It’s not often that rows over the way football clubs try to control their media coverage make prime time radio.
But this morning the sort of spat that normally only gets an airing on Hold the Front Page or UK Press Gazette was highlighted by Chris Evans’s sporting sidekick Vassos Alexander.
Rightly, he accused United of wanting Pravda-style adulatory coverage.
For Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has made himself look even more ridiculous this week by apparently banning anyone but media partners Sky and the Mirror from talking to new club boss Steve McClaren.
A shamefaced McClaren had to tell other journalists he couldn’t talk to them, while the Mirror came up with an upbeat back page splash about his new employer’s future prospects.
The Toons aren’t the first club to try to call the tune (sorry…).
Every couple of weeks, a new club tries it on – with the latest example being one even further in the mire, Blackpool.
Covering sports teams is tricky: you need strong relationships and trust to get those inside stories, but you also need to hold the side to account, and tell it like it is. And that’s without the machinations of agents and players’ own PR people.
I’ve never been a sports reporter, but I did take some satisfaction from telling the great Ken Loach that he was out of order in criticising the Bath Chronicle’s treatment of his beloved Bath City last year.
Investing money in football clubs is irrational, illogical and emotional. So it’s not surprising that common sense goes out the window.
And it must be frustrating to give free press box seating to journalists who then write about how rubbish you are.
But what the wisest PR operators and image consultants know is this.
Often the best way of preserving – or even improving – your organisation’s reputation is to open it up to greater scrutiny.