Should reporters have access to the locker room?

Aron Winter, the new head coach of the Toronto Football Club, doesn’t think so. On April 2nd, reporters at the BMO field were greeted by a note on the dressing room door. It read, in part:

“When I was hired in January, I committed to changing the way the team plays and the mentality of my players, but also [to] create a real football environment … Outside of North America the press does not have access to the locker room. I believe that is a sacred place and a safe place for the players to be and that is why I have chosen not to open the locker room.”

He then goes on to write he knows “may be an adjustment period with some journalists” but assures reporters players will be available under a “different configuration that I feel is safer for everyone involved.” He doesn’t elaborate on the suggestion that locker room interviews are somehow unsafe, or dare we say dangerous.

While some fans supported the move (including Toronto FC Supporters Group The Northend Elite, who wrote a letter to the Major League Soccer organization saying, “Many times it seems the press are more interested in reporting any issue that is deemed controversial and almost every bit of news is portrayed in a negative manner.”), reporters, needless to say, did not.

One TSN and CBC Sports reporter tweeted (in two 140 character parts): “Players and coaches need to be as accessible as possible so that fans can connect with them. Better access = better coverage. Players can hide from the media in the dressing room if they want to. Just go and sit in the bath for an hour.”

It seems MLS commissioner Don Garber agrees. On April 7, Garber told the Canadian Press that the Toronto FC must follow league policy and open its locker room doors to the media, beginning with its next game.

Garber’s reasoning:

“We recognize that many coaches come from a European environment where there’s less access to the locker-rooms because that’s the culture. Well, that’s not the culture that exists in North American sport. One of the great aspects of our industry is the symbiotic relationship that exists between the media and pro sports teams. It’s a partnership, together, to grow the game.”

And so, Garber has swooped in to save sports reporters with relative ease — but will it be enough to put the reporters-in-locker-room debate back in the bag?