Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Relations between reporters and football clubs are tetchy at the moment. Yesterday I noted Mick McCarthy's sharp exit from a Five Live interview. Later yesterday Sir Alex Ferguson abruptly terminated his Champion League press conference when he was asked about his spat with referee Alan Wiley. "Silly question," said Sir Alex. But it wasn't a silly question. It was perfectly reasonable for a journalist to ask him abut an ongoing contriversy in which Sir Alex is a key player. It was only a silly question in the sense that more seasoned reporters would expect Fergie to react in exactly the way he did.

The right tactics for a journalist in such a situation are to get plenty of answers from Sir Alex to routine questions about the Champions League, and only lob in the explosive question about the referee afterwards. That way, the inevitable walk-out doesn't ruin the routine report. And also, of course, it gives you another headline.

Yet another episode is that The Guardian has been banned from reporting Leeds Utd matches at Elland Road. This is because Ken Bates has taken exception to reports by David Conn in the Guardian's print and online editions over the confusing ownership of the club. Bates does not question the accuracy of David's reports. He just doesn't want the topic to be aired at all.

Interesting times. And I'm delighted to announce that David, one of the country's top investigative sports journalists and the author of The Football Business, will be visiting the University of Central Lancashire next month to discuss his work with students on our journalism courses.

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