It may seem a small detail in the overall dire scheme of things, but it points to another challenge for a sport still struggling for media coverage.
Two weeks ago the Orange County Register stopped covering the Galaxy, a move that comes after the newspaper made a similar decision in regard to Chivas USA last season.
Last week Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe, one of the best soccer writers in the nation, was pulled from the New England Revolution beat to cover the Celtics.
And the newspaper group I work for has previously suffered employee losses among those of us who cover soccer, while such other outlets as the San Diego Union-Tribune have also reduced soccer coverage in the past few months.
The Times, too, mostly covers soccer on its Web site these days rather than the printed page and Chivas USA beat writer Jaime Cardenas was recently reassigned to cover preps.
That leaves the dean of soccer writers in Southern California, Grahame L. Jones, as one of the few writers dedicated to covering the sport in the nation.
But for how much longer?
Grahame, who sits next to me in the Home Depot Center press box, is nearing retirement and is undoubtedly one of the better paid writers at The Times (he’s covered soccer since the mid-1970s), so is a likely candidate to take a severance package. Even if he doesn’t, Grahame won’t be around forever and it’s unclear whether he would be replaced upon retirement.
That would be a loss for soccer locally and nationally.
Some fans don’t like Grahame because of his criticism of MLS, but he has contributed much to the growth of the sport over the years, fighting for column inches and dealing with editors who don’t understand soccer.
At a time when soccer’s popularity has never been higher in this country, the presence of David Beckham is generating more attention (and capacity crowds in Carson) than ever before and the increasing Latino population in Southern California and the U.S. in general means an ever-larger audience for the sport, it’s disquieting that coverage by mainstream media is on the decline.
Niche publications, like this blog, are filling some of the void, (MLS recently hired a staffer solely to provide support to blogs and Web sites), but soccer needs coverage by more generalized outlets if it is to continue to grow.
The newspaper group I work for is one of only a few in the nation to dedicate space on a weekly basis to a soccer columnist (yours truly every Tuesday). There’s little reason to suggest that will change anytime soon.
I often hear from readers pleading for more soccer coverage, but with fewer bodies in newsrooms generally, that is an uphill battle.
Simply put, soccer fans who want to read more about the sport need to support those outlets that do cover it. Or soccer coverage will continue to get kicked to the sidelines.