Luke Edwards, the Telegraph football reporter whose article last week prompted his paper to be banned by Newcastle United, warns that other sports journalists are also under threat from football clubs.
“I think every sports journalist out there, local or national, will take an interest in this because it could happen to them,” Edwards said in an interview with Press Gazette, adding that football clubs often “expect the local paper to be like fans and show loyalty and not criticise them. And they can actually be a lot more sensitive to criticism from local newspapers.”
Edwards’s story came after Newcastle’s demoralising 6-0 defeat a week ago, and suggested that the dressing room was split – something rejected by Alan Pardew, the manager and the club.
Edwards has been covering the Newcastle beat for 12 years, starting with The Journal, where he was also in trouble with the powers-that-be at St James’ Park – for the dreadful “sin” of conducting an interview with a player without the club’s press office’s permission.
“I did an ‘illegal’ interview once – well, I spoke to a player without the press office’s permission and was banned for that,” he said.
“I didn’t manage to speak to a player straight after a game so I rang a player that I knew – I knew from school – and because they’d just introduced these new media rules I was banned.”
Edwards did not file his latest story with giving it careful consideration. “Writing stories like these as a football reporter you are accused of deliberately shit-stirring. This is a story I wrestled with writing… Because, I thought, what is it going to do?
“But my whole rationale for writing it was that this was a boil that needed to be lanced. That there were problems behind the scenes, that there was a resentment growing.”
And clubs’ attitude to unfavourable stories about them often leads to bans. “It is a danger,” Edwards said. “It’s indicative of an industry that’s trying to get greater control over the messages that come out and what is written about their football clubs.”
The futility of Newcastle’s position is shown by the fact that Edwards expects to attend and report on Newcastle’s final home game of the season – from outside the press area.