CHRIS DAVIES reports on the latest media ban meted out by Gillingham, a club which has already claimed what ought to be a most unwelcome entry in the record books
The story was widely reported by the national press last week. The BBC carried it on their website. But a court case that was in the public domain and was reported by many media outlets managed to result in a ban from Gillingham Football Club for BBC Radio Kent.
Nathan Nyafli, who signed for Gillingham in 2011, making one appearance before announcing his retirement because of a severe hip injury, had appeared at Maidstone Crown Court earlier this month charged with rape, charges which he denied. Yesterday, Nyafli was cleared of the charges.
But Gillingham chairman Paul Scally did not like the way BBC Radio Kent had covered the case. He banned the station from broadcasting at Priestfield Stadium for Saturday’s game against MK Dons, the club’s official site announcing two and a half hours before kick-off that this was “due to a matter involving the chairman”.
Throughout the afternoon the station, whose show was presented from The Valley where Charlton played Brentford, was enormously heartened by texts and tweets from supporters condemning Scally’s actions.
Scally has a history of banning the local media.
In 1998, Scally imposed a life ban on Tony Hudd, who covered the club for the the Kent Messenger Group. What makes Hudd’s ban even more puzzling – and personal – is that the article that prompted the journalistic divorce was not written by him. In fact, Hudd was on holiday in the United States when it was published.
Hudd was the chief football writer covering Gillingham when the now defunct Kent Evening Post ran an interview with Tony Pulis, the Gills’ manager at the time. Pulis was asked by Hudd’s colleague who had the more difficult job, the manager or the chairman? Pulis said, “the manager”.
Which did not go down well with Scally. Hudd said: “Scally contacted the paper to say they were banned which, of course, affected me.
“The following year there was a high profile court case after Pulis was sacked for alleged gross misconduct. I was asked by Pulis if I would appear as a witness and, with the paper’s permission, I agreed. Of course, that fanned the flames. It became very personal.”
The case, which Pulis had brought against Scally was settled out of court, so Hudd was never called to give evidence, but he remained banned. Very banned, in fact.
A long-serving member of the Football Writers’ Association’s national committee, Hudd added: “I’m told that if he ever sells the club there will be a clause in the contract saying I am still banned.”
The Kent Messenger Group have since had their ban lifted, but Hudd remains persona non grata at Priestfield, where his ban is now in its 16th year, the longest in the 127-year history of the Football League. “I regard the ban as a badge of honour,” he said.
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