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More football journalists leave roles as new project gears up for launch

RobTannerThree more leading regional football journalists are leaving their current roles as a new subscription-based football website gears up for its August launch.

As previously reported on HTFP, US-based sports website The Athletic is launching a UK version in time for the start of the new Premier League football season, with plans to recruit up to 55 journalists.

The Liverpool Echo’s Liverpool FC reporter James Pearce, Yorkshire Evening Post Leeds United writer Phil Hay and Express & Star Wolverhampton Wanderers correspondent Tim Spiers are all quitting their posts to take up new roles with The Athletic.

Now three more leading regional football writers have announced they are leaving their respective newspapers – Rob Tanner of the Leicester Mercury, Andy Naylor of the Brighton Argus, and Gregg Evans of the Birmingham Mail.

All three have declined to comment on whether they will be joining The Athletic when approached by HTFP, as has The Athletic itself.

However all three have also have made clear that they will be continuing to be closely involved with their current clubs – namely Brighton and Hove Albion, Leicester City and Aston Villa – in their new roles.

Andy tweeted: “All good things come to an end. I’ll be leaving The Argus soon after more than 32 years. It has been a privilege, an extraordinary journey from near-oblivion to the PL.

“Suffice to say, for now, Albion will remain a big part of my professional life in an exciting venture.”

Gregg also made clear he would be continuing to cover Villa in a tweet published on Tuesday.

He wrote: “My last day at Reach plc after 11-and-a-half years. Thanks to Birmingham Live and Solihull News for the memories but an opportunity has opened up to cover Aston Villa in a very exciting new way. More on that later.”

Rob, pictured above with the Premier League trophy won by Leicester in 2016, announced his own departure at the end of a Q&A with readers last week focusing mainly on whether star defender Harry Maguire would remain with the club.

He wrote: “I have experienced so much, from the play-off heartaches to the promotion parties, the great escape to the title win, the Champions League adventure to the helicopter tragedy. It has been quite extraordinary and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to document this astonishing period in the club’s history for the local paper.

“On that note it feels fitting to now say goodbye as I leave the Mercury to pursue a new challenge. I won’t be going far and you will still see me at City games, but for now, thank you and good luck City.”

Rob, who wrote a book entitled 5000-1 about the Foxes’ Premier League triumph, has since penned a lengthier farewell piece recalling his time covering the club and the various managers he has worked with, including Sven-Goran Eriksson, Nigel Pearson and Claudio Ranieri.

The Athletic told HTFP it will not be revealing the names of its new team until the launch, expected to be early next month in time for the new Premier League season.

A spokesman said: “At this time, I can tell you that we are building a line-up of the most talented and connected football journalists across the UK but we will wait to unveil the team until we launch.”

It has previously stated that its plans include not only comprehensive coverage of every Premier League club, but also highly localised football reporting beyond the top flight

UK subscribers are expected to be asked to pay around £8 a month to access the new site and it is thought that this will also enable them to access the American content.

Meanwhile the Birmingham Mail has already announced Gregg’s successor as Aston Villa reporter, Ashley Preece,

Ashley, who began his career on the Great Barr Observer and Tamworth Herald, has worked for the Mail and its companion website as a news reporter for the past 18 months.

Football editor Mat Kendrick said: “First and foremost Ash is a brilliant journalist. From seeing his work as a news reporter at close hand across the office, it was obvious he has the talent and tenacity to get stories.

“He really has been the star of the newsroom and I am confident he’ll transfer those qualities to covering Villa.”

11 comments

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  • July 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm
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    Apart from the London area (extending to Watford), where clubs who are covered by the national rather than the local press, that leaves Bournemouth, Burnley, Everton, Newcastle, Manchester City, Manchester United, Norwich, Sheffield United and Southampton as the 2019/20 Premier League clubs still to have dedicated writers on The Athletic. Presumably therefore this latest set of appointments won’t be the last.

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  • July 11, 2019 at 4:15 pm
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    The experienced Andy Naylor will be such a big loss to the Brighton Argus, as I am sure the others will to their papers. But with a paper audience of about 10,000 instead of the Argus’s peak 100,000 plus who could blame him. Good luck to them all. It’s the future.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 11:11 am
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    Good luck to these journos on their new adventure.
    I assume they have moved for the money, as they are bound to lose many of their regular followers and their expert opinions will be heard by a very small audience.
    Why should footy fans subscribe to The Athletic when they can obtain FREE info about their club from numerous sources – club websites, newspaper websites, fans forums, Sky Sports and BBC to name just five? And, for a few pence more, they can read all about it in the regional and national papers, whose coverage of the Premier League is at an all-time high,
    And certain USA-based media companies are well known for their ruthlessness in cutting back and making redundancies.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 11:32 am
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    Good luck, I hope it works out and lasts, but it will need to make a lot of money just to break even.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 11:37 am
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    Andy Naylor and the others will be a big loss. However, the men and women who come in to do the jobs can/will have fresh eyes and probably new ideas. If they do the job as well as Andy — and perhaps better — nothing is lost for the Argus and other regional titles.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 11:47 am
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    @David Wright – given that Newsquest made its long-serving York City reporter on the York Press redundant and replaced him with someone of limited experience, there are no safe jobs in the regional press now, so I can’t blame anyone for moving.
    @Ex-regional journo – Indeed. I imagine Andy Naylor will be replaced by someone of a similar background. A nice, cheap move for Newsquest, as I imagine Mr Naylor was on a pay scale which no longer exists for anyone else. But never mind Birmingham, look at Manchester, where the appointments being made are not in the same league as David Meek or Stuart Mathieson in terms of experience. And before the Reach suits respond, these are jobs which require you to cut your teeth elsewhere first. Once you’ve been banned by a non-league club or had someone from the lower leagues screaming down the phone at you you’re ready for anything.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 1:56 pm
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    @One-time sub: Not just York. Anthony Smith, who covered Reading FC for three decades for the Reading Chronicle, also made redundant by Newsquest.

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  • July 12, 2019 at 3:59 pm
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    David Wright. good points. but writers like Naylor are already seeing very small audiences in paper and online. In some cases regionals with a population approaching 2million sell just 10,000 copies a day average. Pretty slim pickings compared to even 10 years ago, let alone peaks of 100,000 plus.

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  • July 15, 2019 at 2:26 pm
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    I wonder. Have all the papers announced this news to their readers/clickers? It is of course a matter of public interest.

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  • July 15, 2019 at 3:03 pm
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    Credible, well respected regional football writers leaving the traditional publishing groups to join a wholly new venture tells us a lot about the perceived prospects of a long term career in local publishing.

    Copy sales and reader numbers are falling while online traffic increases and with no one exempt from the chop when savings need to be made,many of the best writers are realising the future of football journalism is no longer in a local daily so are leaving (often well paid jobs ) and taking their large number of online followers with them.
    When you consider how quickly the ongoing decline is happening and how volatile every position is you really can’t blame them.

    Treading water and hanging on in there until it’s time to retire or a redundancy offer is made is no longer a sensible strategy with so many top notch journalists out there and so few journalistic opportunities presenting themselves.

    Good luck to those already on board, there’ll be more announcements of other big names joining them I’m sure.

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  • July 15, 2019 at 3:25 pm
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    @ From The Bridge – that one had passed me by, although I do now remember a story about the same person having to cover Reading and Wycombe Wanderers. From a logistical perspective this is lunacy. Coverage at the best of time is now going to be limited to online scrapings.

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