Spiers phoned Steven Thompson to arrange an interview for his column in The Times.
He didn’t phone Thompson’s employers at the Herald, where Thompson has a regular column. This is something journalists do as a matter of professional courtesy – why would a newspaper pay for a columnist only for him to give free interviews to a rival without permission? It’s a well-established point of journalist etiquette.
During the interview Steven Thompson said he watches up to 60 games a week – and even on a Saturday when he is in the studio he would watch six matches. At the end of the interview, and clearly jocularly he quipped ‘I don’t like watching football.’ Spiers included that line but did not make it clear it was a joke. Nor did he include the substantial quotes about 60 games a week and six on a Saturday.
Because Spiers didn’t contact the Herald and the article stated they had a columnist who didn’t like football, they were less than pleased with Thompson and sacked him from the column.
The BBC hierarchy themselves were originally upset after receiving emails and tweets complaining that a man employed by the licence fee payers had said he didn’t like watching football. However, knowing how Spiers operates they accepted Thompson’s version of events.
Thompson was absolutely flummoxed by Spiers omitting all his quotes about watching so much football. After he was axed by the Herald he called Spiers – Spiers just babbled incoherently claiming he and not Thompson was the victim.
Such is the state of the Scottish football media there are suspicions amongst the press pack that Spiers used Thompson as a fall guy to get back at the Herald for booting him out two years ago for his unprofessional practises.
As for the BBC – executives are giving the line out that they are relaxed about the incident as Spiers very rarely appears on serious sports shows. He’s confined to bit parts on the likes of Off The Ball and chat shows.
Part of the fallout for the Times newspaper and Spiers is that as his reputation sinks further into the gutter it’s harder and hard to justify his position, or for him to get senior figures to interview as fewer and fewer are minded to trust him. It’s the latest episode in the downward spiral of his career which has featured such moments as offering sympathy to a Hearts player placed on the sex offenders register.