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Radio Humberside
Radio Humberside

Truce Required In Humberside Row

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 14/08/2006

MR John Fenty, chairman of Grimsby Town Football Club, said in his statement yesterday, regarding the Radio Humberside issue, that he was doing what he considers to be the best for the club. I have no argument with that.

I believe he always tries to do what is best for the club which is why he has every one behind him in his aims.

No one can question his commitment to the club and his plans for the future development of the club as a whole, not just the new stadium, and the many hours, meetings and time he puts in to get the best for Grimsby Town. We would be fools not support him in his efforts.

But the handling of the Radio Humberside/Grimsby Town broadcasting issue has not been, in my opinion, in the best interests of the club.

Being at loggerheads and spit spatting with the local media is of no benefit to the club whatsoever.

Football clubs in particular need a working partnership with the local media with a mutual understanding of each others role. The media are not a part of the clubs promotional or PR contingent. But they do support the club and in their day to day business, provide exposure, and publicity and even creating their own ideas and projects to assist the club. That in itself is worth many thousands of pounds which the club get with no charge.

So the interests of the club must be to maintain that good relationship which Grimsby Town Football Club have had over the past decades.

However, I would not expect the club to maintain that good relationship by selling the club short. No one would expect the club to be fobbed off with a desultory offer for broadcasting rights, which Mr Fenty claims is the case.

Mr Fenty complains of the offer Radio Humberside made for the rights. But Radio Humberside have not made any offers to the club. According to Mr Pattern, in his statement, Radio Humberside suggested a 'ball park' figure, for reduced rights, that could be talked around. That is a usual procedure in these types of negotiations. But no definitive offer was made.

The initial discussion, as that is what Radio Humberside believed it was, was what should have been the first stage. Had Mr Fenty been present at that first, and last meeting, he could perhaps have steered the discussions towards a more satisfactory conclusion and a mutually beneficial agreement.

That did not happen. The club's representatives, Mr David Smith and Mr Ian Fleming, left the meeting without reaching a satisfactory conclusion and no further meetings have taken place.

Subsequent to that meeting the club immediately withdrew access rights from Radio Humberside. And Mr Fenty is complaining about the club being bullied?

Mr Fenty made reference in his statement to 'broadcasting harm over broadcasting gain.'

I agree totally with Mr Fenty's comments about TV coverage of games. They do adversely affect attendance figures but, as Mr Fenty pointed out, the club gain adequate compensation under the TV rights agreement.

But radio commentaries are a different ball game altogether. As a regular user of the Mariners World service since its inception I can assure Mr Fenty that if I was able to attend the games, Burnsie, Tondeur and George Kerr would not keep me away.

But Mr Fenty says;

"Reasonably you could accept that the negative impact on our gates, due to fixtures being broadcasted live could cost our Football Club at least £12,000 in lost gate receipts. This looks a reasonable assessment which would equate to 700 match ticket sales being lost over the whole season."

He went on; " Interestingly, there has been a marked increase in new subscriptions to Mariners World coverage of games, already approaching £2,000 in value. Again this demonstrates the impact of live coverage of games and its affect of reducing the Club's income streams."

I am not going to dispute his figures. But if the commentaries on games are affecting attendances to the extent he says, I suggest he cans Mariners World a.s.a.p.

You cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim damage from one party and do exactly the same to yourself.

Mr Fenty said; "Their offer of £5,000 to include the right to broadcast unlimited coverage of our fixtures, advertising hoardings in key locations at the ground, 4 free tickets per game, a half page advertising in the match day programme and extensive access for interviews."

My understanding is that the advertising hoarding and the match magazine ad was in return for the Mariners World Commentary and a whole sports programme for which Radio Humberside provide free when there is no radio commentary on home games. That is what was reported last season.

The free tickets Radio Humberside use exactly the same way as the club. They use them to promote the club and help create an interest. They give them away during sports programmes, phone ins etc. I would be giving them a dozen a week if I owned the club.

On the current fees being paid to other clubs Mr Fenty said; "Local Clubs are getting between 2.4 times and 7 times more than what's being offered to our Club from the same radio station in spite of us having the second biggest conurbation."

"I have also approached two League 2 Clubs of similar size to ours. Compared to the £5,000 offer one receives 2.4 times more and the other received last season 9.2 times more. One other League 1 Club, I have learned, receives 14 times that on offer to our Club."

Scunthorpe United and Hull City do receive more than Grimsby Town. But not to the limits quoted. Scunthorpe United are in League 1 and Hull City are in the Championship and a higher fee level applies to those two respective leagues. Neither of those two clubs are negotiating new agreements. They are both operating under agreements made almost two years ago. So there is no point in comparing them with Grimsby Town.

The club that gets 14 times more is still operating under their agreement when they were in the Premier League. An agreement that will end shortly.

If we are going to use comparisons, we should be comparing apples with apples.

(When these clubs do enter into negotiations they will do so knowing the Football League have already agreed to reduce their own central fees by 20%. That gives some indication of the current market values.)

Mr Fenty concluded by saying; Should the station wish to sponsor the Club in any other way we would be happy to make a commercial charge, points that I have repeated in writing to Simon Pattern the station's managing editor."

Radio Humberside do not enter into sponsorships. They seek to agree the rights to broadcast football matches on a fee basis.

The only thing that prevented that from happening is that the doors were closed too quickly on the negotiations.

It is never too late. If Mr Fenty wants to do what is best for the club in this issue, all he has to do is sit down with BBC Radio Humberside's chief, forget all that has gone on before and have a friendly discussion to try to bring this issue to a satisfactory conclusion.

The situation as it stands now means that Grimsby Town have not only lost an income source, they have committed to further unnecessary expenditure in operating their own system. That is not a win win conclusion to negotiations. It is a loss for both sides.

That is not "in the best interests of the club."

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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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