Events at Lancaster on Saturday were at least good news for journalists – they highlighted what life would be like without us.
This summer we have experienced the restricted world of controlled reporting at Blackpool FC.
As you’re probably aware, The Gazette aren’t presently allowed to speak to anyone at Bloomfield Road, though no explanation has been provided by the club. Only ‘local media partners’ are being given access to players and the manager until the season starts.
I’d like to think most supporters reading our recent coverage wouldn’t have been aware of the lack of access, except perhaps for the rare use of some pretty bland interviews with new signings from the club’s official website.
But then came Saturday, when the friendly at Lancaster was abandoned after 75 minutes following a pitch invasion by protesting Pool fans. Bizarrely, the club site made no mention of the abandonment that evening.
Instead a full-time report and a video interview with boss Neil McDonald were posted, the manager saying he was “very, very pleased” with the game.
I’m not having a dig at Pool’s media department, who are simply following instructions, their hands are as tied as anyone and social media criticism their way has been a little unfair.
In truth official club sites like to act like credible sources of journalism, offering ‘exclusives’ and ‘breaking news’, but they can only provide club-sanctioned PR and highly selective reporting. For balanced, objective coverage, that’s where the media comes in.
What we really wanted to hear on Saturday were McDonald’s thoughts on the pitch invasion, whether he felt it would affect his summer recruitment and his feelings on taking this most difficult of jobs? The point is there are currently far more questions than answers for Pool fans.
For a start, who is running Blackpool FC while Karl Oyston is banned? Why is there no sign of Andrea Orlandi, though the club announced his contract had been extended? Why is there still no kit sponsor? How many season tickets have been sold? Whatever happened to Mark Waddington and Dom Telford? And what on earth is going on with the Fans Parliament (a scheme designed to improve the club’s communications with supporters)?
Apparently 12 fans in the parliament met with the chairman and manager almost a week ago, yet nothing about those discussions hasbeen made public? What is achieved by the club sharing its plans to 12 supporters?
As for The Gazette, we’ve been told access will resume once the season starts, which is something positive. Until then, it’s vital the club speaks to their fans, answers their questions and stops operating in such a cloak and dagger way.
At a time when fans’ opinion is very mixed about McDonald, surely he’d want to get his ideas and plans across. Restricting his words to ‘Tangerine Player’ subscribers certainly isn’t doing that.
For example, tonight at Blyth there will only be The Gazette present, our readers are Blackpool’s supporters.
The ‘media partners’ situation isn’t unique to Blackpool. Newcastle recently gave one newspaper and one broadcaster exclusive interviews with new manager Steve McClaren, having struck an agreement with them.
If those with exclusive access are wary of jeopardising their special status, open and honest reporting is at risk. Toe the company line or you could be out.
Maybe the FA should follow the lead of the NFL in America, which outlaws the practice of clubs banning the media.
It’s good to talk. Blackpool FC should try it.