For the greater good, this dispute needs to be sorted

This is an article that appeared in the October 29th edition of the Staffordshire Sentinel and is OVF’s response to a dispute between the newspaper and the club:

EARLY yesterday morning I was somewhat worried about the storm clouds brewing over Aylesbury as I headed into work.

Little was I to know that a similar metaphorical cloud was lurking over Vale Park after The Sentinel published their report on being banned from the Vale Park press box.

As editor of the Port Vale fan’s website, I know I’m a relatively high-profile supporter.

But when I woke up and dressed for work, I really had no idea that a couple of hours later, I would be called by both The Sentinel and the Port Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite.

I’ve now heard both sides of the story and I think its fair to point out that the Vale chairman denies The Sentinel’s claims.

But before I pass on my opinion, let’s make my position crystal clear.

I’m not writing this because I’m being paid by The Sentinel (I’m not).

Nor am I writing this because I have met their Port Vale reporter Michael Baggaley and found him to be a thoroughly nice bloke (although I have and I do).

And I’ve had a grand total of three phone calls from Norman Smurthwaite since he took over (so I hardly have the ear of the chairman either).

But what I can offer is a Port Vale fan’s perspective – that of a neutral.

As a Port Vale supporter – yes, I really am that one Vale fan – I care passionately about the Valiants and especially issues that I feel can damage the club’s reputation.

It’s with that in mind, I offer my take on this controversy.

It’s difficult to comment on the arguments and counter-arguments made because I wasn’t there when they were made.

I do know one thing – Port Vale needs the support of newspapers like The Sentinel to get its message to its supporters while The Sentinel needs Port Vale because a significant proportion of its readership clearly cares about this club.

As an exiled fan I can perhaps offer another perspective too.

During my travels, I have read many local papers and I can honestly say that The Sentinel is among the very best. I find its Port Vale coverage to be fair and balanced.

And away from Vale Park, The Sentinel frequently shows that it cares about the local area and that it wants the best for the city and its wide community (which naturally includes football clubs like Port Vale).

I simply don’t buy the claim that the newspaper is deliberately trying to damage the club it helped to save only months ago.

But I’m also still grateful to Norman Smurthwaite for buying my club and I want the club to progress under his ownership. He’s always been very straight-forward and approachable with me.

So as I have respect for both sides (and after my bracing walk to work in the October storms) is it any wonder that I feel somewhat battered and bruised?

In many ways, I wish this dispute had been settled without the need for either party to go public.

But who is in the right and who is in the wrong?

Well, I’m sure I will probably be accused of sitting on the fence, but having heard both sides of the argument and not being present during those conversations, who am I to say who is telling the truth and who is not?

With both sides firmly disagreeing with each other, I would be simply engaging in guesswork if I were to take one side’s view over the other.

However, what is abundantly clear is that this dispute does neither side any favours.

Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, I feel it’s important that both parties sit down and resolve this dispute in private.

I also hope that the Port Vale chairman allows Mike Baggaley back in the press box.

This situation also needs resolving quickly and should not be allowed to fester.

I believe that any protracted dispute between club and the local media would damage both Port Vale and The Sentinel and I’m sure that’s something that none of us would want to see happen.

Let’s hope that this storm passes over soon and we can all look forward to some rather more settled weather on the horizon.

Rob Fielding founded in 1996 and he has been a Vale fan for 32 years.

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