Opinion: All We Hear Is Radio Scummer or Cherries or Eastleigh or Weymouth

By James Robbins

If I were to speak with the average armchair Premier League fan and tell them about the multitude of issues at PO4 now and then told them to guess the year I would half expect them to say somewhere in the previous decade.

Clearly the Eisners are not in the same league as some of our previous owners, nor is it fair to make that comparison given some of the recent investments which are being made off-the-pitch, like Roko. 

It’s also fair to say we would all like to forget the past 18 months, but they have kept the good ship Pompey afloat with very little revenue being generated.

However, at the time of writing there seems to be a lot of the fans blame for various issues at their door and the wider Pompey hierarchy.

It doesn’t help this season both on-and-off the-pitch the club are in unison – they are both in absolute free-fall. 

There are plenty of issues for journalists to pen opinion pieces on not least the academy, queues, shirts, the leak in the Fratton End roof right above my head which still hasn’t been fixed…

But for me, one of the issues which hurts the most is the iFollow coverage outside the 90-minutes that we have to endure on a midweek match day.

To be clear, this is not the excellent commentary provided by Andy Moon and Guy Whittingham who I thoroughly enjoy listening to – it has crossed my mind whether the club should sell the ear pieces similar to what people have at the cricket so I can listen to their commentary during games at Fratton when the atmosphere is pretty flat. (Open to revenue share negotiations if this idea is pursued!!)

Anyway, for those of us who unfortunately parted with a tenner to watch the game on Tuesday night, at half-time we were treated to the insightful thoughts of Bournemouth’s goalkeeper ahead of their match with Peterborough.

In previous matches our host has been teasing upcoming encounters featuring a Premier League club in-between the two cities.

This isn’t a dig at BBC Radio Solent either who have to serve their listeners across the entirety of their transmission area, not just those in PO postcodes.

The Express-Solent merger in previous seasons shows it can be done, one of the few positives to the matches behind closed doors, was the analysis from the team at Express, particularly the Viking Ryan Stillwell. 

Last season in particular they were able to pick up things we couldn’t see, provide a fresh opinion and educate some people with astute tactical analysis.

As someone who was heavily involved in the production and hosting duties of Pompey Live this is why the coverage is so painful because I still believe us subscribers could get a better experience in terms of dedicated coverage. 

On Tuesday the coverage would be enhanced if Pompey subscribers had been able to get another opinion on the first 45-minutes.

Indeed this was an issue flagged by my Fratton Focus Podcast co-host Stephen Pollard back in the middle of August.

Now some people may argue the money exchanged is just for those 90 minutes, but for me the coverage outside the commentary still carries significant weight. 

Using an extreme example think how many people tune into MNF for Neville and Carragher’s analysis of games. 

In times gone by Neil Allen or Jordan Cross from The News would have provided us with their thoughts on a pretty troubling first half – without wishing to add to their already busy workload why can’t the same thing be replicated now or from someone within the press box?

We have gone from four hours of dedicated Pompey coverage to an afterthought, not helped by Anna Mitchell’s statement at the most recent Tony Goodall Fan’s Conference.  

“We made the decision at the end of the season to switch, as the running order on Express FM and iFollow clashed. We made a great pre-match show towards the end of last season and wanted to integrate that with iFollow, then move across to Radio Solent commentary at kick-off, but the EFL haven’t been able to enable us to do that. What we’ve decided is to meet with Express FM and create a pre-match show in collaboration with them. We’ll stick with what we’ve got at the moment but will switch back when we’ve got that pre-match show up and running.”

So it appears nothing is going to change until the club takes the full match day coverage in house.

Although some of the scheduling may have clashed I assure you we would much rather listen to an advert from one of the city’s taxi companies or that really creepy cat one Express still have if we get seven minutes of analysis, rather than an interview from the Bournemouth goalkeeper.

Given Michael, Breck and Eric Eisner’s stature within the entertainment industry I hoped this was going to be one of the first issues they addressed when buying the club.

Now, Bojack Horseman certainly isn’t to my taste, but, it is undeniable the Eisners can be involved in award winning entertainment content – surely they have the resources and know how to be one of the industry leaders for match day coverage and media output.

However with the ‘in-house’ coverage, there is another issue – If the club is controlling the narrative, how objective can the analysis be?

Will pundits be able to speak their minds and provide us an accurate account of the match or will they be blinkered to spin the truth.

There is absolutely no way a club employee can put their own employment at risk by calling out things which are wrong. 

That independent voice of authority is just so important. 

Even while I was at Express we were constantly having to prove our worth to the club despite great listener engagement with the likes of Martin ’Scoop’ Hopkins, Dave ‘Bunky’ Bowers and Knightsy. 

Clearly there are far bigger issues at the club at the minute, but I just hope we can see progress in this part because there is an appetite for it. 

In the short term it would be a far more enjoyable experience for our iFollow subscribers if we could listen to Liam Howes and the team with Andy and Guy’s commentary rather than an update from the Weymouth manager. 

James Robbins is co-host of the Fratton Focus Podcast streaming on Spotify and Soundcloud.

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