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January 12, 2015

Swindon Advertiser faces new ban by local football club

By William Turvill

The Swindon Advertiser has been barred by its local football club less than a year after it had a ban lifted. (Reuters picture: Swindon Town in action against Chelsea in 2013)

The newspaper has told how chief sports writer Tom Bassam was refused entry to a press conference on Friday with Swindon Town manager Mark Cooper and a player.

The Advertiser reports that, after challenging the exclusion, Bassam was told chairman Lee Power felt "he got the coverage he wanted from other media outlets in Swindon".

Bassam was initially refused entry by the club's media officer as other members of the local media entered.

The journalist then challenged the club's general manager Steve Anderson who explained how the request had come from Power.

The Advertiser left the stadium, the County Ground, after Anderson did not tell him whether the barring related to any particular articles.

The newspaper was banned by the club almost exactly a year ago when reporter Sam Morshead tweeted that a controversial player, Nile Ranger, was to start a match 45 minutes before the matchday team sheets were published. It later emerged that Ranger himself had shared the news on his Instagram account.

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That ban, imposed after the match on 11 January 2013, was lifted on 20 January after a meeting between Advertiser editor Gary Lawrence and Power.

The Advertiser has not been told what this ban relates to, but noted that it has reported in recent times on a legal action taken against the club by the council and a "dispute" between Power and the administrators of St John Law "over unpaid legal fees". The newspaper has also reported on Redditch United submitting an FA complaint "over what it considered an illegal approach" for a striker.

The Advertiser also reports that the barring came after “weeks of arbitrary action taken by the club against the Swindon Advertiser” – namely not allowing officials, managerial staff and players to “field enquiries or answer questions” from its journalists.

Advertiser editor Gary Lawrence said: "I remain disappointed and upset for our hard-working staff, readers and Town fans that the chairman has been unable to give me an explanation for the ban or even attempted to find a solution.

"We can all speculate as to the reasons for the club's displeasure, but given that a variety of issues regarding Swindon Town have been reported on across a variety of media outlets in recent times, it would appear this latest action is purely arbitrary.

"With the club riding high at the top of the league and the club hopeful that people will become genuinely engaged with their fortunes, it seems bizarre that the club wish to cut off its main route for 'spreading its message' through not only Swindon but beyond into wider Wiltshire via the Advertiser's sister paper.

"As has been made clear to STFC on countless occasions, the Advertiser remains ready to meet with club officials to discuss the apparent source of their unhappiness and plot the best route forward. Up to this point, the club appears unwilling to engage in any sort of sensible, rational and reasoned discussion.

"In the meantime, the Adver and its staff remain committed to reporting the highs and lows of the football club fairly and from all sides, as it has throughout its long history. This will not affect the excellent daily coverage we bring our readers of the club both in print and online. Nor will it stop us continuing as a club sponsor."

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