There has been much chatter of recent weeks around the subject of football commentary on commercial radio here in the UK, with reports of stations such as Radio City and Free Radio dropping football commentaries of their local teams after in some cases decades of regular match day coverage.

The primary factor today with these commercial stations dropping live match commentary is a simple financial decision, the increasing costs of acquiring broadcast rights are judged to be more expensive than the extra audience and commercial income the station will gain from the match commentary. Needless to say there have been some very upset fans disappointed at losing their radio connection to the terraces.

For this instalment of my ‘Sound Archive’ series, we turn the clock back to the start of the 1996/7 season, when the topic of radio football rights was hot, and in this case the fans were up in arms because of commercial radio out bidding BBC local radio stations for football commentary rights.

In this editions of Radio 4’s ‘Medium Wave’ programme, Rogan Taylor, then head of the Liverpool University football research unit, reports on the radio football rights wheeling and dealing of the day.

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The feature analyses commercial radio’s deal with the Premier League for exclusive broadcast rights, BBC Newcastle commentator Andrew Dalby;

“How would you feel if half your Saturday afternoon work had just been ripped out from you…we have a four hour programme on a Saturday afternoon and if Newcastle were playing I’d be providing 90 minutes of commentary…and all of a sudden it’s gone.”

Giles Squire, Metro Radio’s PD, on his station gaining Newcastle commentary rights said it was all about competition;

“Is it a level playing field to fight against a broadcaster who doesn’t have to rely on a commercial income?…where as I have got to make a living, that’s what commercial radio is all about. Our advertisers expect us to to deliver a substantial audience, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

Steve Race, Newcastle fanzine editor, commented on the variable reception of Metro Radio;

“Poor reception is caused by the geographical state of the North East, but really Metro Radio should look into that before deciding to monopolise something that concerns people who don’t just live in the centre of Newcastle.”

Mike Lewis, then Deputy Controller of BBC Radio 5 Live, talked of their exclusive Premier League deal for national coverage which excluded BBC Local stations even taking a feed from the national service;

“It has proven very difficult for a number of BBC local stations, I except that… the success that 5live has had with sport has caused the commercial sector to think ‘this works’ it attracts an audience and therefore commercial radio…have been keen to strike exclusive deals that unfortunately has shut out local radio. It was deemed essential that national radio had a deal to make sure that some part of the BBC did have a deal for coverage of the Premier League football.”

This post is another my Sound Archive series.

Photo Credits:
“Results” by Smabs Sputzer