As the football season gets under way and the struggle for
silverware begins, there’s an equally fraught struggle kicking off in
the media world - the competition to provide the best football coverage
possible and thus secure the best available audience. Most media - Sky,
the newspapers, the BBC, even internet companies - have reserve
editorial to fill in the gaps if the soccer’s poor but at the heart of
this battle are the football magazines, and they have nowhere else to
These are tough times for magazines like Shoot, FourFourTwo, Match of
the Day and team titles like Manchester United and Chelsea. As the
appetite for football coverage increases, competition increases. Each
time a new medium is launched, sports coverage always seems to drive it
Sky sold dishes on the back of the Premier League and many of the most
successful internet sites are sports-related.
The internet is piling on pressure to such an extent that when Zone
Publishing - credited by many for inventing official club magazines -
recently sold its club titles, including Manchester United and Chelsea,
to Future Publishing, it insisted on retaining the internet rights.
The football magazines are besieged on both sides. While the pressure on
their readership has increased, the football clubs themselves remain
uninterested in building PR links with the media. Indeed, they seem
keener on banning journalists from their grounds than building links
with the press. ’Football club PRs are about blocking your access to the
manager rather than getting you an interview,’ says one soccer title
The influx of sponsorship money in recent years has meant that magazines
have a new route to the players - the sponsors’ desire for
’We found men’s magazines began to circumvent the obstacles cricket
clubs had in place by coming to the players through Vodafone,’ says Andy
Kenny, senior account manager at sports PR agency Craigie Taylor.
Craigie Taylor manages Vodafone’s cricket relationships and was key in
securing the firm’s Manchester United sponsorship last February.
’The soccer magazines have wised up to this and they’re approaching the
sponsors,’ he explains. ’It’s a virtuous circle. They get access to the
players they want, the players get to increase their profile and the
sponsor gets coverage.’ Magazines are thus changing their relationship
with the PR industry. Whether this will guarantee success remains to be
seen. After all, media is a game of two halves.
CHELSEA - Alex Leith
Publisher: Future Publishing
’We’ve had a redesign since I took over in February, cutting back on
text, changing the masthead and so on. That’s been part of an overall
editorial shift to deal with the market downturn.
’I deal with PROs a lot at the moment. But the magazine itself is
probably moving away from that so I expect my contact to diminish.
’PROs can be helpful or awful. It’s irritating when you turn up to a
launch and there are three footballers and 100 journalists. The
footballers get harassed and the journalists get awful interviews with
no exclusives. PROs should read the magazine before ringing so the story
is relevant to us.’
BBC MATCH OF THE DAY - Tim Glynne-Jones
’Although we are a BBC magazine, we have looser links with our programme
than the others. When the BBC loses Premiership rights at the end of the
season, it won’t affect us.
’The PR industry surrounding football is not very helpful, not in the
same way that music, film or fashion PROs can be.
’Footballers get their wages from the club and their careers progress on
results, so having a media profile is not really important. If we want
to interview a player, we are put on a list for the next time he’s
giving interviews, usually when he’s got a new boot to promote. That
makes it hard to plan the magazine.’
SHOOT - Colin Mitchell
Publisher: IPC Media
’Shoot is trying to change subtly so we don’t alienate current readers
while we bring in new or lapsed ones.
’The title’s aimed at eight to 14-year-olds but lots of our readers are
older. The son buys it but dad reads it.
’The market is changing and the boot or shirt companies are becoming the
players’ agents in many ways. For access, it’s better to go through
’I’m interested in talking to PROs about access to players meaning
access to the product for our readers. But we are promised interviews
with players and end up with two minutes with each one. How can I honour
my side of the bargain if that happens?’
FourFourTwo - Michael Hann
’We get interviews through shirt sponsors, because it’s the only way to
get them without paying. Some clubs’ relationships with the press are
the worst in journalism.
’We had a woman journalist trying to get a press ticket for a game at a
club she supported. When she revealed she was a fan, the bloke in the
press office said ’you sound more like an Arsenal fan to me love,’and
refused to give her a ticket.
’Everton has a very good press service and Huddersfield is really
But most of the time, you usually find that the press officer is some
bloke who’s been hanging round the club for ages so they give him the