Sunday, 7 July 2013

How newspapers can score with kids football

This magazine is my labour of love. Twenty years ago when I shipped up in East Sussex from the North of England I had two sons aged five and six. They were keen footballers, as was I, but the local villages had no junior football club. So, along with another dad, I set one up. Beckley Rangers FC started in 1995. I was secretary from the beginning, until I stood down last year. I coached one of my son's teams through to under 18s and then started again with my youngest. Each year since 1997 I have produced a magazine for the club. This year it is 16 pages and there are 140 copies, one for each player and coach. It contains a pen-portait and picture of every player and full stats. Today, at our end of season awards, each boy or girl will be presented with an engraved trophy and the magazine. It has always struck me that this is what community publishing is really about. Junior sport has the potential to be a huge opportunity for local newspapers. Our club serves just four villages and has around 100 young players. Multiply that by all the villages in the area and there is a large, captive audience ... youngsters who relish seeing their names, pictures and achievements in print. They can get the results and write-ups online through the league websites - but they want something more tangible to keep and to send to granny. So why haven't local newspapers fully got to grips with this? The clubs are run by enthusiasts who are more than happy to supply write-ups, pictures and stats ... they just needed to be told. A few newspapers do it well, more pay lip service and others don't bother at all. When I go to summer tournaments, where there are hundreds and hundreds of youngsters with their families, I have yet to see a reporter, photographer or even a newspaper bill. This, surely, is the essence of local coverage ... and far more compelling than some of the content I see in many a newspaper. 

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