At the company I work for, we have a website called Football.London. We launched it at the start of 2017. We consider it a success. It’s profitable, growing rapidly and drawing in a loyal audience. It also tries to be different, and mix what we know works elsewhere in the country with new ideas. In short, we think it’s a success.
But success drawn from trying to be different often comes with criticism. And football.london is no exception.
While on holiday, I read that a former journalist at the company, and ardent Brentford fan, had taken issue with the fact that there was no local media in the press box for Championship side Brentford’s opening day fixture against Rotherham.
Jim Levack lamented on Brentford fan site Beesotted:
It’s a damning indictment of the lack of investment in local and regional media, but also a tragedy for the club and its fans at a time when the side’s potential has never been greater.
Trinity Mirror, owners of the Chronicle for which I was proud to work for almost two decades, have pulled the plug on anything worthwhile journalistically… and it breaks my heart.
The company, now well advanced down the insulting and loyalty losing clickbait route, are far from the only guilty party though as cost cutting and clickbait copy take precedence. And I’m sure – in fact I know – their journalists are as frustrated as I am by the cuts.
I’m a great believer in accountability and genuinely feel that had there been a strong local media presence in Kensington, the views of the families living in Grenfell Tower whose pleas for help fell on deaf ears would have been picked up and taken higher.
Football clearly isn’t as important as life and death despite what Shankly once said, but it’s a terrible shame that the once vital local reporter no longer exists at Griffin Park.
That’s right, a new football website, employing 16 people with more to come, which is profitable, and which didn’t exist 18 months ago, is somehow painted as an example of lack of investment in the regional press.
The Grenfell line – which also overlooks the fact Kensington and Chelsea Council threatened legal action against the bloggers who did raise concerns about the tower block, thus suggesting they did know about the concerns but were more interested in closing discussion down – ensured the blog post became news first on Press Gazette, which highlighted the ‘lack of investment’ claim, and then the next day on the Hold the front page, which rightly spotted something to feed its grumpy commenters with.
So what’s the background to football.london? Is it all about taking cost out and providing clickbait, as Levack suggests? The fact I’m writing this blog suggests not, so here goes: