26.5.11

ONE MAN BANNED AND OTHER STORIES

I was amused earlier this week to see Sir Alex Ferguson enhance his status as a sane, rational person by attempting to ban a journalist who had asked him a (perfectly reasonable) question at a press conference.

This is the first refuge of the paranoid and the powerful: if I don't like a question not only will I not answer it but I'll go after the person who asked it.

Happily, relations between World Snooker and the media are better now than they have been for a long time.

There is greater openness, a feeling that everyone is working towards the same end and more fun than we have seen for many years.

Journalists are, of course, not to everyone’s taste, but for every stitch-up merchant there are a far greater number of hard working hacks doing their best in often trying circumstances.

My first day in the Crucible pressroom saw me ‘shown the ropes’ by a couple of tabloid journalists who formed a group known affectionately as ‘the Beastie Boys.’

These ‘ropes’ turned out to be situated mainly around the free bar, which in those days dispensed alcohol from morning to night as if it were going out of fashion.

The Beasties were all good blokes, if a little thirsty. They would often decamp to the Brown Bear, a pub just up the road from the Crucible, and re-emerge hours later demanding to know what had happened at the snooker.

One memorably saved time over writing up a piece about Stephen Hendry by making up the quotes before the press conference, an admirable example of economising.

They were a loud bunch but a good laugh and always seemed to get plenty in the papers.

But it wasn’t always fun. When politics intervened things could get nasty, as Snooker Scene’s editor Clive Everton discovered when he arrived in Preston for the 1999 Grand Prix.

Clive had made some criticisms of the then WPBSA chairman, who responded in time honoured even-tempered fashion by issuing a blanket ban on him entering the pressroom.

To complicate matters, Clive was commentating for the BBC and so could enter the building, go to the commentary box and leave again as long as he stayed away from the pressroom, where he was working for the Guardian.

It was at this tournament he fell out of the commentary box, almost throttling Dennis Taylor by grabbing hold of his tie as he rocked back on his chair.

“Doesn’t he know it’s a no-go area,” was Stephen Hendry’s observation on hearing Clive had hit the deck somewhere outside the box.

The absurdity levels were cranked up to 11 at the UK Championship in Bournemouth shortly afterwards where this ban remained in place.

The route to the commentary box was paved with little plastic chickens, which were representative of the sponsor, Liverpool Victoria.

So it was that Clive was photographed in a national newspaper doing the ‘chicken run’ to the box. For some reason this failed to enhance the game’s reputation as a serious, forward thinking sport.

Matters had not been helped by the appointment of a former tabloid investigative reporter as WPBSA media relations boss. It was at Bournemouth where he managed to have such an explosive row with a journalist that its newspaper recalled him to London.

Piers Morgan, now of CNN but then the Mirror editor, made an unlikely foray into snooker history at this point.

The WPBSA media relations boss, in his polite way, had threatened to submit a formal complaint against the Mirror’s correspondent. Morgan responded he could do so and that he [Morgan] would “come down there and personally stick it up his arse.” The complaint never was lodged, in either sense of the word.

A few months later the WPBSA dismissed their man. He successfully sued them, pointing out they had employed him to ‘target specific individuals, including Clive Everton.’

Clive was eventually allowed back in to the pressroom and all was well again...for a bit, anyway.

At the end of 2000 I found myself working for TSN (which became 110sport) on their new website, which remains better in scope and content than most of the sites that have succeeded it.

They then decided to announce a rival tour to the WPBSA circuit, which for some reason didn’t go down too well with the governing body.

Shortly afterwards I went to Shenzhen for a heavily subsidised trip to the China Open. My first indication that all was not well was when the tournament director greeted me with the words, “are you here on holiday?”

It would transpire that I was now banned. Or sort of, anyway. I was told I could come inside the pressroom as long as I didn’t do any actual work.

I responded that this would be no problem as I had been doing it for years.

I was told, very earnestly, by the WPBSA chief executive that this was the only fair solution. I suggested the real reason was that the WPBSA still didn’t have its own website and were trying to stop others establishing themselves.

He later distinguished himself by managing to get sacked from the same job twice – ironically it had been his original dismissal that had kicked off the nonsense with Clive.

Years later I had another run-in with a WPBSA executive who accused me in Glasgow of “distributing Clive Everton’s propaganda” on the basis that I had given Mark Johnston-Allen a copy of Snooker Scene to read in between sessions.

As propaganda spreading goes, I felt this fell somewhere short of an average evening on North Korean state television.

With great theatricality, said executive slung the magazine in the bin and stormed out of the pressroom, a gesture only slightly undermined by him realising he still needed it and so returning, a little sheepishly, and fishing it out again.

It summed up to me a kind of paranoia about the media that has only recently lifted. Their strategy was never to cogently answer the criticisms but try and get even in some way with the critic.

Sometimes they weren’t even being criticised but still got the hump, believing journalists were out to get them.

Politicians - including snooker politicians - have to roll with the punches. If you take a position of responsibility, you should expect to be challenged.

In my experience, journalists just want interesting stories, and that doesn’t mean just scandal.

Offbeat and quirky tales always play well and people enjoy feel-good stories, such as battles against the odds.

Most of the time the main battle is to get anything in the papers at all, particularly given the rise and rise of football and the space it takes up.

It is a world I have largely left behind now due to my commentary commitments and I don’t envy the latest brigade of snooker journos operating in a declining newspaper market.

But at least it’s a little friendlier these days.

33 comments:

Chris Lyon said...

Very nice piece.

wild said...

wow

the WPBSA were a bunch of big sulking babies.

criticism is what improves things. by putting their fingers in their ears just shows why snooker went down hill.

Anonymous said...

Good work Dave. I would like to have seen you name names though. Bumbling incompetence and petty spite don't deserve anonymity.

Mignon said...

All this seems –and actually is– funny now but by then it must have been painfully sad, unfair and, yes, downright stupid. It’s stupid not to realise what a great snooker journalist Clive is, what a resounding impact such decisions would have, what a silly image such decision-making bosses would get because of them. The sardonically funniest thing is that some of these little tyrants will only be remembered just because they succeeded to make such fools of themselves.

Great article, Dave. Very funny WorldSnooker reaction on Twitter - other voices, other rooms... ;)

Snooker Loopy said...

Great piece, Dave! And here I was thinking this is happening only in my country.

Anonymous said...

11am, its fairly easy to work out some names if you dont know them "off hand"....

jamie brannon said...

If you were a United fan you would be embarassed rather than amused by Ferguson's conduct with the media.

The fact that Ferguson labels himself as a socialist is faintly laughable. He clearly doesn't believe in the freedom of the press.

Anonymous said...

<>

Just like those two other socialists, Hitler and Stalin had a wholeheartedly free press eh?

Mat Wilson

Anonymous said...

clive didnt always tell the truth and was also on ian doyles payroll to slag the game off so as to try and help doyle gain power.a lot off things in snooker scene by clive were just simply biased towards ian and not always factual.

Ray said...

The only charge that can be levelled at all at Snooker Scene is that you tell the truth. I dread to think where snooker would be today without Snooker Scene and your blog Dave. I for one am so grateful because nobody loves this beautiful game more than me. Stay strong and never give an inch.

Dave H said...

Clive's never received a single penny from Ian Doyle to write anything, but please don't allow something as quaint as the facts to spoil your delusions.

Janie Watkins - another former TSN correspondent. said...

Great piece David. Brings back some memories - particularly the Chicken run - which actually ran past the Ladies Toilets at the UK - where I had to furtively meet Clive as he walked past!

I well remember getting banned - thrown out of the Newport Media Centre among others. They picked on the pawns in the political chess game but neglected to note that us pawns had the most powerful tool in our hands - a pen and a keyboard!

To this day they never figured out how I had all the player quotes and all the match news from those Newport matches - one day I'll tell them!!

I await the next instalment eagerly - Your happy days at the Press Officer working for the "unholy trinity" - as they tried to sue me for writing!

wild said...

"clive didnt always tell the truth and was also on ian doyles payroll to slag the game off so as to try and help doyle gain power.a lot off things in snooker scene by clive were just simply biased towards ian and not always factual."
___________________________________

thats a load of rubbish and even if Ian Doyle payed him millions to slag off the WSA it was still accurate what was said in snooker scene.

this sport been run by useless morons for years they even managed to turn a golden goose of the 80s in to a dead duck of 2000's now thats impressively useless by anyone's standards.

Anonymous said...

Take no notice of 7.30. Just some idiotic attention seeker trying to provoke a reaction.

Anonymous said...

Please don't make suggestions that Clive Everton received money from Ian Doyle as this may be the excuse they use for their buisness going bust

Anonymous said...

jamie brannon said...
If you were a United fan you would be embarassed rather than amused by Ferguson's conduct with the media.

The fact that Ferguson labels himself as a socialist is faintly laughable. He clearly doesn't believe in the freedom of the press.

6:14 PM
------------------

yeah, just like ALL the ronnie fans were embarrassed when he was in china at a press conference..

Anonymous said...

i know for a FACT that clive did print lies in snooker scene . but im just an attention seeker .

Anonymous said...

4.23, I know for a FACT that Judd Trump knows where Shergar is buried and Im just an attention seeker too.

wild said...

everyone makes mistakes even editors of magazines but it pale in to insignificance compared to the mistakes world snooker has done over my lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Any Rodney Walker gossip, Dave? Come on be a friend and share.

Anonymous said...

Not true that Clive did not recieve a penny from Ian Doyle. Snooker Scene relied on Doyle's influence with his adverts and advertisers for years. If Clive had criticised Doyle it would have cost him a fortune in advertising revenue.Doyle's efforts to take over snooker are well documented and Clive was supporting him at the time, now Hearne's in charge opinions have changed.

Dave H said...

All any advertiser has ever bought in the magazine is space to advertise their products.

It amuses me that people are so trenchant when they are anonymous. Not quite so much when they can't hide behind that cloak.

wild said...

opinions has not changed all clive everton has EVER wanted was what was best for snooker and how it was run.

haven't you learned anything. its now being run professionally with focus but he or snooker scene wont hesitate to put the boot in barry hearn if he cocked up.

Anonymous said...

Snooker Scene has been trenchant with those in charge of snooker for decades now, its editor has always lived by the opinion that good news is not good copy and has made sure that as far as snooker politics were concerned good news was seldom reported with enthusiasm. The W.P.B.S.A. has given its members the opportunity to earn millions of pounds over the past 40 years and many members have made a good living from the game. Only a handful of these members have put anything back into the game and that's where the problems have been and ,like Snooker Scene and its editor, have not supported the game that has given them a good living.

Dave H said...

Still anonymous then

How very brave

wild said...

ive been watching snooker since the early 80s before the boom years of the mid 80s i could see major problems since the mid 80s.

when you have Main people in charge of the sport actually competing players like Rex Williams there's problems around the corner and that what happened.

Snooker was a professional Sport with Amateurs Running it and the Board was working for the player.which again was wrong.

WPBSA started life as a sort of players union and it moved in to Governing the Sport there was Major conflict of interest there.

kildare cueman said...

The dogs in the street know that snooker was run disastrously until recently.

The money that was wasted during the tobacco years is unforgivable.

I have no vested interest in snooker but have to say I have never found Everton to be anything but impartial and honest.

Regarding Doyles treatment by Snooker Scene, perhaps he was doing things right most of the time and didn't warrant criticism.

A far greater amount of advertising revenue would have been available to SS had it cosied up to the various governing bodies throughout the years.

wild said...

"A far greater amount of advertising revenue would have been available to SS had it cosied up to the various governing bodies throughout the years."
------------------------------------

to bloody right there was more to gain from ass licking the WPBSA than Ian Doyle.

Anonymous said...

clive tried to sell sc to rex williams years ago for 40k and when he refused the offer no surprise sc launched an anti rex campaign in the magazine. lots of lies printed about rex ,buying votes etc...

Dave H said...

No he didn't and if you read the Gay Report you'll see everything written about Williams and his appalling regime was true

You may even be mentioned in it, who knows?

wild said...

Rex Williams Efforts to revive snooker in the 60s should not be underestimated and in turn a professional looking sport emerged from that.

however you got to look to the future and once the WPBSA Took complete Control of the Sport in the 80s it was a hiding to nothing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Snooker fans around the World

Barry Hearn is doing a wonderful Job for Snooker without him Snooker would be dead

Great Job Barry keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Which Gay report are you referring to Dave, the one that went to Scotland for approval or the heavily amended one that came back and was sent to the W.P.B.S.A.?

I AGREE HEARNE'S DOING A GREAT JOB FOR SNOOKER AND THOSE THAT PLAY IT.