Reach scores own goal by cutting women’s football coverage
NUJ repeats its concern over cuts to sports coverage by the publisher.
Under proposals led by Jim Mullen, Reach chief executive, coverage of women’s football at the company will be significantly reduced at a time where interest in the sport and its popularity among audiences is at an all time high.
This week, Mary Earps, England and Manchester United football player made history as the first goalkeeper to win the coveted Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) award voted for by the public. Despite Earps’ win meaning for successive years women have received the prize, Reach is reducing a team of seven reporters to only two for coverage of all women’s football. The union understands that one of two remaining reporters will contribute to men’s football, reducing dedicated time available to report on the women’s sport.
Chris Morley, NUJ Reach national coordinator, said:
“By opting to dismantle the specialist team assembled just over a year ago to cover women’s football – the fastest growing sport in the country – the company is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
“Mary Earps’ victory in being voted by viewers as SPOTY for 2023 - when fellow Lioness Beth Mead also took the title last year - demonstrates just how popular women’s football is and why it should be a commercial success to cover it.
“The publicly voted awards speak volumes about women’s football popularity- Reach needs to reflect this.”
Public votes for other nominees of the SPOTY award thrust cricket, athletics, golf and equestrian sports into the limelight, despite their consideration by some as ‘minority sports.’ Now more than ever, Reach must recognise the value in ensuring well-resourced teams are able to cover the sports, clearly of interest to the public.
Instead, the company's piecemeal approach to reporting some high-profile sports events fails both journalists keen to report and readers right to expect more from titles.
“This week’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year puts in sharp relief just how out of touch Reach senior editorial executives are with the great British public in terms of what resources they are prepared to commit to non-male football sport coverage.
“What the nominations for SPOTY also show is that the British public care deeply about so called ‘minority sports’, that they are showcased and that they want to know more about them.
“We have consistently said that the latest swingeing redundancies taking place in Reach are retrograde to its editorial output and risk taking the cause of equality and diversity back significantly in popular journalism.
“We are fighting hard to retain as many journalism jobs as possible in Reach and hope the company will take the festive break as an opportunity to pause the cuts to allow a sensible reconsideration of where its priorities should lie.”
This month, MPs expressed their shock at Reach’s plan to cut 320 editorial posts as part of a redundancy round of 450 jobs. The parliamentary event hosted by the NUJ and attended by cross-party MPs and peers garnered support for journalists at Reach left deeply worried about seemingly endless job cuts.