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The football media we deserve

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“The fact is that over 39 months/editions later I have never had a month where I have broken even let alone made a profit to provide a return on investment for my investor and also a profit to pay back my considerable investment.”
– Soccer Talk Editor Glen Price, issue 39, June 2007

Soccer Talk was a much loved football magazine available in newsagents, bookshops and via subscription. Aimed at football lovers in this country, it covered the local game, the NZFC (now ASB Premiership), the A League, the All Whites, the Football Ferns and overseas club and international football.

The Editorial quoted above was part of a plea. The magazine was obviously struggling to be financially viable and Glen was asking for feedback on how it could be improved so that more people might buy it more often. He couldn’t understand why, in a country with “200,000 people playing, along with countless other non-playing football fans”, he was having trouble selling the 3,000 copies of Soccer Talk distributed each month.

There followed a letter in the following July issue by Paul Gerrard, who had been involved in a previous New Zealand football magazine, Soccer Express, from 1984 to 1992. He reported that Glen’s cry for help had a familiar ring to it. To his knowledge “nobody has made money out of a soccer publication in this country”.

Two months after that, September 2007, was the last issue of Soccer Talk. It folded leaving a considerable debt shouldered by Glen, a loyal football fan, who had lovingly published and distributed all 42 issues of the excellent magazine from home “to provide an independent voice for the game in New Zealand”.

This was at the time, and still is, desperately sad.

Fast forward to 2014, and we are two issues into another attempt at a New Zealand football magazine, FANZ, produced by Friends of Football. It’s online only and free to view. Produced by volunteers in their spare time for the love of the game.

After the first issue these two comments on the Yellow Fever Forum made me sigh:

yf

And then the special commemorative issue put out in celebration of Auckland City FC’s success at the Club World Cup immediately drew criticism on Twitter from none other than Auckland City FC’s PR guy because it was somehow deemed disrespectful to coach Ramon Tribulietx.

If I was the editor of FANZ I’d be wondering why I bother.

The third leg of the treble was just before Christmas, when New Zealand football fans got the worst possible present. TV channel Sommet Sports announced that it would fold with immediate effect. After Sky lost the rights to English Premier League (in addition to ESPN progressively losing rights to European leagues hand over fist for years), Sommet was close to our one and only televised football bright spot with its English Championship and German Bundesliga coverage.

On 19 December a Sommet director posted this on Facebook:

sommet

It had an eerily familiar ring to it.

What realistic hope do we have of resurrecting Sommet via some kind of crowd funding? I desperately miss my Bundesliga fix so want to be able to say there’s a snowball in a chilly bin’s chance in hell but sadly I just don’t see anywhere near enough buzz around the traps for it. Lots of people are saying they would pay to keep it, but nobody appears to be taking the bull by the horns publically at least. Others still are writing it off because it didn’t have the rights to the exact club or league they want to watch.

Many of the comments on the Facebook post are along the lines of “I’ll only pay if you have [insert league here].”

I sincerely hope nobody like Mr Reeves invests too much, if any, of their own money into this because I’d hate to see any more good intentioned football lovers losing their home or bankrupting themselves for the good of our football public.

New Zealand Football fans are champions of the world when it comes to grizzling about how hard done by they are by the lack of media coverage of the sport they love, but sadly they seem to prove time and time again that what we do get is more than we deserve bar a committed, loyal and passionate minority. There’s always an excuse for why whatever is on offer is not good enough for most.

If every New Zealand football fan who loves to complain about the lack of media coverage and games available to watch on TV managed to find the ability to support efforts to give them what they want and/or participate constructively in making things better, we would really be going places.

But history seems to prove that it’s never going to happen.

Categories: Media

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

3 replies

  1. Generally, we get what we deserve, I can recall the soccer annual editor asking that clubs simply fill out stats for players appearances and goals – surely, a great way to publicise your club – it would be the equivalent of the rothmans/sky UK annual football book – but no, a lot of clubs could not be bothered – shame – gone are the days (the 70s) when a national Saturday tabloid (the 8’o clock) would publicise results from senior and junior grades – you cannot expect annual coverage of the chatham cup final as a right on TV as we once had – sure, you can talk about great junior/social playing numbers, but we are a minor sport in a small country – at the end of the day, thank goodness for the internet, because this is where we can follow the sport – and if you are keen on the local version, like I am, do what you can at the grassroots level (for me, it was creating a facebook page) – to others, you can contribute articles,, funds, resources, photos, videos to all the relevant websites/facebook pages – I am happy to be the best kept secret in sports – so whilst the general sporting public are surprised when we do well at the odd FIFA tournament or get caught up later this year for the U20 FIFA World Cup, those of us who follow the code day in, day out know that it is just reward for the thousands who put even more effort into the game than me…..so roll on 2015

  2. Hi Enzo,

    Despite the game’s large rump, it is arguably a tougher gig these days than ever to make a going concern of football journalism.

    When you look at the wider media landscape, ever the daily newspapers are struggling in the internet era when the traditional symbiotic relationship between news and advertising has broken down. Even the likes of the Herald and Fairfax know they have not got a sustainable business model in paying for the cost of news gathering in general these days, and are reluctant to move to a paywall unless all entities, including TV stations, do so.

    Having said that, the business model for football in general in NZ is pretty tenuous. For every person who pays to attend a national league game, they are probably subsidised to the extent of at least another $30 in terms of covering the cost of staging the league (which is literally built on a house of cards through pokie funding). And at regional league level we have completely lost out way – there is now an expectation of free entry, and on the rare occasions when you institute a gate charge of token levels of 30 years ago, the feedback is predictably shrill, even from those who should know better. Unfortunately us football supporters are, by and large, miserable bastards.

    The good news is the more fractured modern-day media landscape gives a nice little window to niche efforts such as yours, with a relatively low-cost set-up compared to a coffee-table publication. But the challenge you will ultimately face is continuing to invest your time freely in a labour of love. Best of luck, because your blog is growing in stature.

    Cordwainer (former contributor to a number of football publications)

    1. Thanks Mr Bull! I agree will all of that. And thank you for your kind words about my blog. I have been making a conscious effort to try to improve my writing in 2015 and hopefully it’s already paying off. No end in sight as far as time or enthusiasm is concerned but my hope is when the day comes for me to stop many others will be doing it here and elsewhere so I won’t be missed. 🙂

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