Welcome to the Veg-ch Field!

Bloomin' great idea. Swansea Councillors allow Vetch to be turned into allotments

It’s straight out of a scene from the Good Life. Part of Swansea City’s legendary old ground, the Vetch Field, is set to be turned into an allotment to encourage urban gardening.

Unable to find a buyer for the former stadium during the economic crisis, Green Party councillors have persuaded Swansea Council (the current land owners) to open up a section of the pitch to allow residents to plant runner beans, carrots and cabbages there until a developer can be found.

A council spokesman said: “We have agreed that food growing areas can be set up in the short-term at the Vetch but this is a temporary measure pending redevelopment of the site.

“The temporary project will give people the chance to enjoy exercise and nature whilst growing their own food and will also allow education on environmental issues such as recycling and sustainable drainage.

“It will be a demonstration project that will raise awareness of the potential for community food growing across the city.

Whilst the city aims to cash in on the financial fortunes of the promotion of the Swans, the economic downturn has been blamed for lack of interest from developers in the old ground.

There were plans for 120 homes, a play area and a community centre but they have not progressed.

Swansea currently has about 320 allotment plots on 15 sites across the city but there are over 300 people on a waiting list.

Do you think this is a bloomin’ great idea? Should other old grounds be gicen up in the same manner?

Keep DataCo or lose 10 Scottish League football clubs – the decision is yours

How the newspapers overcame a recent photo ban at Southampton. Could we be seeing more of this soon?

Yet again, the press and the football industry find themselves at war over the controversial DataCo licensing agreement. Those following Twitter or people that always keep an eye on the press box during a match would have noticed a few empty spaces as clubs started their League campaigns this weekend.
That’s because newspapers and newswires have yet to sign a new agreement with Football DataCo over rights to enter games and photographic rights. As a result, many boycotted the opening games of the new League season or resorted to guerilla tactics such as buying a ticket and watching the games from the stands or ‘blacking out’ sponsor names on the pictures of shirts.
Veteran readers of F.C. Business magazine will know this is a subject I have covered before. DataCo argue there is value in the data football matches generate and access to cover them should be paid for accordingly. The newspaper and newswires argue to charge to cover matches is a restriction of the free press and that the coverage they give is worth billions of pounds a year to league and team sponsors. Both are valid points.
But then we then get into the regular pre-season brinkmanship which seems to surround this contract. Negotiations seem to be going swimmingly and then, suddenly, a controversial new clause is put in the day before the season starts and all hell breaks loose.
The result, a stalemate where no-one wins and the biggest loser is the loyal fan –bereft of a key source of coverage.
Let me share some facts with you which may put into focus the value of DataCo cash to the clubs. Unlike most of the rest of football, the revenues made from selling DataCo licences to publish this information is shared with a bias towards the SMALLER league clubs. The Premier League only sees about 5% of DataCo revenue, whereas for some Scottish Third Division teams, the DataCo cheque can account for nearly half of their turnover. The smaller leagues (English 2 and Scots 2 and 3 – get about 80 percent of all DataCo money.
Pull that away, and you can make a fair assumption that at least 10 Scottish Football League clubs will be under severe financial strain – and will go into administration, possibly even liquidation. Does the newspaper industry want to be responsible for the death of a third of Scottish League football?
On the opposite side of the debate – this is the wrong time to be picking a fight with newspapers. They are struggling from a combination of a sluggish economy and a changing business model. Despite the growth of new media, they are still a key voice in local sport and the only commercial mass-market media in many communities now that ITV and many radio groups have given up covering local sport.
Then again, newspapers have benefitted from some of the pricey rules imposed by DataCo. DataCo requires any website that shows a club badge to pay it for the licence to do that. Go on the blogosphere and you can easily find out what bedroom-blogging fans think of that concept. The truth is that the price of DataCo licences is so high that is has priced out any blogging fan from having a serious crack at taking on the newspaper industry’s dominance of football reporting online.
Add to this the growth in the use of Twitter by the fans and the fact that some people are already creating a virtual stats feed from their mobiles during the match, and you can see that it is technology which will drive the debate about DataCo, not the newspapers.

To Tweet or not to Tweet?

Not one to shy away from expressing his feelings, Joey Barton’s Twitter outburst following Newcastle United’s defeat by Leeds at the weekend has ultimately cost him his job.

Following Jose Enrique’s £100,000 fine for criticising the club’s hierarchy on Twitter, the social networking site, Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s shy and retiring owner set a precedent, laid down a twitter marker, and has told Barton to he has no future at the club. Remarkably sending the player with 12 months remaining on his contract away on a free transfer.

For some reason footballers’ and Twitter seems to be a volatile concoction.

Mick McCarthy said last week he was bringing in a media law firm to educate his players on the use of social networking sites. Setting the scene, McCarthy was worried that ‘some numpty’ may give away sensitive team information because they have become ‘disgruntled’ with a decision made by the club’s management staff.

But not all footballers fall under the ‘numpy’ demographic when it comes to using Twitter. Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) is one of the UK’s most high profile footballers using Twitter. With over 1.3m followers, he has used the social network as a way of connecting with his fan base to great effect.

So where are others going wrong and why is Ferdinand getting it right?

It’s a question of understanding the difference of what is private and what is public. If I [the author] were to publically criticise the company I work for and the management skills of my superiors, I would expect to be shown the door without so much as a good-bye! So when a footballer does the same it’s only natural a club should implement some form of punishment.

But Barton was obviously disgruntled at what was happening at Newcastle and felt things were not going the standard he expected. And who is to say he is wrong? Like Enrique, he felt the club were not living up to their promises and expressed this via Twitter, something that would previously have remained private to the player and club.

On his Twitter account, Rio Ferdinand asked: ‘If players misuse twitter, should we fine them just like the NFL do???’

Well Rio, they already do, and that’s where Mike Ashley’s tough stance on Joey Barton has set the waterline as to how far you can go.

The bit that is hard to sort out is ‘defining the misuse of twitter’…..” Ferdinand asks in a later Tweet.

Player – fan/people interaction is what I love about social networks/apps so to red tape it completely is this the way to go????

Ferdinand feels strongly of the free use of social networks amongst his peers. However, Twitter has become a very powerful communications tool and has opened up a new, direct line to the celebrity world of football. Clubs’ media departments suddenly found they have no control over who their players were talking to and what they are saying.

The media ‘red tape’ has been broken.

But the problem with Twitter is that it’s about expressing your personal thoughts and feelings in 140 characters to your followers. The celebrity footballer can attract hundreds of thousands of followers and a huge array of journalists who had previously restricted access waiting for a story.

Following his outburst, Joey Barton stated on Monday 1st August he would be making ‘announcement’ at 4pm regarding his future on Twitter. Speculation was rife over what the ‘announcement’ could be, then at 3.35pm, Newcastle United made their own official ‘announcement’ via the traditional press that Barton had been released by the club, effectively gazumping Barton who later tweeted:

Somewhere in those high echelons of NUFC, they have decided, I am persona non grata.

I am on a free but the honour of wearing those B+W stripes, surpasses that.

One day the board might realise, what the shirt signifies. HONOUR and PRIDE. Thanks for your continued support……….. #toonarmy

So where do we go from here? Club chairman cannot afford to sack every player that strays from the script on Twitter, nor do we want to see players banned from using it.

Mick McCarthy has took decisive action and in trying to educate his players on the rights and wrongs of social media knowing it would be impossible to ban them from using it.

Newcastle will probably lead the way, along with McCarthy at Wolves, in setting out social media guidelines to help prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.

But as always it’s a tale with two sides so we will be watching and waiting to see where it will lead.