Oliver Holt has posted a damning assessment of Bayern Munich's decision to ban the Mirror from covering Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg with Manchester United.
Published on the morning of the return encounter, Holt rips into the German club's decision to punish a headline they called "disrespectful, discriminatory and personally insulting," per his article.
Neil Henderson of BBC Sport posted the offending headline:
Holt explains the quip "is, apparently, a grave insult" in Germany before saying the headline writer's "ignorance is no defence." He confirmed an "apology was not accepted," despite The Sun having its ban overturned after issuing a formal acknowledgement of regret.
It is made clear the headline was written for an English-speaking nation, an "attempt at a basic pun" that was designed for the local audience to instantly understand. Holt compares the headline to a potential equivalent for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, saying the paper wouldn't try to suggest the Swede is unclean if they ran "You Dirty Zlat!"
Comparisons are then made to a particularly famous scene from Downfall, a clip that has gained Internet notoriety after many YouTube users altered Adolf Hitler's emotional speech to fit an array of humorous situations. Holt asks if it should be considered offensive for viewers to laugh, or if the videos should be seen as a jovial reworking of a sensitive subject:
Is it offensive for us to laugh at the conceit he might be ranting about Sheffield United’s relegation at the hands of Wigan Athletic?
Are we pathetic to find humour in the idea that he is screaming: “And to make matters worse, it’s Unsworth who scores”?
And should we have taken offence when Germany nicknamed Franz Beckenbauer Der Kaiser?
A po-faced reaction would be that that was an insult to the millions of English soldiers who lost their lives in the slaughterhouse of the First World War.
Holt also makes reference to Spanish paper AS, who failed to give Marouane Fellaini's performance a mark out of 10 after deeming his display too poor. "That’s fairly offensive to Fellaini, isn’t it? Not very nice of our Spanish colleagues," he writes.
Interestingly, Holt confirms the Mirror will not back down from its coverage. He stated he is heading to Munich on Twitter, suggesting the group will be present in some capacity throughout the game:
At Heathrow for flight to Munich. Huge task ahead for Manchester United but they showed in first leg they're capable of a surprise— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) April 9, 2014
Holt concluded his report reinforcing this point, ending his column with a final dig at the European champions:
One way or another, the Mirror will report on the game this evening.
It’s only a football match, after all, which makes it even more of a shame that Bayern are using it as a petty, petulant assault on press freedom.
Many journalists praised Holt's response on Twitter, including Sky Sports' Graham Hunter and David McDonnell, one of the individuals to have his accreditation revoked after the aforementioned headline:
Holt's report certainly provides some clarity to an otherwise odd situation. His insistence that the Mirror apologised is sure to force many into agreeing with his stance that Bayern have acted beyond the realms of normality by enforcing a ban.
It's intriguing to see whether the Bundesliga club issue a response to Holt's piece, and indeed, if they will eventually allow the publication into the Allianz Arena for a key clash in the European calendar.