Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Champions of junior sport?

It was our football club's presentation day this month. Beckley Rangers FC was formed 15 years, ago by me and Phil Brain so local children, including our sons, could play organised football. At the awards day each player received an inscribed trophy and a magazine that includes their picture, playing record and a brief write-up. I have been producing the magazine for 12 years and it has become a memento for a generation of footballers. It's easy to do ... and could be a rich vein for local publishers. There are 60 plus players in our village. Replicate that across the county - and then the country - and you have an awful lot of interested families. During the close season there are scores of tournaments. The local newspapers aren't there, not even a bill saying the results will be in on Monday. Why on earth not? Covering junior sport properly - names, scorers, pictures, league tables has to be a reason to buy the paper. Yes, the leagues have their own websites and there is But you can't cut them out and send to granny. I recall Mark Sweetingham, editor of the Romford Recorder, telling a conference that his 20 pages of junior sport - treating kids like Premiership stars - had led to a colossal sales rise. Some newspapers take it a step further organising events around local sport. The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards are a triumph. 700 people turn up to pay tribute to “unsung heroes” and “leading lights”. The Leicester Mercury Sports Awards are also prestigious event. Isn't this the essence of what local newspapers should be about - reflecting the success and achievements of local people, offering genuine reasons to buy the paper, appealing to a generation of non-newspaper readers? The irony is that it doesn't have to be labour-intensive. There are scores of enthusiastic club secretaries, myself included, who would supply all of this as a labour of love. It must be a more valuable use of space than the 'what's on' entries purporting to be news stories, the recycled press releases and the often banal community correspondents. 

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