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Tyne Talk

Mike Ashley – Knows The Price Of Everything and Value Of Nothing

8 years ago
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Yesterday brought news of the latest Mike Ashley press ban, bringing out a range of packages which newspapers will have to pay to get access to players over and above the very minimum of post-match comments etc.

However, I believe it is about more than money because I think Ashley knows fine well that newspapers are most unlikely to pay because then every other club would see them as fair game.

It looks to me like it is much much more about control.

Local press gives too much coverage to protest march – ban them.

NUST ask the awkward questions at Fans Forum – ban them.

Players talk to media for nothing when the newspapers don’t always do as they are told – ban them (if they don’t pay).

Your gut reaction might be to laugh at the press squealing but that is a pretty short-sighted attitude, yes journalists are akin to estate agents in many people’s eyes but a free press is something that we should never take for granted, even when it comes down to coverage of culture/sport.

Remember as well that the journalists you are talking about aren’t the ones you see sitting around a table on Sky, these are just normal people trying to do their jobs/pay the mortgage and whilst amongst them there might be one or two you have issues with, surely that is always the case when it comes to a number of people giving opinions, especially football.

In years gone by (from 1988 up at the old Benwell training ground) I would go along to training, and ask players as they headed out to the car after their post-training shower, if they could spare five minutes for a quick interview for The Mag.

Nearly every one of them said yes.

In the nineties Newcastle United appointed their first press officer, Graham Courtney.

Graham rang me up and explained that they were making things more formal and now I had to fax/phone a request and he would ask the player.to do the interview.

Nothing much changed, most times the player would do the interview and the main reason for it not happening tended to be if that particular player was already booked up to do a load of other media stuff.

A number of press officers followed Graham but interviews were still easyish to come by, with The Mag publishing monthly the NUFC press people always obviously saw the value of putting a player up most issues, especially as we played it straight and always printed word for word what the player actually said.

It’s great that people such as Alan Shearer, Rob, Lee, Gary Speed, Les Ferdinand and so many others saw the value in speaking to The Mag and the magazine carrying their interview.

That is also why we got interviews with the likes of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy when they wouldn’t give the lickings of a dog to the press because they felt everything was twisted and so any interview quotes wouldn’t be honestly reported by many journalists. Whatever you thought of those two as players/people they had a story to tell and fans wanted to hear it.

In no particular order of importance, over the years the Newcastle United personnel we have interviewed (amongst others) include;

Alan Shearer, Kenny Dalglish, Shay Given, Gary Speed, Craig Bellamy, Steve Harper, Jose Enrique, Darren Peacock, Gavin Peacock, David Kelly, Terry McDermott, Freddy Shepherd, John Hall, Chris Mort, Sam Allardyce, Glenn Roeder, Alan Pardew, John Beresford, Steve Watson, Danny Simpson, Tim Krul, Ryan Taylor, Shola, Steven Taylor, Robbie Elliott, Steve Howey, Rob Lee, Mick Quinn, Mark McGhee, Warren Barton, Stuart Pearce, Jim Smith, Sylvain Distin, Andy Cole, Les Ferdinand, Liam O’Brien

The early days of the Mike Ashley era, with Chris Mort in charge, saw very little difference.

However, with each passing year since, access has become more and more difficult. We don’t expect any privileges but we’d always played fair by the club on interviews and previous regimes/staff had seen the benefits of giving player access to a magazine connecting directly with fans. Over the last couple of seasons we’d been granted maybe half a dozen interviews with players.

Things reached a head when our Silver Anniversary issue marking 25 years of The Mag was coming up, I asked the press office if we could possibly have a ‘name’ player for this special issue, listing seven or eight first teamers, the answer was no due to commitments to ‘rights holders’.

When I asked would it be possible to have any player in the squad, the answer was…no.

We didn’t publicise this ongoing problem or the final curtain falling on interviews because for one thing contact with players, while always welcome, isn’t integral to a monthly magazine like The Mag (whereas it is for newspapers) and also the last thing fans want to hear is people feeling hard done by just because they can’t get interviews with players.

Now though that these latest moves have been made against the newspapers that so many people rely on for their Newcastle United fix, it has to be seen as a sad day for our football club which should be at the heart of everything good in the community and which should have an open door/all welcoming policy of transparency – helping to spread the word of how great Newcastle United is.

December’s issue will be on sale from our numerous sellers outside St.James’ Park before the Southampton match on Saturday. For those not going to the match THE MAG is available in all Tyneside newsagents from Saturday morning.

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