The Fishy - Grimsby Town FC

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When should John Fenty stand down?

End of season
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The BBC Local
The BBC Local

Never Say Never!

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 09/08/2006

THE negotiations between Radio Humberside and Grimsby Town Football Club appear to be in deadlock with both sides failing to reach an agreement on fees for broadcasting rights.

In seeking to clarify exactly what is preventing an agreement to be made we approached Radio Humberside to ask for their comments having seen the club's statements on Mariners Net.

Simon Pattern, the Managing Editor of BBC Radio Humberside told us;

"To be clear, there isn't a dispute between BBC Radio Humberside and Grimsby Town, we simply have not been able to reach agreement on a new broadcast contract.

BBC local radio stations have for many years entered into "Broadcast Agreement" with each of their football clubs. This is in addition to a central contract between BBC Sport and the Football League.

The central contract covers working arrangements between the BBC's various services and the clubs represented by the Football League and sets up a framework of payments that are made to clubs that individual parts of the BBC do not have a local agreement with.

BBC Local Radio stations have sought to secure these local deals in order to make the total cost of coverage more cost effective and to help pull together a consistent partnership to benefit both sides. This makes it more affordable and often the partnership will also include additional programming (like Fans Forums) and a package of things such as competition prizes and some limited advertising at the ground.

The BBC's chain of local radio stations have these deals at most of the FL clubs. At BBC Radio Humberside we have such deals in place for the season ahead with Hull City and Scunthorpe United. We have for many years had such a deal with Grimsby Town too.

This season Grimsby Town have looked again at the value of their sports rights, which clearly it is their right to do. According to the statement on the clubs web site, they now value these at a price which is very considerably more than we have been paying in the last two seasons while they have also been in League Two. All this comes at a time when the BBC is committed to providing better value for money to its license fee payers.

When BBC Radio Humberside met with the clubs representatives to discuss a Broadcast Agreement for the season ahead it became clear that the club was looking for a very large increase in the payment from us. The discussions indicated a new deal might be available at a cost that was equivalent to a 60% increase in price per season to us, compared to our last agreement.

The Clubs representatives talked about a deal that was also significantly different in terms of what it offered in access rights and changes to other parts of the package that the previous agreement had included. We were not prepared to pay such a large increase, especially not for a Broadcast Agreement that was significantly reduced in what it appeared to contain for us. At our discussions no formal offers were made in either direction. We did not get that close in our talks.

To be clear, BBC Radio Humberside did not offer the sum quoted on the Clubs website - we indicated a ball park figure we had mind for our discussions. Neither did we seek "exclusive" rights, we have never done that. The BBC does not look to secure exclusive rights for local radio coverage.

The club did not make a formal offer in return, but indicated the kind of Broadcast Agreement they were thinking about. I think its fair to say that both sides were a long way apart in our respective positions and that is why our talks have not concluded with any agreement being reached between us.

Under the terms of the central BBC Sport/FL contract, we can purchase match commentaries on a "pay per match" basis. Under the strict confidentiality clauses that cover this contract, I am not at liberty to confirm what the charges are. However, I will tell you that paying at those rates would significantly increase our sports costs - which is why, for many years, in common with the rest of the BBC's local radio stations, we have sought to enter into more cost effective local Broadcast Agreement with all our clubs.

As a result, we are left having to take an editorial decision about the level of coverage we can provide on Grimsby Town's games. As we haven't been able to secure the kind of deal that we have had for many years previously, and as the costs to work on a "pay per match" basis are so prohibitive - we have been left to take the sad decision that, for the moment, we won't be able to do regular commentaries on Grimsby's games.

It's something we regret, but as we are responsible for delivering value for money to the BBC's license fee payers, we cannot justify either a 60% increase in payment to the club for a significantly poorer agreement for us, or to meet the increased costs of working on a pay per match basis.

We sincerely hope the club will re-think its position, but we do respect that it is their right to take a view on the value of their sports rights. However, they will only have assessed that value to be right if they can get someone to pay such a large increase." END

In all negotiations such as this one, both sides have a figure in my mind that they are seeking and it would be unusual to reach agreement in the first round of discussion. But the aim is to keep talking in the hope of reaching an amicable agreement which will not give either side all they wanted but something they can both accept to ensure a continuing beneficial relationship.

Have no doubt that the working partnership between Radio Humberside and the club has been mutually beneficial and every effort should be made to ensure it continues.

What concerns me is that the club have appeared to have given a take it or leave it ultimatum with the view that if they cannot get what they want, they will carry on alone. In my experience it does no good to put the other party into a corner they cannot escape from.

Sure the club have every right to ask for an increase and I am sure that Radio Humberside would have expected that. But asking for something that is out of reach is almost certain to bring about a stalemate, which it has.

Not only has it produced a stalemate, it has also brought about a loss of an income source and added further costs to set up a home based service. That, in my opinion, is not good business especially for a club with the financial problems we have had.

But it is not too late to save the day. Radio Humberside are ready to continue discussions, if there is a hope of reaching an agreement. I am sure too that the club would rather continue a beneficial relationship than be at loggerheads with them. All it needs is a mutual understanding of each others position and a willingness to be flexible from both sides.

The golden rule in negotiations is that as long as you are talking to each other, there is every chance of reaching agreement.

I think both sides should get their heads together and get back to the table. They are not enemies, they are both long standing friends and it would be a pity if that friendship was ended by refusing to change their stance.


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This site is by the fans, for the fans, and we will consider articles on any subject relating to the Mariners whether it be related to current news, a nostalgic look back in the past, a story about a player, a game or games in the past, something about Blundell Park or football in general. Click here to submit your article!

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