not the chairman.”
Bolton News editor Karl Holbrook has also stood by Iles, tweeting: “It’s an unfortunate situation to be in but Bolton News and Marc Iles stand firm. We will press on with our independent coverage no matter what.”
Picture: Action Images/Jason Cairnduff via Reuters