Golf magazine is left stuck in financial bunker

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 “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.

8 thoughts on “Golf magazine is left stuck in financial bunker

  1. I launched my own magazine, Rotorworld, in 2003. Despite my own background in consumer media, t was hard enough making that work as a niche title for radio controlled model helicopter enthusiasts. Golf Punk was trying to produce a perfect-bound, glossy magazine with professional photography and editorial to match its bigger rivals – selling 18,000 on ABC isn’t enough, I can tell you. For me, the saddest thing is that the Golf Punk board of directors should have given up around 2 – 3 years ago instead of flogging a dead horse and piling ever more misery on those subscribers, journalists, photographers and staff who at one time or another put effort / money into the title. In 2008, I advertised my range of golf eyewear in the mag. My advert was messed up badly, and our products presented in a shambolic way. I can’t be bothered to be angry about the money we lost, just sad that this sort of thing can happen.

  2. Having completed a couple of placements at Football Punk magazine, I can tell you all that those working on the two titles were excellent journalists who were fully committed to creating and publishing a strong magazine to go up against the might of FourFourTwo in a very small football market.

    They had the copy, the interviews and the features prepared each and every month and were let down time and time again by the people at the top.

    Those mentioned in the article above – Richard Lenton, Shaun McGuckian and Joe Lancaster (along with Dan Angel, Sifaeli Tesha and Ben Cove) – didn’t deserve to be treated the way they were and they deserve to go on to bigger and better titles.

    The magazines themselves are very strong, in my opinion, and deserve to be picked up be another publisher with both ambition and the actual ability to print and circulate magazines.

    One of the biggest issues was the ‘exclusivity’ deal with WH Smith, which does somewhat limit the amount of copies you can sell.

    I won’t go on because I’m sure I’ve made it clear how I feel about it all but I think 100% of the blame here lies with JF Media and their money-men at Montpellier.

  3. To the comments made about “excellent journalists”, this they may have been….However some of these journalists who worked at these magazines were commissioning expensive and often well known photographers, on budgets that were just not there, and this they did know.

    They knew photographers were not being paid for previous work that they had commissioned and yet continued to commission new photographers and this is why they sought a wide field of contributors/photographers, and in the end had such huge debts.

    The “journalists” were as much a part of the trading as the “money men”, and where being paid whilst honest contributors were not. Rule of thumb is that if you can’t afford to shop in the West End, stick to the pound shop.

    Many of the photographers lost a lot of money, not just fees but expenses, this amounted to thousands and thousands of pounds in some cases.

    I hope the reputations of the people who worked at Golf Punk and Football Punk will be stained. I would not put either Golf Punk or Football Punk on my CV, there are blemished names in terms of integrity and honesty.

    I wonder how many of the people who worked at these magazines are still running around claiming “it’s not my fault”? Take some responsibility for once guys and own up.

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