Swindon fans lost for words in midst of Power surge

ANTON RIPPON with the latest in a saga over a smartphone app and a football club’s ban on third-party media

As Swindon Town turns its back on third-party media in favour of a smartphone app, the League One club’s former chairman says that it is time to restore its bond with the regional press, particularly the Swindon Advertiser.

Andrew Fitton: Swindon's former chairman has described the club's media ban as "unfortunate"
Andrew Fitton: Swindon’s former chairman has described the club’s media ban as “unfortunate”

“It’s very unfortunate, what has happened,” said Andrew Fitton, a telecoms specialist whose consortium paid a £900,000 bill to HM Revenue & Customs in 2008, saving the club from going under. He stepped down as chairman in 2011, citing concerns over the club’s financial structure.

Following the latest ban on all forms of media save for Fanzai, an app offered by the club which carries player interviews and other news produced solely by Swindon’s in-house media team, Fitton said: “I always thought that one of the most important relationships was with the Advertiser. Not because that gives the Advertiser the right to slag you off, or anything like that.

“It is a very symbiotic relationship, because you fill a newspaper with stuff from the club and the club needs that publicity to draw people in.

“I was always willing to take a call, always willing to have a conversation and always willing to tell people, or to say ‘I can’t tell you that’, so there was a degree of honesty.

“Fans are important to the club and fans are not stupid. Fans do understand and they appreciate being told, even if it is bad news.”

Fitton’s view of how things should work between football clubs and local newspapers is quite a distance from that of Swindon’s current chairman, Lee Power, a former professional footballer with an interesting business career that has encompassed football club owner, players’ agent, racehorse owner, hotelier and sports publisher.

Power had twice banned the Advertiser, on the second occasion telling the paper that he could find “all the coverage he required from other media outlets in the town,” before extending the block to everyone except Fanzai.

In 2003 Power, along with a business partner, Daniel Lake, set up a sports publishing company called Cre8 UK. In 2008, Cre8 UK collapsed owing football clubs including Birmingham City and Watford more than £2.1 million. In 2011, Cre8 UK’s “successor”, Cre8 Publishing, which became one of the UK’s largest printers of football club matchday magazines, was also liquidated owing football and rugby clubs among unsecured creditors another £2 million.

The latter collapse came after Arsenal filed a legal action against the publishing group claiming £270,000 of unpaid royalties. At the time, Jonathan Siburn, writing in the Daily Telegraph, reported: “Mr Lake did not return calls while Mr Power could not be reached.”

What a shame that Fanzai wasn’t available in those days. As Andrew Fitton says: “People can cope with bad news well. What people can’t cope with is not knowing.”

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