Strike threat over Sports Argus closure

By Sarah Lagan

NUJ members at the Birmingham Post & Mail have warned they could ballot for industrial action over the closure of Saturday football paper, the Sports Argus, if there are compulsory redundancies.

Trinity Mirror last week announced the paper will fold at the end of the season, after 109 years. The Argus is understood to be losing nearly £100,000 a year, in part due to changes in football fixture times moving away from the traditional Saturday afternoon.

Two full-time members of staff, including editor Jason White, are in consultation about possible redundancy.

Mail editor Steve Dyson said he would make every effort to find them positions elsewhere in the company, preferably on the Mail.

NUJ members have also lodged a collective grievance for staff on the Sports Argus’s sister titles who worked casual shifts on the sports title. Some casuals earned around £2,000 to £3,000 a year, and following a chapel meeting, Dyson said he would consider compensation.

Printed in the West Midlands, the Argus, which used to be the biggest selling Saturday sports paper in the country, will cease publication from 13 May — Cup Final day.

The paper’s average sale in 2005 was around 10,000, but that figure can vary between 5,500 to 13,500 per week.

The company will incorporate eight pages of the Sports Argus into the main body of the Mail’s Saturday paper.

The standalone paper used to publish between 32 and 40 pages.

Dyson said: "We looked at various options we could have employed to keep it going. Even with the best options it still lost money.

"This season, out of 118 Premiership matches in the Midlands, nearly 50 were out of Argus time.

"We’ve got to move with the times and move our own newspaper into multimedia."

The paper’s NUJ father of chapel, Guy Newey, said: "This has come as a big blow to my members and to the staff here; it’s a massive own goal.

"We are worried about the signals it sends out to our readers and we are worried about leaving the market place open for someone else."

The Argus covers three Premiership teams: Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City. It also covers Wolves, Coventry and Walsall and has extensive coverage of nonleague football.

The move follows closures of many regional sports papers, including in Coventry and Newcastle.

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