Some Recent Correspondence

Letters to the National Sports Editors
Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The first item is the letter – or one very similar to it depending on recipients – sent to national daily sports editors. The Editors targetted were: –Telegraph Group. The Times, Daily Mail. Daily Express, The Guardian and The Independent.

 

Dear Adam Sills (Telegraph)
I am writing on behalf of a minority sport, but an extremely exciting and dynamic one, which has all but slipped out of sight in the national dailies.
The sport is hockey – or field hockey to differentiate from the version played on ice. Field hockey, is an Olympic sport and was well reported at the time of the recent London Games with every game televised and before record crowds. But despite the Olympic success, with the women winning Bronze and the men reaching the semi-finals, and it being played nation-wide by women, men and children at school, the game is not receiving the coverage it deserves in your esteemed daily paper.

Not so long ago your newspaper had a dedicated hockey correspondent for both the men and women’s games. Today it seldom gives hockey a mention.   I believe that with the inclusion of two or three pieces per week you could, to a considerable degree, bolster the circulation figures of the Telegraph.

It is true that we do not have the cash millions in hockey that soccer has. We do however have a nation-wide network of clubs – 950 affiliated to the national body: the England Hockey Board, sponsored National Leagues and a network of regional and county leagues and it is a very large participation sport for all between the ages of 10 and75.  At international level hockey has World Cups, Continental Cups, a World League competition and, of course, the Olympics with GB and England featuring prominently.

I seriously believe your newspaper would benefit from significant coverage of a largely amateur game as it did in the past with some excellent regular coverage of the game at all levels.  It would be much appreciated if you would review your present policy and look favourably on hockey.

Yours sincerely
Peter Luck (Chairman, Hockey Writers' Club)

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Reply from Daily Mail

Peter,
 
Thank you for the note.
I will give your comments due consideration.
 
Les (Snowden)

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Reply from The Guardian

Dear Peter,

Thanks for you letter. It's an undeniable fact that a lot of sports in a similar bracket to hockey have been slipping off the radar as far as national papers are concerned in recent years.

The reasons for this are manifold but revolve around two major factors: the first is a huge budgetary constriction on just about all sports desks, choking to zero what discretionary spend we once had to pay the sort of freelancers who formed the backbone of coverage for sports such as hockey, ice hockey, domestic basketball etc.

Even were that to be resolved by a frankly unlikely pot of gold, the second factor is more difficult. An avowedly digital-first operation such as the modern Guardian finds its sports coverage hugely driven by web analytics or, more prosaically, what people want to read as evidenced by what we can measure daily.

In earlier days of the web there was a notion that it would be a boon for many minority sports, who's communities could congregate organically around whoever or wherever was willing to provide the coverage. That, sadly, has proved to be a pipe dream.

To give you some idea, our readership breaks down broadly into 65% football, 35% everything else. The expense, both in reporting and production, of covering even relatively popular sports such as rugby league and motorycycling, is becoming increasingly difficult to justify. What is true for those, with well-established, mature audiences, would be doubly so for hockey.

Increasingly we serve a global audience - only a third of our readership is UK-based these days. That audience tends to coalesce around sports with major international profiles - football, cricket, rugby union, formula one, cycling. From my perspective, both commercially and editorially, what resources I have in the medium term are likely to be devoted to improving coverage is those areas.

Sorry if that makes for a grim picture, but I hope you can see the logic.

Best,

Ian (Prior)

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Reply from Telegraph's Daily Sports Editor

Dear Peter, thank you for your email. I am aware of the previous arrangements we had for hockey and it is regretful that we no longer have the budget to fund a dedicated correspondent.

We do try to cover the sport at the most important moments, particularly when England play in tournaments, but we are unable to provide a weekly editorial service on clubs. I hope our results service at least partly makes up for this deficiency.
Kind regards  – Adam Sills

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No reply was received from Simon Rice at the Independent, or Tim Hallisey at The Times.

I did not expect a reply from the Daily Express, as, being the only national daily which does actually have a regular hockey spot, as well on other days if the hockey news demands it, they had a special letter applauding their policy.

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