RALPH ELLIS – Funeral details

Ralph’s family have sent their thanks for the many tributes and messages that have appeared in the days since his passing last weekend.

They have asked us to notify friends and colleagues that his funeral will be on Monday October 15 at Weston Super Mare Crematorium at 1.30pm

Afterwards at The Nut Tree pub in Worle.

The family would like some idea of the numbers likely to attend, so if those who are definitely going could email johnwragg21@yahoo.co.uk  and he’ll pass on to the family.

 

TRIBUTE TO RALPH ELLIS by Paul McCarthy, FWA Executive Secretary
“Not bad for a bricklayer’s son from Forest Gate.”

And that just about sums up Ralph. Modest, self-deprecating, dead straight and one of the very few people I’ve met in journalism for whom nobody had a bad word, just genuine warmth. That description of himself came in a conversation he had with his son, Matt, just a few days before his sad passing on Saturday.

They were reflecting on Ralph receiving Life Membership of the Football Writers’ Association after his failing health forced him to relinquish his place on the National Committee.

Nobody wanted him to leave and I did my best to talk him out of his decision. True to form, he didn’t let on just how seriously his health had declined, he just said: “No, I’ve had my time, you don’t want an old git like me hanging around.”

But we would all have wanted him to hang around just that little bit longer. Because his leaving has been too soon, far too soon. The FWA has lost one of its driving forces and journalism has lost a powerhouse, even if it was a quietly understated one who was never in the business for glory and fame, but for getting the job done.

It was his honesty and straightforward approach to landing outstanding stories which singled Ralph out as special. You’d never hear him boasting or even humble-bragging when he outstripped his peers to land another exclusive or get the most elusive of England line-ups when he was covering the national team.

He just went about the job in the most old school of ways – cultivating brilliant contacts with a combination of absolute trustworthiness, friendship and the assurance he would never let them down. And he didn’t, not for a minute. If Ralph thought he’d upset anybody – be it a colleague or contact – he’d have been mortified.

Except, of course, on the football pitch. Then he became a different beast. He was what you would probably call ‘dogged’ and if he thought somebody wasn’t pulling their weight, he was never backward in letting them know.

You’d take it from Ralph, though, because he was utterly reliable, always the hardest worker on the pitch and a great man to have alongside you, even when (as was usually the case) we were getting our legs run off us by younger, quicker and more talented opponents.

He was probably the most supportive of colleagues I’ve ever met, always ready with a quick word of advice for young journalists or a pat on the back and quiet praise for a pal who might have pulled a good story.

His energy and enthusiasm were boundless. As the leading light of the Midlands FWA, he was the man who delivered some of the great nights of the social calendar and the leading managers and players in his patch would do anything for him. He never let them down and they reciprocated.

In recent years, he WAS the FWA Golf Day, organising a splendid event, helping to raise huge amounts for charity and working tirelessly behind the scenes. Even as recently as June he defied his doctors and cycled to Amsterdam to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK, the horrible and wicked disease which ultimately claimed his life. He may not have wanted the spotlight or praise, but he deserved them nevertheless.

There wasn’t a pompous or posturing bone in his body. All Ralph ever wanted to do was the job to the absolute best of his ability, that was enough for him.

His bravery was unquestioned. Where many of us have pontificated that we could do a better job than some in football authority and administration, Ralph had the courage to actually make the switch to commercial director at Bristol Rovers.

And when he came back to journalism, he simply picked up where he left off but with an even keener insight into the game than those who may have shouted louder.

At the FWA, we’ll miss his generosity and wisdom. His friends will miss somebody you could trust with your life. His family will miss a wonderful husband, father and grandfather who believed in the rewards of hard work and determination and never for a moment flinched from that path.

Honest, modest, talented and with a legion of friends who have lost a great, great pal.

Yes, Ralph, not bad for a bricklayer’s son from Forest Gate.

Latest Members’ Handbooks delivered

The latest 2018/19 Members’ handbooks have been sent out and all FWA members should have received this invaluable guide.

The 42-page book contains contact details for all FWA members, Press Officers at all 92 league clubs, as well as other leading organisations such as the FA, Premier League, Football League, UEFA and FIFA.

There is also a comprehensive history of past FWA Chairmen and Footballers of the Year, as well as a list of key dates in major football competitions over the coming season.

It is a unique resource for FWA members, and if you have yet to receive yours, contact us via the usual channels.

Brian Scovell becomes 1st Life Vice-President

The Football Writers’ Association is delighted to announce that Brian Scovell has been made the first Life Vice-President of the Association.

Brian, who was chairman in 1980, has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the FWA as both a Life Member and the longest serving member of the National Committee.

Following changes made at the AGM on August 7, Brian will no longer be a part of the National Committee but it was felt his devotion and passion for the FWA fully merited the new title.

Chairman Patrick Barclay said: “We are delighted to bestow this unique honour on a unique personality.

“In his distinguished career, our beloved ‘Scovs’ has conveyed wisdom with a frequently deployed light touch – and we at the FWA have benefited from these qualities too.

“We hope he will serve for years to come, as we hope soon to announce plans to log the history of football journalism, of which Brian has been very much a part.”

The Association has also agreed to grant Life Membership to Christopher Davies, Ralph Ellis, Tony Hudd and William Powell who have also left the National Committee.

Executive Secretary, Paul McCarthy, said: “Of course, it’s always sad when the National Committee loses members but the departure of five people allows us to bring in fresh faces who will add a new impetus to the Association.

“We want the FWA to be reflective of its membership. We have had a 60 per cent increase in new members in just over two years including far more women and BAME journalists as well has a huge influx of the younger generation involved in the industry.

“The National Committee has to echo the changing dynamic of the Association and we are determined it will be far more diverse in its constituency.”

FWA AGM – August 7th

The FWA’s Annual General Meeting will be held next Tuesday August 7 at noon at the Old Bank of England on Fleet Street, London.

All FWA members are encouraged to attend. On the agenda will be finance, election of officers and the Chairman’s report on the past year.

Please contact General Secretary Paul McCarthy if you need more information.

 

Chairman’s message

Dear Member,
I’d like to wish you a very happy 2018, and to pass on a few personal – and private – thoughts from the Football Writers’ Association chair.

We promised to increase the FWA’s size and diversity and, while the latter was always going to be the greater challenge, the growing influence of women is reflected in Vikki Orvice’s election as vice-chair and the lively committee presence of Carrie Brown. I would still like to improve the racial balance of the committee and hope that before the AGM in May we will do that.

Numerically we are up 50 per cent over three years but, having sailed past the 300 mark, are now set on 400. In addition the new category of student member has seen around 40 of the next generation of football writers sign up. One of their number, Luke Coulson, has already qualified as a journalist, but let’s hope his career stays on hold for many years, as he is currently starring for Ebbsfleet United in the Vanarama National League.

Luke, along with Glenn Moore, contributes a column to our website, which Gerry Cox and his team have revamped. All shares, likes and retweets are appreciated. Your committee are grateful to Gerry, and to John Ley for dealing with the extremely welcome influx of new members. But you can help to make John even busier by encouraging non-members to join; all they need to do is go to the MEMBERSHIP section of the website. The more there are of us, the more we can do for all football writers.

Speaking of which, what do we achieve? More than put on our two gala dinners – even though the work Paul McCarthy has put into this month’s Tribute Night in honour of Pele has been phenomenal. Probably our most important function is the largely unseen negotiation with the football authorities and clubs over facilities and access to players. Too often it is an uphill task – but it must be done.

We also, with the extremely generous assistance of our main sponsors William Hill, held a sell-out event after the Grenfell Tower fire which raised £10,000 for the victims of the disaster and I’d like to thank everybody who helped make that event such a success.

Finally to one of our most enjoyable duties; may I remind all members to make their recommendations for Football Book of The Year? Our selection committee is chaired by Mike Collett and he wants to hear from you at mikecol99@gmail.com.

All the best,

Patrick Barclay

Liberty Stadium facilities report

Brian Scovell reports on our Facilities Committee visit to Swansea City FC on April 17, 2012…

Tony Hudd and I visited the highly impressive Liberty Stadium on a very windy day and we concluded that many of the Barclays Premier League clubs have yet to match its standards. For example, the two press boxes are on the half-way line – the 52-seater higher up and the other one, which has more than 40 working stations along a wide corridor, on a lower level – whereas more clubs are now placing their corporate boxes on the halfway line.

Jonathan Wilsher, the chief press officer, told us a separate entrance, near the VIP entrance, is to built for the media for next season 12 metres from the press room which is perfectly adequate. However, the press room which includes the interview section, is be extended by six metres at the opposite end to accommodate more working spaces. The club are upgrading the standard of the hot meals and refreshments. And the room will be decorated with pictures, memorabilia etc.

A wall or fence, will be installed behind the 40+ working stations to prevent spectators leaning over to read the writers’ copy and engaging in conversation. This area is on the first floor – a top class viewing spot – and no spectators can obstruct the view. There are separate mixed zones with the away team leaving from a different part of the stand.

Extra parking spaces are planned but there is a park and ride from a bigger car park five minutes’ walk away. We learned that the players have been training on astroturf in recent months which might explain why their passing is so Barcelona style! A new grass surface is being used for next season. Ospreys Rugby Club share the stadium and there was no damage to the playing pitch, a tribute to the ground staff.

We have congratulated Reading for their sensational final surge to regain their place in the Barclays Premier League and they are inviting us to come along with our suggestions. The overflow is currently near a corner flag and that subject will be first on the agenda.

Norwich report that they have no plans to improve their facilities at the Carrow Road for next season. West Ham say the same thing. Southampton tell us they will revert back to the original facilities at St. Mary’s Stadium.

St Mary’s report, July 2011

The Football Writers’ Association national committee is pleased report that following discussions with John Nagle at the Football League, Southampton have agreed to resume holding post-match conferences upstairs in their excellent former press room rather than in the players’ tunnel, which had become customary but unsatisfactory in the past few seasons. The club have also agreed to an FWA request that opposing managers are brought up separately rather than at the same time.

Brighton and Hove Albion regret the “teething problems” working journalists experienced during their first Championship match against Doncaster at their new Amex Stadium on Saturday, August 6. National committee member Tony Hudd visited the Amex Stadium the following Tuesday and was assured by press officer Paul Camillin that the club were working hard to resolve the few problems.

The general consensus among journalists on the night was that the press facilities were exceptional.

Carrow Road report, July 2011

Attended by Joe Ferrari, Head of Media, and his assistant Gemma Gifford and FWA’s Brian Scovell, Tony Hudd and Jim Van Wijk.

We were assured that the club will meet the minimum requirements of the PL and if it stays up, there are plans to either knock down the main stand and build another one or extend it adding 3,000 plus seats including a topgrade press facility.

The glitzy press room, built in 2006, will remain, wifi is to be upgraded, refreshments will be better (copying the Ipswich formula), extra seats for the interview section, no-one to be allowed standing close to the dias to conduct interviews and more security is provided to keep out intruders. Manager Paul Lambert will do 8/10 interviews with rights holders, radio and TV before he comes into the room which will mean him not being interviewed by the written press for an least half an hour, or more. Non-contracted radio reports will have a combined interview in the corridor outside. Lambert is willing to do a Monday’s interviw as well, also access to a mixed zone in the same corridor.

One snag is that photographers will have to continue using the room, which could lead to overcrowding. They normally use the space on the right and it will be rather congested.

The old press box (circa 1986 with its knee crushing knees) will be revamped – long desks are to be replaced and the new ones made deeper with the obstructive box to plug in being replaced by discreet ones, the old metal seats have been oiled and tarted up with padded seats. To meet the PL requirement of 65 seats (including 15 radio positions) extra 15 seats are being put behind the top row, occupying space in a members’ bar for the written press who will be behind glass windows. The main written press section will be on the left facing the pitch and the club warn that national papers are unlikely to given two seats. However, UEFA have insisted 30 seats being installed – in a back row of the opposite stand – reserved for overseas TV and radio people. If the demand falls short, these seats could form an overflow.

CEO David McNally is adopting a tough policy about irresponsible reporting on the club’s activities and BBC (East) and the Daily Mirror have become victims of it.

Our delegation made a strong case about being sitting in with the architects from day one if the club stays up so we can put our views. Joe Ferrari agreed.

We felt this was a very positive meeting and we were all very impressed by the professionalism of Joe and Gemma. Our members will be given a warm welcome, and every possible help.

BRIAN SCOVELL
Chairman of Facilities Committee

Loftus Road report, June 2011

Brian Scovell and Christopher Davies were the Football Writers’ Association national committee representatives who visited Queens Park Rangers to see media officer Ian Taylor about their new press facilities. If all goes to plan the press box/press room/mixed zone will be excellent. As you will know, Loftus Road does not have too much space but they seem to be making the most of it.

TV INTERVIEW ROOM(s)
One for Sky Sports; one for BBC etc. This does not really concern football writers but the TV interview room is to be where the boutique is, towards the front of the main entrance.

PRESS ROOM
At present it is just to the right as you come down the stairs from the press box. It was adequate for Championship games but not for the extra demands of the Barclays Premier League. It is being moved to where the Platinum Bar is at present – turn left as you come from the press box and it is situated at the end of the corridor, about a 35-yard walk. While not perfect, it is hardly the biggest inconvenience in the world. Inside will be a self-contained radio room rather like Ipswich have at Portman Road. The managers will be brought in and there will be eight rows of eight seats, each with a ‘flip top’ to facilitate a lap-top. There will be around 24 work stations with power plugs, mainly around the perimeter of the room. Sky Sports and ESPN will be available on three decent sized screens. There are male and female toilets.

FOOD and WI-FI
At the moment QPR supply soup and a roll, pies and sandwiches plus coffee, tea and soft drinks. They hope to ‘upgrade’ this to, for example, chili con carne and a jacket potato.

PRESS BOX
At present a nightmare (or an afternoon-mare on Saturdays and Sundays). One long row with access only at each end. The idea is to take out every seventh seat with access from the front to a row of [maximum] seven seats, rather like White Hart Lane. This way only three journalists would be ‘inconvenienced.’ They are taking out a row of ‘season tickets’ seats at the front of the PB to facilitate this. The PB will be tight in numbers – 16 radio and 49 written press – but it conforms with Premier League requirements. There will be four new TV monitors showing games; only when the matches are live on television will there be action replays.

MIXED ZONE
This will be conducted pitch-side in the tunnel area with a designated player(s). The mixed zone (on a Saturday) is essentially for the Mondays and the idea is for the Press Association, a Monday national representative plus a local journalist from the home and away clubs to be present. This will always be an area of contention and we will never get what we want because different people want different things. This is probably as good as it gets, though.

Liberty Stadium report, May 2011

Dylan Thomas famously wrote “Swansea is the graveyard of ambition.” Championship promotion hopefuls Swansea City Football Club beg to differ with the great man.

When Football Writers’ Association national committee members Brian Scovell and Tony Hudd visited the Liberty Stadium to check out their press facilities ahead of the Swans’ push for promotion they found a lively, vibrant club willing and able to meet the challenge of Barclays Premier League football.

With club media and communications officer Jonathan Wilsher, a former local paper football writer, as their guide, the pair were left in no doubt that Swansea are determined to provide the best possible press facilities at their 20,524 capacity stadium.

The present press box, which accommodates 40 seats, all with power points under each desk, will be expanded to meet Premier League criteria. The existing facility is also wired for 3D.

At present, Swansea have two mixed zones, one home, one away, which is near the exit for the visiting team coach. This will become one as the existing home arrangement means interviews being conducted on the main concourse close to the reception area which is unsuitable.

The big press room, which is equipped with work desks and power points, also has toilet facilities. At the moment, reporters and photographers share the room.

This will change with photographers being given their own facilities.

Should Swansea reach the Premier League, the club will do their best to make sure all reporters are given a car parking space and are in the process of purchasing a plot of land that will increase parking capacity.

Brian and Tony wish to place on record their thanks to Jonathan Wilsher for his time and meticulous attention to detail in wanting to improve the club’s press facilities.