League One club Crawley Town has banned a Crawley News sports reporter from speaking to Richie Barker or any of his players following the manager’s annoyance at two headlines in the newspaper’s March 13 edition – even though the club accepts that the reporter was not responsible for them.
Kaylee Seckington is not banned from Broadfield Stadium, but she is prevented from attending post-match press conferences or contacting Barker or his players for interviews.
The club’s “media manager”, Bruce Talbot, emailed the News: “Once again, Richie is extremely disappointed with your coverage in this week’s edition of the News and in particular two stories.
“On the back page the headline is ‘We must show more ambition’ in quotes, yet at no point in your story does he say that. The closest is ‘I know I have ambition, I hope the club have ambition too, that is the reason I came here’.
“On page 54 the headline is ‘Crawley won’t resort to lumping it like Evans did’. Richie totally refutes that he directly criticised the style of play of Steve Evans.”
After a goalless draw with Notts County, Barker had said: “Sometimes you have just got to put the ball in the box, but put it in with quality don’t lump it. They have had three years of watching that here, they don’t want to watch it anymore, surely?” The paper pointed out that the only other man to have managed the club in that period is Evans, now at Rotherham United.
Editor Andy Worden, said: “The Crawley News has effectively been given an ultimatum – change our reporter if we want to speak to Richie Barker and his players. We would be failing in our duty as a newspaper and an employer if we did not stand by our reporter, who we feel has covered the club fairly and accurately at all times.”
This is the second time this season that Seckington has been banned by the football club from speaking to Barker and his players, after Barker objected to the paper reporting that Evans was interested in signing Sergio Torres, a Crawley Town favourite, for Rotherham. On that occasion the matter was resolved through a meeting with the club.
Worden, said: “When myself and Kaylee met the manager earlier this season, some of his complaints were, perhaps, understandable from his perspective. He objected to the fact we had printed a story about another club being interested in one of his players, Sergio Torres.
“He also objected to a story where Charlie Wassmer’s agent had revealed his client would not leave the club until his contract was paid up. However, no credible newspaper would shy away from covering such stories, which are, of course, of real interest to fans.
“For many years, and many leagues below the club’s current position, we have given the club staunch support and thorough coverage. We are not, however, the club’s mouthpiece and a manager cannot expect to dictate what stories a newspaper covers and who its reporter is.
“If I was to phone up the club’s chief executive and say ‘I’m not a fan of your manager, how about you replace him?’ I would expect the call to be met with laughter or expletives.
“Some of Richie Barker’s other complaints at our meeting were more trivial. He was angry at a lighthearted Twitter remark revealing he was wearing trousers on the touchline, instead of his usual shorts. And he told us our back page headline that week should effectively have been telling fans who the club’s next game was against.
“Since the meeting we have gone to more effort than many papers would have to keep the club’s manager happy. However, keeping him happy will not stretch to him deciding who our Crawley Town reporter is. We hope in time Richie Barker will back down. In the meantime we will provide fans with the best coverage we can and wish the club every success.”