Standard banned over Spurs comments

The London Evening Standard has hit back at a ban that Tottenham Hotspur imposed on the paper following critical comments by one of its columnists, Matthew Norman.

Tottenham banned the Associated paper from home matches and press conferences following a series of articles by Spurs fan Norman that were highly critical of the club’s chairman, Daniel Levy.

Steve Cording, deputy sports editor at the Evening Standard, wrote on the back page: “The Evening Standard supports all London clubs with equal vigour. Success for them is good news for us and the signs before the season started were that Spurs would be pushing for a place at the top of the Premier League. England manager Steve McClaren told this newspaper that he believed Jol’s team, with so many home-grown players, would finish in the top four. The Evening Standard will continue to bring you, our readers, all the latest news from Spurs.”

A spokesperson for Tottenham Hotspur FC said: “Evening Standard journalists will not be granted access to press conferences and matches. Please note that this decision has been taken by the club’s management board, not in haste and at a time when quite simply ‘enough is enough’. The timing of this is in no way related to comments generated as a result of the past few days’ events – Matthew Normal’s personal attacks continue regardless of what happens at the club.”

The paper responded, saying it was “important for the freedom of the press that our columnists have the right to free comment, however much others may disagree with what they write”.

The Standard said it would continue to bring its readers all the news from the Premier League club despite the ban.

Spurs became the centre of media attention after manager Martin Jol’s job was thrown into doubt after just two games of the new season. Club executives were caught going behind Jol’s back to speak to another manager, Juande Ramos of Sevilla.

In a column last Friday, Norman said club chairman Daniel Levy “can act like an imbecile of a very rare order indeed” and a “16th wit at best, but more likely a 32nd or 64th wit… In the last few days, Levy has exposed himself as something more disturbing than a 128th wit”.

Earlier in the week, Norman said Levy “took a first class degree at Cambridge. Admittedly, the subject in question was ‘land economy’, the one favoured by rowers, cricketers and others chosen by their colleges more for their bodies than their minds.

“Even so, Cambridge is Cambridge and a first is a first … [so] Levy can’t be quite as thick as he appears. On the evidence, you wouldn’t risk 50p at 20-1 that he is capable of telling the time or tying a shoelace without assistance.”

Another Standard columnist, David Mellor, attacked the ban in last night’s paper, saying: “Is it really acceptable, in a free society, for Levy to try to make it impossible for London’s newspaper to report the activities of one of London’s biggest football clubs?

“It sets quite a precedent. Will Gordon Brown now ban us from the parliamentary press gallery for showing insufficient respect?

“Will this paper’s reporters be forcibly restrained from pushing their trolleys up supermarket aisles because occasionally we are critical of the power of big retailers?

“Perhaps, in his own interests, Levy needs to go for a good lie down. Sports writers will continue to tell the truth as we see it, without fear or favour, because we can do no other.

“I should not care to be associated with an organisation that would sack a talent such as Matthew Norman just because he irritates the likes of Daniel Levy.

“And if Levy can’t understand that, he really is as big a fool as Norman contends.”

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