Southampton Bans Media from Outside St. Mary's

By J.J. Zucal
Photo by FrankosMoneyMan/flickr

Just when one thought matters would not get sillier in the aftermath of Southampton‘s shock firing of manager and fan favorite Nigel Adkins, the club , once again, shot itself in the foot by issuing its rath at the media.

Several media outlets sent reporters and photographers outside St. Mary’s Stadium on Monday night for Southampton’s first match since Adkins was fired three days earlier. The assignments were to get reactions from fans, many of whom were incensed at the decision by club chief executive Nicola Cortese.

Prior to the Saints’ 0-0 draw with Everton, the media representatives were informed the club had banned them from outside the stadium”for health and safety issues.” Some were asked to move to areas less likely to be occupied by people entering the stadium. Stewards also were told not to discuss the order with the media.

The firing of Adkins inflamed many fans who were appreciative of his leading the club into this season’s Premier League through two consecutive promotions. The order would appear designed to restrict the spread of negative comments, especially into the faster-than-print world of television and the Internet.

Monday’s order, however, was not the first time Southampton, under Cortese, has encroached upon the media. As it began its 2010-11 promotion season from League One, the club attempted to raise funds by denying media photo credentials and having them purchase photographs from an “official” agency. That led one newspaper, the Plymouth Herald, to ask a cartoonist to provide match sketches which were used instead of photos.

That matter was resolved in a short time, except for one newspaper. The Southern Daily Echo has been a target for Cortese since December 2009 when the paper reported about the club’s redevelopment of its training-ground area. Cortese reportedly asked the media to refrain from reporting the story until the club conducted a press conference.

The Echo published an article, noting that information about the planned project had been reported by the BBC and Sky News and available on the local government’s website. Still, club officials were not happy and issued a blanket ban: no Echo staff at matches or at events with players. That ban was lifted after three months, but it would appear the club kept the Echo on its “hate” list, as proved by its action a year later.

Sports clubs want advertising, preferably free, to entice fans to attend matches. Media coverage from matches and training sessions provide that. That coverage, indeed, also helps the media in the attraction of advertising revenues through its readership.

That relationship, however, cannot permit a club to issue actions made in vengeance, and it appears Nicola Cortese has held an animus toward the media since he arrived in August 2009. In Monday night’s case, it appears he and Southampton again bit the hand that feeds them more than it feeds the media.

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