Online poll gets 10-year-old banned from Wembley

ANTON RIPPON reports on the latest display of the “power” of digital media

When, just before last Christmas, Trinity Mirror announced that it was abandoning completely the production of newspapers in Berkshire in favour of a “bold digital-only publishing transformation”, there were those who saw the disappearance of the print edition of the Reading Post as a grave loss to the local community.

Ryan Dearnley: missed out on his big day at Wembley
Ryan Dearnley: missed out on his big day at Wembley

There were even those who still clung steadfastly to the belief that the internet will never catch on. Now a 10-year-old football fan, who will never have known a day without the World Wide Web, probably wishes that it hadn’t.

Ryan Dearnley was due to serve as the mascot for Reading in their FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal at Wembley.

The lad is actually a Huddersfield Town supporter – unsurprising since he lives in Huddersfield – and was unwise enough to agree to a 13-second video appearance on the website of the Huddersfield Daily Examiner in which he let slip that, actually, he was rather hoping that the Gunners would beat the Royals, whose colours he was due to wear at Wembley.

How did a lad who supported Huddersfield – and wanted Arsenal to win – come to be Reading’s mascot? Well, in January he won a half-time draw when Reading eliminated Huddersfield in a third-round tie at the John Smith Stadium. And rules is rules.

All might have yet been well had not Ryan’s Arsenal sympathies been picked up by the Examiner’s digital-only sister title GetReading, the online continuation of the Reading Post of blessed memory.

When GetReading conducted a website poll to gauge opinion, it turned out that the overwhelming majority of Reading fans were outraged. Some 85 per cent of those who took part voted to have young Ryan sacked from his job of representing their Championship club. Reading fans complained to the FA who now saw the flaw in that be-a-mascot competition. They sacked the boy.

Ryan’s grandfather, Alan, a 62-year-old Rugby League fan, was to have accompanied him to Wembley. He told the Examiner: “I don’t blame the FA because they said they didn’t want Ryan to be upset on the day with any booing from the Reading fans. But for the football loudmouths to react in this way to a few harmless words from a 10-year-old is ridiculous.”

There is a happy ending, however. An FA spokesman said: “Following Ryan’s interview in the local media, and with agreement from his family, it was decided to move his prize over to an England mascot place later this year.”

In the meantime, a 10-year-old boy has learned a valuable lesson: always think twice before you talk to the Press.


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