Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Nottingham Forest vs. The Press - In Defence of the Club

No Nottingham Forest fan with an internet connection can fail to have seen the current disagreement between the club and certain sections of the press being played out in all its tawdry detail over the last few days.

Forest fans' opinions on this differ wildly; from the 'I only care about results' to the 'This is embarrassing and Jim Price must be burned at the stake.' I intentionally use Price's name in this as the assumption seems to be that he, along with Manager Billy Davies, is behind it all; the premise being that the duo are attempting to isolate any members of the media who reported unfavourably about them during Davies's previous tenure as Manager.

There may be an element of truth in this, but to suggest it's all Price's evil machinations is, in my opinion, foolish. Certainly any decisions will have to be authorised by Forest's Owner and Chairman Fawaz al Hasawi. However, because of Price's association with the collapsed Scottish law firm Ross Harper, he is seen by some as the Devil Incarnate, whose nefarious plotting will drag Forest to the precipice of doom. Again, I believe this is inaccurate.

Let us cast our minds back to January 2013 - arguably the lowest point in Fawaz's ownership so far. Broadly popular Manager Sean O' Driscoll had just been sacked and replaced with, well, the not-quite-so-popular Alex McLeish. Results were inconsistent at best. Then, out of the blue, CEO Mark Arthur, Chief Scout Keith Burt and club Ambassador and former Manager and Chairman Frank Clark were unceremoniously sacked with no official explanation. Finance Director John Pelling followed soon after.

Whilst some fans were happy at Arthur's dismissal as - for them - he had long been a figure of derision, there was general indifference at Burt's sacking and widespread outrage at Clark's. What was going on?

Then the press reports and rumours started. Fawaz didn't know what he was doing. He was ruining this once great club. He was as bad as the Venkys and wanted to pick the team himself. Clark - it was reported - had been banned from attending matches at the City Ground. Disgraceful treatment of one who had given so much to the club.

Certain reporters working for national broadcasting organisations were vocal in their distrust, claiming to have heard all kinds of terrible stories from 'sources' behind the scenes at the club. Yet when asked what these stories were, they could not elaborate. The press, some of whom had been publishing erroneous reports since nearly day one of Fawaz's reign, were having a field day.

It was not long after this that rumours of why the sackings had taken place started to circulate among Forest fans. Rumours that, if ever proved true, would fully vindicate Fawaz's actions. These rumours persist even now. If Forest fans were discussing them then surely the well-connected members of the press must have heard them too? Yet no mention of these rumours was ever made; either officially in the press or unofficially by reporters in a personal capacity. Why was that? Legal reasons perhaps? Quite possibly. In the meantime, Clark had been invited back to attend matches again and, apparently, had received a formal apology. I can't recall that being mentioned in the press.

The re-appointment of Bily Davies, the subsequent upturn in results and performances and the ultimately unsuccessful run at the Playoffs all served to silence the critics for a while. But there was always the feeling that, once results hit a downturn, the knives would be out again.

I'm a Forest fan. I want my club to be talked about in glowing terms all round the country and, I will be honest, this current press empasse makes me uncomfortable. But I'd rather us be praised for our results and performances than anything else. What I'm trying to say is that, while this 'media blackout,' 'selective press exclusion' or whatever you want to call it may seem petty to some, I believe it is not without some justification.

It's not just Billy Davies who was burned by the press before. Fawaz was too and it's understandable that he would at best be wary of them and wish to regain some element of control over what is reported about him and his club. I hope the dispute can be settled amicably but, until such time arises, my support is 100% behind Nottingham Forest Football Club, and all those who are working to make it a success.

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