If you wanted to find out results or info about your local team where would you go?
I set up a website – www.sportglos.co.uk – in the summer to try and provide equal coverage for all non-league teams in Gloucestershire, its doing ok and that’s fine but as a football fan I still want to read reports and find out the scores on a Saturday, that’s what it is all about…so where can I go:
The paper? Decreases in pagination means there is less space in the average local daily these days and whatever report is in there can be cut down to a few paragraphs. It isn’t the fault of the sportsdesks, they are dictated to from above – if a paper goes drops pages it is done usually in multiples of eight, sometimes 16 – for the front of the paper four few pages is a hassle but not a massive issue, for sport it can wipe out the coverage significantly.
Furthermore new deadlines and few staff mean sportsdesks are stretched to the max at the moment – midweek games now appear two days after the event around here, the buzz of filing on a Tuesday night, doing half at half time and the rest as soon as possible after the final whistle has all but gone. Still the print the reports and cover as many teams as possible – they are doing their best.
So what about your local radio instead then? There is a clue in the name and you would expect a mention now and the perhaps? A lot of independent stations around the midlands regularly send reporters to games and receive updates.
But the BBC is a bit more hit and miss…
An update on a Monday morning sports bulletin? Ok some of the lower steps of the ‘non-league triangle’ might have to wait until the FA Cup for some ‘Magic of the Cup’ nonsense if they get a good draw.
But if you were Blue Square Regional, the third highest placed club in the county – you could at least expect results every Monday right??
Listeners to BBC Radio Gloucestershire on Wednesday would have heard a mention of the previous night’s Gloucester City match (bearing an uncanny resemblance in the language used to a report from SportGlos – ie the first line almost lifted) in the early bulletin but later reports simply carried the fact that a player had broken his leg, at one point getting his name wrong (it was a stand in presenter in a new patch, I will let her off). As someone connected to the club pointed out ‘they only want to know when something has gone wrong.’ Still at least they mentioned it.
Anyway, I recently offered to supply updates and mini-reports for the BBC – for FREE! Knowing that
a) I am at the matches every week and they are not
b) With the hefty away trips City fans can’t always make it to Hyde/ Workington/ Harrogate etc so there would be an audience happy to have the news
c) There was slim to no chance of seeing a BBC reporter at the games because they too have been hit by the staffing hell and budget cuts which have affected the papers.
I wasn’t expecting to do live commentary of every game – just a bit of team news maybe, an update down the phone at half time and full time, just a bit more that: Workington 2, Gloucester City 1…
My offer was turned down because covering Gloucester City (even if it is done by a volunteer, for free, on an ad hoc basis) would ‘dilute’ the overall coverage because there is not someone at the next club up (Forest Green Rovers) who would do the same.
Now IF FGR had stayed down (technically they were relegated) and IF the two teams had been at the same level (although due to the perverse nature of the FA in different leagues) would this have changed?
We will never know and it is a bit galling for the City fans to see the luxury of a spot on the local news and increased coverage FGR have won through the luck of their reprieve – the last time City were on the local news was during the push for promotion, in a piece filmed in Bristol – but they are in a higher league and that is that. It is even more galling to have an offer of reports turned down, only to hear them cribbing from your report on the sports news a week later…(and I know they didn’t take it from my report in the Citizen because of the new deadlines see above ^ ^ ^)
I know there is a clear hierarchy in the county with the golden giants of Gloucester Rugby and Cheltenham Town dominating at the top (with a bit of county cricket in the summer) but in such a vibrant sporting community in the county not covering one team further down the hierarchy because it might upset the balance is cutting your nose of despite your face a little bit, isn’t it?
Also if one person from City is prepared to help you can bet there is someone at FGR too – they have a press officer and two reporters from local papers, not to mention Stroud FM doing there bit.
And then there is the BBC Charter – I don’t want to come over all Daily Mail here but the licence fee comes with a charter, the BBC’s promise of the service it will provide.
The BBC Trust defines it public purposes as to:
1. Represent the different nations, regions and communities to the rest of the UK.
2. Cater for the different nations, regions and communities of the UK.
3. Bring people together for shared experiences.
4. Encourage interest in and conversation about local communities.
5. Reflect the different religious and other beliefs in the UK.
6. Provide output in minority languages.
- The non-league football community (and indeed the rugby community below national league two) is pretty much untouched by BBC local radio at the moment, which is a real shame when the current FA Chairman Roger Burden is also the president of the Gloucestershire Football Association
- No brainer – a comprehensive match day experience (catering for rugby too as it is equally important to some people in the county) would be hugely popular – Steve Kitchen’s Match Day is good at the moment, if you are interested in Cheltenham Town, but not everyone is. The OTT world cup coverage on the station (see previous blog rant) tried to create a shared experience, thousands watch non-league every Saturday in Gloucestershire and already have that.
- What better local story than the plucky underdogs, who have no home after the 2007 floods (the only ones left homeless still, three years after ‘the day the rains came’) but have still finished with a higher league placing every year for the past five, with a local school teacher as their captain? Who get put in the northern league and have the equivalent travel this season of a round trip to Mongolia? (To which they may well reply, the club on the verge of administration, saved from relegation, chaired by the former MP and potentially saved by an eco-millionaire)
5 and 6 don’t come into it so much….
The whole reason SportGlos was set up was out of the frustration of not seeing Gloucester or Cleeve or Ciren or Shortwood or any of the other non-league sides get a decent level of coverage – ie full length reports, printed as soon as they are ready after a match.
The offer of help to the BBC was perhaps naïve in expecting the free offer of assistance to be snapped up but it doesn’t change the fact the BBC has a charter obligation to cover local communities and it isn’t doing it here…the ‘time and resources’ argument doesn’t come into it when someone else is offering to help.
The BBC website bombards readers with appeals for ‘citizen journalism’ – Plane crash? Were you on it, send us a picture? Ooh coment on this? News happens in a remote area – were you there because we weren’t? etc etc but then the offer to provide such a service is turned down, sometimes it feels like you are banging your head against a brick wall.
SportGlos has been live blogging for Gloucester games so far this season – including updates where possible from other games too – I think we are going to stick to this, the feedback has been good so far, and wait for the inevitable radio piece about the ‘Magic of the Cup’ later in the year….