Media review

Until this season, I held the misguided and naive belief that the proportion of media coverage each football team received was related to their standing on the league ladder. Back in those heady Premiership days, it was not unusual for news of City to feature prominently in national newspapers. Remember when a Stan Collymore dressing room prank ended up on the front page of the Sun? As City have fallen down the leagues, national newspaper coverage has inevitably dipped. These days, were lucky to receive a 50 word match report in the Sunday tabloid papers.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule of how much media coverage a team receives in respect to the division they are in, such as big clubs falling on hard times. Nottingham Forest’s bumbling attempts to get out League One have filled many column inches while Man City’s slump to the old Division Two nine years ago could not be ignored. But it’s the coverage of another big club’s demise to the third tier of English football that is bothering me.

Of course the summer events at Elland Road meant that media coverage of Leeds United was higher than usual. Whether the 15 point deduction they were handed was fair is a matter of opinion, but their response so far this season has been extraordinary. Yet the amount of coverage their efforts are receiving is starting to annoy me, especially locally.

Covering the whole region, the Yorkshire Post has a lot of football teams to report on. Inevitably the Yorkshire teams in the Championship are awarded the most column inches, but matching and often beating them is the coverage awarded to Leeds. The editor and journalists seem to have ignored that Dennis Wise’s team are in the bottom two divisions and give major coverage to everything they do. With only a handful of sports journalists, the paper relies on the Press Association for a lot of its weekend match reports and sends their reporters to selected games. They nearly always have a reporter at the Leeds match; no other local League One team receives such attention.

Last week was a good example. In Tuesday’s edition there was a lengthy story about Leeds’ decision to loan out midfielder Shaun Derry – I don’t remember Lee Crooks’ loan from City to Notts County a couple of seasons ago receiving such attention. On Wednesday there was a large match report on Leeds’ FA Cup defeat to Hereford the night before. Fair enough with little else going on, yet on Thursday there was another lengthy piece about why Leeds’ shock exit was a good thing and Dennis Wise was upbeat about it. Why are the Elland Road outfit awarded this degree of coverage? There was no story in Thursday’s edition about Rotherham’s more shocking FA Cup exit.

Undoubtedly what’s happened to Leeds has made an interesting story (and quite an amusing one at times to us City fans) but I believe the Yorkshire Post’s fixation with everything going on at Elland Road, while ignoring most other local clubs, is down to ensuring they don’t upset their readership. Clearly there are a lot more Leeds fans than any other club in the region and so are buying their paper, but surely there should be a little more balance?

BBC Radio Leeds has taken a similar stance. For years they have split their coverage of the West Yorkshire clubs over two frequencies – FM for Leeds United and MW for everyone else. In the past this can always be justified by Leeds being in a higher division than the rest, but this season they are at the same level as Huddersfield and the station has continued as they were. It would be interesting to see what they would do should Town go up, Leeds stay down and City go up this season. Though I get the feeling nothing would change.

With the excellent Derm Tanner, Radio Leeds’ coverage of City is still largely good (providing you have a digital radio) but there is no doubt the station suffers from not having a regular co-commentator for every City game. John Hendrie is there for home games and he is very interesting to listen too, away from home Derm is often on his own which must be hard work and isn’t as interesting. In this respect, Pulse Gold Sport are ahead with Ian Ormondroyd assisting Tim Thornton with commentary, although I find them frustrating to listen too as they can be extremely critical of City’s performances. They remind too much of other fans I sit around at VP, who moan at everything and look for fault. I listened to Tim interview Stuart McCall after the Chester league win and he was bursting with pride for Stuart getting the win, obviously no runs in as yet a-la Todd last season!

In my view, local football has suffered from ITV’s questionable decision to reduce the budget for regional coverage in the last few years. In the past we had the excellent Goals on Sunday with highlights of a local game every week, plus Football league Extra in the early hours of Monday. The Sunday morning Championship programme is fantastic and, like it’s predecessor Football League Extra, is the best produced ITV football show, but the loss of ‘Goals on Sunday’ still feels sad.

Instead we now have the Thursday evening half hour programme Soccer Night. I’m left confused and angry as to why, every year, the new series of this begins months into the football season. This year it returned at the beginning of November. I look forward to this show every week as it’s an all too rare opportunity to watch local football, though I stupidly always forget how bad it’s going to be.

Presented by Andy Townsend, a massively underemployed ITV pundit with no relevance to Yorkshire football whatsoever, the show usually devotes little air time to the region’s teams. Last Thursday’s edition began with a ten minute chat about England’s Euro 2008 qualifying defeat the night before. Yes this is interesting, but it was receiving huge coverage every where else. This slot is supposed to be for local football!

Not for the first time they had invited a guy called Mike (a TalkSport presenter) as a guest. He seems to go out of his way to offer ‘controversial’ opinions. Townsend asked him what he thought of Leeds being 4th in the league, Mike replied that it was disgraceful that they and Forest were in League One and declared that a new rule should be brought in where, if a big club finishes in the drop zone, their relegation is cancelled if the club due to take their place has a smaller fan base. Ignoring the sheer idiocy of such a view, didn’t anyone on the programme consider how offensive this might be to supporters of other clubs watching? What about Scunthorpe United fans, whose team replaced Leeds United in the Championship this season? Townsend just nodded along as though he agreed!

Also sitting on the Soccer Night sofa each week is Peter Beagrie. Much as I love our former hero, he seems to be one of a new generation of football pundits who look comfortable on camera but say nothing of value. On Thursday, Townsend asked Beags about City’s season so far. After stating he thought his mate Stuart had been mad to take the City job, he explained that he hoped City would get some investment next season as ‘not a lot of people know that Julian Rhodes is keeping the club going on his own’. He then ‘revealed’ City have one of the smallest squads in the division! At this point I was searching around my room for something to throw at Beags, for talking garbage on my TV.

If Beags had done his homework, or talked to his mate, he would know that City now have investment from Mark Lawn, a guy who recently stated that City need to trim their squad as it’s too big! I find it really frustrating that this half hour weekly slot to cover local football is wasted by this awful programme. The views expressed lack any research or thought.

Although at least they ignore Leeds United as much as the rest of the region’s teams.