Southampton football club has joined the long list of clubs that ban or want to ban the media from their matches as it suits.
Back in November, it was Portsmouth FC banning a journalist whose coverage it didn’t like and Alex Ferguson for a long time did not allow the BBC to interview him, again because he didn’t like the tone of its coverage.
This time it is photographers in the firing line as Southampton has banned them from its matches, wanting people instead to buy official photographs for use in media coverage. This has at least been good news for one cartoonist as a local paper has responded by commissioning them to draw pictures of key match moments and is using them to illustrate its coverage instead.
As I wrote previously,
Banning and cold-shouldering football journalists is a deeply ingrained part of the attitude of many football clubs. It raises the interesting question of where you draw the line when it comes to journalistic freedom. Almost everyone would be outraged if the Speaker banned a journalist from Parliament for writing a piece he didn’t like. On the other hand, almost everyone would feel it’s their own personal right not to let a journalist into their own home.
Where football clubs fall on that spectrum is often a matter for debate: they’re not public institutions, but they have a role in their communities and the sport has a role in the country that is different from most straight-forwardly commercial enterprises.
UPDATE: Southampton’s plans look to be falling apart as the photography agency they had selected to provide exclusive photos with other photographers banned has said they don’t want to be part of such an arrangement.
UPDATE 2: But on the other hand … the club has reiterated its determination to stick to its plans.