x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Mexican football clubs attempt to sideline sports newspaper

All but two of Mexico's Primera Division football clubs act in solidarity with Chivas, whose owner accused Record of "a campaign of hate and abuses".

MEXICO CITY // Nearly all of Mexico's Primera Division football clubs and the Mexico Football Federation have agreed to ban access to one of the country's most important sports newspapers.

An announcement posted on the website of the Mexican federation on Saturday said the football clubs acted in solidarity with Chivas of Guadalajara, whose owner has often denounced coverage by the tabloid Record.

A Chivas statement accused the paper of "a campaign of hate and abuses". It said all 18 clubs agreed to ban the paper's representatives from their stadiums and other facilities.

But two of the league's top clubs distanced themselves from the announcement. Cruz Azul said they was not yet enforcing the ban, and later in the day UNAM Pumas announced they would not go along with the ban at all.

Chivas and Record have had a running battles about coverage. The dispute has intensified recently with poor play by Chivas, who have failed to win any of their first six games in the current league campaign.

Chivas spokeswoman Eugenia Valdez said the club had no comment.

Alejandro Gomez, sports director of Grupo Editorial Notimusa, which publishes Record, said he did not plan legal action to overturn the decision, but said the newspaper would continue to cover football.

"This is dangerous," Mr Gomez said. "Today it was us, but tomorrow any club that is unhappy with coverage of its team can ask for the same thing and the rest will have to go along. It's a shame because Mexican football needs to improve and polish its image instead of taking measures like this."

In a column published on Saturday, Mr Gomez called the action "simple, retrograde and inefficient".

Cruz Azul, a team based in Mexico City, said it would allow the Record access this weekend.

"Since we have not received an official notice yet, we're going to continue as things were," said Manuel Velazquez, spokesman for the club Cruz Azul.

The Pumas team, a Mexico City club associated with Mexico's biggest university, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, known as UNAM, said it would not hinder Record journalists.

"The professional football team of the UNAM has never contemplated the possibility of restricting in any manner the exercise of the freedom of expression," the team said in a statement.

Chivas is one of Mexico's most popular clubs and Record has blamed the team's recent abysmal play on owner Jorge Vergara and his wife Angelica Fuentes, who serves as executive president of the team. It has suggested they have failed to invest in player talent. Mr Vergara said the coverage had prompted death threats against him.

Mr Vergara owns the Omnilife company, which sells health supplements throughout the Americas and in Spain.

Four of the teams in the league are owned by large media corporations that cover sports. Televisa controls Club America and San Luis. Grupo Azteca or its subsidiaries have majority control of Morelia and Jaguares. Televisa also owns Estadio Azteca, the home stadium of Club America and Mexico's national team.