Football And The Media
By Malcolm Dix
Thursday 24 Feb 2011 11:49:00
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It is truly amazing how our National Game has been hijacked by Television. The TV Moguls dictate when the games are played and at what time the kick-off is. They very seldom take any notice of the virtual impossibility of supporters getting to and getting home from grounds. Their viewpoint is , if there is a problem stay at home and watch it on TV! Football won’t argue as TV holds the pursestrings! In the fifties and sixties TV and football were slowly coming together. Most clubs were suspicious and the revenue to clubs was minimal. Newspapers and Radio were the main media and local and national newspapers exerted a lot of  influence. The Boards of Directors were very loathe to cross the local football writer as he could influence the fans!My early experiences were in the seventies when following my father Walter Dix’s death. I became a shareholder of Newcastle United. After cryptic warnings not to get involved, I did! I decided that I wanted to be a Director! John Gibson then the football writer at the Evening Chronicle was very supportive followed by the Journal, Tyne Tees TV, BBCTV, Metro Radio and Radio Newcastle. Gibbo christened me “The Rebel Shareholder”. On reflection I was perfect media “fodder” …always available for comment, always controversial and reasonably eloquent.


Not that I got on to the Board, although I never did see THEIR proxy votes! With the help of Peter Ratcliffe, my wife and family and some of the older shareholders I managed to defeat the Board at their Extraordinary Meeting when they wanted to allocate the ‘missing’ shares to themselves. Little did I know how vital this victory was in the ultimate battle! By this time I had attracted the attention of the Nationals, daily and Sundays. I got great coverage and certainly did not alienate them as unfortunately is the norm now!! I got a double page spread in the Sunday Times! Invitations followed to appear on National TV to discuss the future of football.  I never fell out with a journalist or TV presenter and they are in the main pretty cynical people! When the NSA (Newcastle Supporters Association) was formed in 1977, we decided to produce our own Newspaper…”The Supporter”. It was free and we got enough adverts to pay for up to 20,000 copies per edition, a concept since copied by others. It was an early ‘fanzine’ as we echoed the views and aspirations of the Newcastle Supporters who were waiting for success! Not a lot changes. Paul Joannou, the club historian and prolific book producer ‘ cut his writing teeth ‘ in the Supporter, we also persuaded many journalists to write for us, some used pseudonyms. The Supporter helped us greatly with our battles with the Board at Extraordinary Meetings and High Court Actions!


I will always  remember when Paul Gascoigne signed for Spurs the “Sun” said they would ‘look after him’ in London. I told John Richardson that his paper had a duty of care with Gazza. We all know what then happened. In fairness John resigned and moved to the Daily Mail, he is now with the Sunday Express. Gazza still attracts media attention all the time and when have they ever helped him? Tyne Tees TV:- Alister Harrison, Peter Moth and Clive Page were great supporters and I was never off the ‘telly’ I even appeared on a pilot breakfast show in the mid seventies , must have spoiled a few people’s breakfasts! Chris Robinson, the then editor of the North-East Times gave me a monthly ‘platform’ to air my views on football and Sport in general. In 1987 ‘The Revolution’ began with the formation of The Magpie Group. I had been in contact for a couple of years with John Hall who when Paul Gascoigne went to Spurs did an interview with Bob Cass from the Mail On Sunday. John rang me to tell me what he had said but insisted that I read the article before it went in the paper. His chauffeur came to my office and waited while I read it. That article was the first of some fantastic media which followed for the next few years. John Gibson and Graeme Stanton , Editor of The Evening Chronicle agreed that we needed to succeed and threw their considerable weight behind us. During that time Alan Oliver had a rough time but still managed to report on the team. The Journal backed Gordon McKeag. An interesting time at Thomson House. The Magpie Group and their battles and their eventual success is a story which one day will be told.


Even today the media is influencing our football future. Lurid stories surrounding Newcastle players keep emerging. The exposures in the Sunday Times regarding the indiscretions of the FIFA delegates and the proposed Panorama TV programme to be screened 2 days before the vote on December 2nd as to whether we get the World Cup in 2018. Let us all hope commonsense prevails!


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