JF Media, the publisher of Golf Punk and Football Punk magazines, has folded.
Martin Calcutt, the company’s managing director, confirmed the closure of the titles tonight when he told sportsjournalists.co.uk: “The company has ceased to trade.”
Calcutt refused to comment further on the reports from freelance sports writers and photographers who have complained to the SJA about being owed fees for their work, amounting to thousands of pounds and dating back more than two years.
Calcutt would not confirm, but nor would he deny, that the magazines’ editorial staff, including Golf Punk editor Shaun McGuckian, travel editor Joe Lancaster and Football Punk editor Richard Lenton, had been laid off without any redundancy payment. McGuckian had been editor of the golf title since 2008.
The magazine left its offices in Falmer, outside Brighton, where at least six commercial staff were based as well as the editorial team, in September, around the same time that it applied for a Company Voluntary Arrangement, or CVA, as a means to meet at least a part of its obligations to creditors over an agreed period.
Despite claiming to have found new investment from the Montpelier Group, an Isle of Man-based financial services company, it was not enough to save the business.
In its brief history, the company is believed to have built up a collection of County Court Judgments, brought by disgruntled and unpaid contributors, as well as an Advertising Standard Authority ruling in 2009 from customers angry that they never received the free gifts offered when they paid their £35 for a year’s subscription.
Many not only did not receive their subscription gifts, they rarely got to see a copy of the magazine. In 2009, Golf Punk materialised just three times instead of the scheduled 11. This year, the last issue to be published was in July, at the time of the Open championship. It was just the second edition of Golf Punk to be published in 2010.
Golf Punk launched in 2004 under the editorship Tim Southwell, the co-founder, with James Brown, of Loaded.
Southwell aimed at blowing away the cobwebs of traditionally conservative golf publications. It was the first golfing “lads’ mag”, featuring sexy “Bunker Babes”, its pages containing the familiar Loaded-style formula, with as much about booze and fashion as it contained on golf instruction features and equipment road tests.
But even as Southwell was collecting accolades for his new title, there were financial troubles surrounding the title, with reports of unpaid bills and bounced contributors’ cheques. Southwell left at the end of 2006, as JF Media took charge going in to 2007.
Phil Babb, the former Liverpool and Ireland footballer, who had been an early investor in the title along with his former Sunderland team mates Michael Gray, Thomas Sorensen, Stephen Wright and Jason McAteer, now took charge.
Golf Punk recorded an ABC circulation figure of 18,801 from January to June 2007.
Yet it was not long before rumblings were heard again from freelancers who had not been paid.
The company remained bullishly optimistic, however. In 2008, Babb oversaw the launch of Football Punk, “the thinking man’s football magazine”, while talking expansively of licensing the Golf Punk brand in 11 different countries and launching a freebie Golf Punk Lite, to be given away at airports.
It appears to have made little difference to the fundamental problems facing the company, of failing to produce magazines and not generating enough advertising or other revenue to pay its contributors.
In 2009, commercial staff were sending out emails to concerned subscribers saying: “Earlier this year we merged into a global parent company. The administration process that we expected to take no longer than six weeks, was beset with delays and as such we’ve had to radically alter our production schedule this year.“This has profoundly affected our ability to put magazines out and we also recognize that it will have profoundly impacted on your subscription for which we are truly sorry.“The good news is we’ve received investment that will keep us on the shelves long into the future. A new magazine is set to hit shelves in the next 10 days and subscribers will receive that copy through their door in that time.”
It proved to be another false dawn, as was the drinks party held at St Andrews during the week of the Open championship in July. The edition of Golf Punk that was published that week now appears to have been the last.