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Three more regional football journalists leave roles ahead of new season

Michael BaileyThree more leading regional football journalists have left their posts days before the start of the new English season which gets under way tomorrow.

Michael Bailey, of the Eastern Daily Press, and Nancy Frostick, of Sheffield daily The Star, have both confirmed their departure from their respective newspapers in recent days, while the role of Yorkshire Post chief football writer Richard Sutcliffe is currently being advertised after its incumbent “handed in a transfer request” after 15 years.

The English professional league season kicks off tomorrow evening with a Championship match between Luton Town and Middlesbrough, one of 11 clubs covered by Richard in his current role.

The latest departures follow a number of others from regional sportsdesks over the course of this summer as US-based sports website The Athletic prepares to launch a UK version.

As previously reported on HTFP, The Athletic plans to recruit up to 55 journalists in time for the start of the new Premier League football season – with 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 all joining the project.

Rob Tanner, of the Leicester Mercury, Andy Naylor, of Brighton daily The Argus, and Gregg Evans, of the Birmingham Mail, have also confirmed their departures from their respective titles – although all three declined to comment on whether they will be joining The Athletic when approached by HTFP.

Both Michael, who covers Norwich City for the EDP and The Star’s Sheffield Wednesday reporter Nancy have said they would be continuing to cover their current clubs in their new roles.

However Michael, pictured, declined to reveal his next career move when approached by HTFP, while we have also attempted to contact Nancy, Richard and The Athletic for a comment.

Michael, pictured, has spent almost 12 years with the newspaper and its Norwich Evening News sister title.

In a farewell column, he wrote: The good news is I won’t be going far away – but that’s for another day. For here and now, it’s just a big thank you for making my time writing on these pages the pleasure I always hoped it would be.”

In a goodbye Twitter post, Nancy wrote: “Waiting to board a plane seems as good a time as any to share a bit of work news – I’m leaving The Star after a great year with all the team at JPI Media.

“The exciting news is I’ll still be reporting on [Wednesday], but more to come on that soon.”

The Athletic announced earlier this week it had reached 500,000 subscribers to its US operation, with the goal of doubling that by the end of the year, while last week the i reported that UK-based regional sports journalists have been offered double their current pay to join the project.

In a Twitter thread scrutinising The Athletic’s business model following this week’s announcement, Aron Pilhofer, chair of journalism innovation at Philadelphia’s Klein College of Media and Communication, warned that the project may yet collapse under “a ton of debt.”

He wrote: “On the cost side, it has been reported they are up to more than 300 editorial staff now in 50 cities covering 270 teams. Just back of envelope, salaries alone means they are almost certainly losing money, and not a small amount of money.

“If the average salary of an editorial staffer is around 75,000 [US dollars], with benefits you’re looking at $32 million plus right there. That doesn’t include back office, support, tech, sales, travel, and a zillion other costs of doing business.

“The Athletic is fascinating, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a tendency within the business (particularly within business journalism) to focus on short-term revenue and growth without looking at the cost side. And that’s a bit of a problem, I think.

“It’s possible The Athletic does grow into North America’s (and maybe the world’s now that it is moving into covering Premier League) sports section. It is also possible the revenue isn’t there, and eventually it collapses under a ton of debt. We have seen this before.”


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  • August 1, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    It’s like the Rapture, but where god is a yank with a big wad of cash.

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  • August 1, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    I say good luck to them, they are going from a local audience to a global audience.

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  • August 1, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Good for them!
    Good luck to Michael in his new role, a good signing for Athletic and a very big loss to Archant as many only used the sites and bought the papers for his superb NCFC coverage. Even more of a loss considering he won an industry award earlier this year for his digital football reportage, and when ‘clicks’ ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ are your currency Archant must be reeling from this latest resignation.

    When it’s clear there’s no long term future at the main publishers and when the audience for your work is in steep decline and encouraged by the quality of others who’ve signed up ( not forgetting the ££££) anyone with any ambition will seek to move away too…and who can blame them.

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  • August 1, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    All the best Michael, I’m sure your talents and abilities will be properly appreciated at The Athletic where many in thousands of football fans can enjoy your reporting like so many of us do/ did here in the east.

    Worrying that the talent drain continues apace from the aged regionals who having already lost tens of thousands of readers and countless advertisers, really cant afford to lose any more top quality journalists.

    They think it’s all over….

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  • August 1, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    Some of these people are going from a rapidly shrinking audience of about 9,000 readers to a much bigger one. Who can blame them

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  • August 2, 2019 at 9:17 am

    The way football supporters access news about their club has changed immensely in recent years.
    The emergence of social media and well written fan blogs and online sites offering views,chat,opinion and comment, as well as the clubs own official sites keeping fans up to date with club news and comings and goings has resulted in the local paper no longer being seen as the go to source for news about the club any longer.

    Local papers only reheat the clubs own output, never challenging or taking anything other than the official line for fear of upsetting the club and being ostracised so their value to the fan has been hugely diminished.
    Losing a top correspondent like the EDPs Michael Bailey who’d file concise and considered match updates and full time reports was one of the papers last USPs, losing the best staff to a new competitor will be a huge loss to the papers and will no doubt see traffic numbers and viewer figures drop too.

    A wake up call and time for the publishers to reevaluate their role and worth to the local teams fan base in light of more ( better) unbiased and readily available club matters freely available elsewhere.

    My very best wishes to Michael Bailey on his new role


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  • August 2, 2019 at 9:40 am

    A very good point about the ‘unofficial’ blog sites gaining momentum and taking over from the sanitised posts by papers such as the EDP and PinkUn.
    One Norwich fan site is getting far better interviews and 1-2-1 exclusives with players, ex players and even members of the current management team and posting on You Tube with tens of thousands of views and likes by asking the questions and background detail the fans want to know about.

    A papers football club columnist will always want to curry favour and skirt around the real issues for fear of upsetting the perceived ‘matey’ relationship the have with the personnel there hence fan blogs are gaining in popularity and are getting the hits and views the publishers so desperately want themselves by showing them the way to do it and making the papers own club coverage look very outdated.

    A time of real transition and change is happening

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  • August 2, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Michael Bailey is a class act. I feel Archant as a news operation, however, looked the other way when it came to any serious criticism of Norwich City’s controversial new membership schemes.

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  • August 2, 2019 at 10:26 am

    One Time Sub
    Correct and exactly the point I mentioned in my post, they always avoid any controversial issue and so missed a potentially huge story affecting many local people ( club fans) by turning the other cheek rather than tackling the matter head on.
    It further emphasises the points about no longer being relevant to the fan base when the membership issue was raised by supporters organisations and which resulted in a response from and meeting with the club to ( partly ) resolve the matter.

    If they’re not reporting fully on ALL club matters,particularly those directly affecting the fans, they will continue to become less relevant to the fan base, their potential readers.

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  • August 8, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Archibald. I have always suspected that my local paper knew more about a ground sale than it let on. Too close to the club maybe?

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