A journalist claims to have been banned from attending press conferences at Newcastle Falcons, saying he is accused of having an "agenda" against the club.
Mark Smith, rugby reporter for the Newcastle Chronicle, Journal, and Sunday Sun, tweeted that he had been refused player interviews and forced to conduct a "one-on-one" press conference with director of rugby Dean Richards after his coverage of last week's 'fans' forum' was received angrily by the club.
@neilfissler banned from player interviews and got to do my own 1on1 pressers with dean because i cant be trusted. PR man blocked my number— mark smith (@markismith50) March 23, 2014
The argument appears to have stemmed from Smith's recording of a question-and-answer session between Richards and 300 supporters last week. The Chronicle published the transcript in full on its website and Smith claims the club knew he was recording the event.
During the forum, Richards made several controversial remarks, including comments on the spending of the Premiership's bottom club Worcester. "It is one of those where you could do a Worcester and throw a lot of money at it, up to and probably, in Worcester's case, over the salary cap, and not have a culture," he said. "Sorry, they are probably at the salary cap.
"I won't spend massive amounts because, every time you do that, you invariably find yourself disappointed unless you buy loads and loads of guys at a huge cost, a little bit like Bath and Saracens and Worcester, who have stuck to the salary cap."
Smith, who worked for the Falcons until 2010, claims to have been told that he has an "agenda against Newcastle Falcons" and that the club's press officer "appears to have physically blocked [his] number".
Apparently I have an "agenda against Newcastle Falcons". News to me after 18 years of supporting, working for and with them, but hey-ho.— mark smith (@markismith50) March 23, 2014
When contacted by Scrum, Smith refused to explain the situation further, saying only that he "would let the Tweets speak for themselves."
A Newcastle Falcons spokesman denied the club had placed any ban on Smith, saying it was a matter for the club and the journalist.