The Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Imo State Chapter has commended the Governor, Ikedi Ohakim for his relentless effort in supporting the state team, Heartland FC of Owerri which saw them bounce back to winning ways in their CAF Champions League campaign this season.
In a press statement signed by its chairman, John Nwogu and Secretary, Ifeanyi Emesonwu on Friday, the group however, decried the poor treatment being meted to SWAN members who cover sporting events at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri.
According to the statement, it was the governors prompt intervention through the release of fund for the settlement of players sign-on fees and allowances, that enabled Heartland over-run Monomotapa of Zimbabwe with a 3-1 victory last Sunday in a CAF Champions League group match.
SWAN said since Ohakim came into office, he has continued to show interest and commitment towards the affairs of Heartland which is the main reason the team has been posting good results and also gaining new international fame and status.
But the group noted with disgust, the manner in which sports journalists who came to cover football matches and other sporting events at Dan Anyiam Stadium are usually harassed, intimidated and sometimes, obstructed from carrying out their assignment by over zealous security men posted at the gates of the stadium
The group claimed that the same manner in which journalist that came to cover the FA Cup semifinal matches at the stadium about three weeks ago, were frustrated for about half an hour before they were granted entry into the stadium, security men at the gates again denied journalists who came to cover Heartland FC versus Monomotapa Utd FC entry into the venue.
According to SWAN, many sports journalists who were duly accredited and who wore accreditation tags that carried both the insignia of Heartland and the Government House, Owerri, were barred by the gate men from entering the stadium and not even the intervention of Heartlandâ€™s Media Officer, Cajetan Nkwopara who came to identify the press men, could sway the security men.
The gate men in addition to the tags, demanded that the journalists should present complementary tickets before they would be allowed in saying it was an order given to them (gate men), by one of the executive assistants from the government house.
According to SWAN, it took a greater intervention by the Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Hon. Tony Uzoukwu when the game was almost underway, for the gate men to allow the members into the stadium.
Explaining that sports and especially, football is a well acknowledged media event, the group warned that it would ask its members to boycott future activities holding at the stadium if nothing was done to redress the situation.
SWAN also complained that Heartland have failed to toe the line of other teams and as stipulated by the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) rules, to travel on away matches with a media officer and other press men for proper reportage of the games.
It said the above few examples were indications to the fact that some people who have influence within and around the club, do not appreciate what the media has been doing for Heartland.