Sports

Erik ten Hag’s journalist ban has echoes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s drive to ‘control’ the media… the fearsome ex-Man United boss snubbed the BBC for SEVEN YEARS, barred one author despite refusing to read his book and exploded with rage over Veron

Four media outlets were banned from Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag's press conference on Tuesday after stories suggesting some players had turned against him

It was a move straight out of the Sir Alex Ferguson playbook.

Manchester United banned four media outlets from Erik ten Hag’s press conference on Tuesday over reports that suggested players are beginning to turn on the beleaguered manager.

Sky Sports, the Daily Mirror, ESPN and the Manchester Evening News all found themselves on the naughty step after United’s communications director Andrew Ward took draconian measures.

United blamed them ‘not for publishing stories we don’t like, but for doing so without contacting us first to give us the opportunity to comment, challenge or contextualise.’

It was an echo of the Ferguson era, when the boss barred journalists and entire media organisations from his briefings with impunity.

Four media outlets were banned from Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag’s press conference on Tuesday after stories suggesting some players had turned against him

It was a move straight out of legendary United boss Sir Alex Ferguson's playbook for gaining 'control' over the media

It was a move straight out of legendary United boss Sir Alex Ferguson’s playbook for gaining ‘control’ over the media 

For Ferguson it was an exercise in power and the preservation of it, the difference between the Scot and Ten Hag being he had the longevity and successful track record to back it up.

In his book Leading, Ferguson summed up his low opinion of the press by writing: ‘Encounters with the press, which come in many guises, are all about control.

‘Everyone is looking for a chink in your armour. The press are waiting for the slightest of slips.

‘The journalists are waiting for a verbal slip while the cameraman are like hunters, ready to snap the shutter as soon as you purse your lips or grimace.’

Ferguson goes on to say he banned over 20 journalists who ‘manufactured stories’.

‘I wasn’t going to accept it – I would give them the chance to correct it; if they refused to do that, I refused them access.’

For correspondents on the Manchester patch, being banned by Fergie was a badge of honour, an indication you were doing your job properly. Some were banned for weeks, months, even years on end.

Ferguson’s press conferences with the written press, in a claustrophobic side room off the Carrington reception, could be tense affairs with plenty of back and forth.

United are unhappy with some of the reporting from Samuel Luckhurst of the MEN (right)

United are unhappy with some of the reporting from Samuel Luckhurst of the MEN (right)

Sky Sports chief reporter Solhekol has been banned

ESPN's Dawson is among the other journalists banned by United for their reporting

United did not allow either Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol (left) or ESPN’s Rob Dawson (right) to attend Tuesday’s press conference, ahead of their match against Chelsea at Old Trafford

The regular journalists were never afraid to respond to the ‘hairdryer’ with sharp words of their own, earning a grudging respect.

Occasionally there were explosions of temper, never more so than when Ferguson, feeling the strain as bitter rivals Arsenal closed in on the Double in 2002, took offence at rumours surrounding Juan Sebastian Veron.

The ban was put in place by United's communications director Andrew Ward

The ban was put in place by United’s communications director Andrew Ward

Paul Smith of the Sunday Mirror wrote a back page splash suggesting the Argentine, who never settled at United, had clashed with team-mates after their Champions League semi-final exit to Bayer Leverkusen.

The report said £28million midfielder Veron flew to Rome with his family after the dressing room spat and was refusing to come back to Manchester.

At Ferguson’s next press conference, of which the Daily Telegraph published a full transcript last year, the boss mistakenly blamed The Sun’s Neil Custis for the story.

‘You just want a f****** story as usual. Your f****** stuff is a disgrace to journalism,’ was his response to a Custis question about Arsenal’s ‘arrogance’.

A row ensued and even when the assembled journalists persuaded Ferguson it was a Sunday Mirror story, he replied: ‘Try and have a bit of respect for your f****** job, right? A bit of dignity for your job.’

When Richard Tanner seized the moment to ask about Veron’s performances more generally, the red mist descended.

‘On you go! We no f****** talking! He’s a f****** great player! Youse are f****** idiots!’

Ferguson launched into an expletive-laden tirade in defence of Juan Sebastian Veron in 2002

Ferguson launched into an expletive-laden tirade in defence of Juan Sebastian Veron in 2002

A report had suggested several United players were angry at Veron's performance as they crashed out of the Champions League semi-finals to Bayer Leverkusen

A report had suggested several United players were angry at Veron’s performance as they crashed out of the Champions League semi-finals to Bayer Leverkusen

Ferguson stormed out, Arsenal won the league at Old Trafford and Veron would only last another season. But by the following pre-season, any sanctions had been forgotten.

Not for the Daily Mail, however, who were already banned from his press conferences for another story – that particular sanction was only lifted in the Spring of 2003.

Matt Dickinson, in his book about United’s 1999 Treble success, recalls the time he was barred for months after happening to catch Andrei Kanchelskis in the Cliff Training Ground car park one day.

Kanchelskis came out and admitted to being unhappy and wanting to leave United – an instant back page story.

Dickinson recalls Ferguson cornering himself and another journalist against the wall. ‘F****** disgrace… you never f****** called me… f****** finished… stay away from my f****** training ground.’

As he writes: ‘It was a relentless barrage that was intimidating, and thrilling. In every ‘f*** off’ it was a sign that we had done our job.’

In the same book, Dickinson recalls how Matt Lawton, then of the Daily Express, was scolded for not ringing Ferguson to check up a story about Ryan Giggs suffering a hamstring injury in early 1999.

Ferguson said in his book, Leading, that he banned over 20 journalists for 'making up stories'

Ferguson said in his book, Leading, that he banned over 20 journalists for ‘making up stories’

Lawton’s plea, ‘to be fair, Alex, I can’t always get hold of you,’ cut little ice, in the days when some journalists had a direct line to the United manager.

In 2011, after United star Ryan Giggs was named in the House of Commons as the footballer alleged to have had an extra-marital affair with the model Imogen Thomas, Ferguson was caught out by a microphone.

Rob Harris, then with the Associated Press news agency, asked about the importance of Giggs’s experience in big Champions League games.

‘All the players are important to us,’ was Ferguson’s curt reply before he asked press officer Karen Shotbolt sat next to him in a whispered voice who asked the question.

Apparently unaware the microphones in front of him were still recording, Ferguson ordered Harris banned from his next press conference a few days later.

‘Then we’ll get him, ban him on Friday,’ he said.

Daniel Taylor found himself banned by Ferguson for years after publishing a book in 2008 called ‘This Is the One: Sir Alex Ferguson: The Uncut Story of a Football Genius.’

In 2011, Ferguson was caught out by a sensitive microphone after taking offence over a question by Rob Harris about Ryan Giggs

In 2011, Ferguson was caught out by a sensitive microphone after taking offence over a question by Rob Harris about Ryan Giggs

Giggs had been the subject of newspaper speculation over his personal life at the time

Giggs had been the subject of newspaper speculation over his personal life at the time

The exact reasons for the ban were unclear, especially given Taylor said Ferguson never read the book and asked a press officer to read it for him. ‘One of us is reading this s****, and it ain’t me,’ was apparently the quote.

Taylor told The Set Pieces he believed Ferguson issued the ban because he didn’t want fellow journalists to get the same idea of publishing a book about him.

United eventually advised Taylor to write Ferguson a letter asking to be re-admitted but to no avail.

The Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman was banned in the wake of the 2010 World Cup after writing something about England’s Wayne Rooney during the tournament – and because Fergie didn’t like the way he asked questions at press conferences. That lasted until February the following year.

Even something as seemingly dull as reporting team news could get you into Fergie’s bad books.

The Mail’s Chris Wheeler was banned after reporting Rio Ferdinand would miss the opening game of the 2012-13 season at Everton.

Getting a dressing down – or a ban – from Ferguson was seen as a badge of honour by reporters

Even a story about Rio Ferdinand suffering an injury was made off-limits and led to sanctions

Even a story about Rio Ferdinand suffering an injury was made off-limits and led to sanctions

Never mind that the story was true, Ferguson claimed it would give the opposition a ‘competitive advantage’ and tried to ban matchday team news reports.

On other occasions, with a telling cough before he spoke, Ferguson would mislead reporters with injury updates.  

But Ferguson’s most protracted disagreement was the seven years he refused to speak to the BBC.

It followed a 2004 BBC Three documentary called Father and Son which attacked his son Jason, a football agent.

The programme looked at the transfers of Jaap Stam to Lazio and Massimo Taibi to Reggina in relation to Jason’s involvement with Elite Sports Agency.

Their suggestion was that Jason exploited his father’s influence to benefit himself in the transfer market. ‘A whole lot of nonsense, all made-up stuff, brown paper bags and all that kind of carry-on,’ as Ferguson Snr described it.

‘It was a horrible attack on my son’s honour and he should never have been accused of that.’

Ten Hag has come under mounting pressure following the abject 1-0 defeat to Newcastle

Ten Hag has come under mounting pressure following the abject 1-0 defeat to Newcastle

Ferguson would criticise the BBC’s arrogance over their unwillingness to apologise.

In his 2013 autobiography, Ferguson claimed the BBC wanted to redress the balance by having him talk about his son’s dealings in an interview with Clare Balding.

In the end, it took a personal visit from director-general Mark Thompson to draw a line under the affair, restoring Ferguson to the Match of the Day cameras rather than his assistant Mike Phelan.

It remains to be seen if Ten Hag pursues a similar strategy to Ferguson, or remains in his job long enough to do so.

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.


Source
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. All rights and credits reserved to respective owner(s).

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Categories

Newsletter

Loading