Football. “Poison and threats against reporters”, says Ussi President
Luigi Ferrajolo says that acts of intimidation against journalists are frequent and many are from the white-collared
The acts of intimidation and threats to sports reporters who follow the activities of football teams are numerous and frequent. Some come from hardcore and violent fans. But the most numerous are from executives of sports clubs, which hinder the work of journalists they deem unwelcome, those journalists, that is, who do not sing the praises of their team. Luigi Ferrajolo, President of the Italian Sports Press Union (USSI) notes it, stating that everyone should “do more to remove from the Italian football the too much poison that there is.” Many times those reporters that tell facts the way they are, that do not give a rosy account of teams, see denied their access to the stadium, to the stands, to the locker rooms, to press conferences, or the accreditation is either denied or withdrawn. The goal is to punish them and to convince them to change their behavior.
Although these threats are made by “white-collared” people, Luigi Ferrajolo said, these are real acts of discrimination, sometimes threats, albeit subtle and indirect: for example the decision of some teams to grant accreditation only to reporters registered to a fans club. The number of acts of intimidation is increasing, Ferrajolo concludes, who has agreed to answer some questions by Ossigeno.
Mr President, in recent years we have registered several acts of intimidation against journalists who cover football. Last of all, is the episode of Vera TV, the station of San Benedetto del Tronto, where a cordon of fans prevented to broadcast a TV show on the Serie B. In your opinion what causes this situation?
There are serious episodes that often go unnoticed because those responsible are the supporters of teams known only locally. In hooligans there is a mixture of exaggerated passion, delinquency and incivility and there is a mix of fans with extremist groups that makes these fringes the most unbearable of support realities. This is a constant in all leagues, from major to minor. Football is played in a rather poisoned climate, marked by strong tensions, which sometimes affect the sportswriters. This happens, but it is important to emphasize that most acts of intimidation against sportswriters do not come from hooligans.
Where do they come from?
Strong and varied pressures come from executives of sport companies that can not stand criticism, nor negative comments. To prevent access to reporters to the stadium and to the stands or provoking antagonizing from the players so that they refuse to grant interviews are subtle and indirect forms of intimidation, and heavy ones at that, since they come from people in “white collars”. The acts of intimidation from the fans are real, I won’t deny it, but fortunately they are not very frequent. The most alarming situations occur in confined spaces such as the cities in the province, where the work of the reporter is more controllable. The President of the Grosseto Football club, for example, denied access to the stadium to three journalists who had criticized his management. Another similar case happened in Messina, where the executive Pietro Lo Monaco has barred entry to the press conference to a few reporters. In these cases USSI stepped in and got two sentences by the sports justice.
Lets talk about the event where journalists are required to have the fan card to get access to the stands. You spoke about it in a statement. Is it a clear obstacle to the exercise of the profession in your opinion?
This is certainly an obstacle to the work of journalists. The USSI had the opportunity to discuss the matter with the Interior Ministry, which, as expected, has recognized that journalists can not and can never be equated to the fans and that companies have no right to claim membership of a supporters’ club to release accreditation. Wherever this happens, it is either because the sports club is not aware of the rules or because behind this request lies the desire to hinder the work of an unwelcome reporter. We recently sent a directive to regional groups of the USSI to remember that journalists have only a duty to disclose their presence for work in order to get from the club a place in the stands.
The Football League, in your opinion, should they do something more concrete against teams who intimidate or discriminate against reporters? I refer in particular to the 1) those who deny accreditation to a reporter after writing an unwelcome article; and 2) those that exclude reporters from locker rooms and training sessions.
I think that the Federation of the Italian Football League of the Serie A, Serie B, and Serie C and the Dilettanti should implement a more determined and more committed policy to remove from the Italian football all the poison there is. It would take initiatives, campaigns of persuasion to make it clear that football, like other sports, is played to enjoy the performance, the show, and not to vent anger, rage, and problems that are strangers in this context. How is it possible to think to exclude journalists from the places where they need to be in order to report news? It happens because some clubs believe they have the right to decide what best suits them. But is not so. The regulations are there and we must respect them, we should ensure a reporter to be able to complete his work. As we have argued with the support of some law firms, when an event of public interest takes place, such as a football match, the right to information should always be respected.
The USSI has always fought, Ferrajolo concluded, so that the seats in the press gallery are reserved only to journalists, who have the duty and the right to inform the public. Ferrajolo concluded that, often, clubs use the seats instead of the stands to give favors to friends.