The last broadcast

Image by John Dewhirst, copyright Bradford City

By Jason McKeown

There will be no Bradford radio station covering Bradford City this season. Whilst BBC Radio Leeds will continue to perform an admirable job providing match day commentaries, its commercial rival, the Pulse, will devote its time and money on other matters instead.

It follows the station’s acquisition by the Baeur media group, which humbly calls itself the UK’s most influential media brand network. Baeur boosts a portfolio of magazines and radio stations, and reaches over 22 million UK adults. But it has no interest in covering live football, and sadly isn’t about to start doing so now. It seems the decision to stop live commentaries is Baeur’s.

It’s a significant loss to Bradford City and its fanbase. Maybe not financially, although in return for granting commentary rights, the Bantams received free advertising on the Pulse during the week, worth five-figures annually, which was used to promote season tickets and special offer games like the Oxford match last season. But whether you loved or hated the Pulse, this is the end of an alternative voice about the club. One that goes back decades.

Whilst Radio Leeds has always covered City in a professional, BBC way, it comes at the price of operating from a distance that curtails the sharpest highs and lows. You can always rely on Radio Leeds to tell you the story, and the people I’ve dealt with are undoubtedly very passionate. But there is a line that’s always there. They’re just not going to be as excited or as downbeat as you.

And that’s absolutely fine and valued by thousands of City fans. But the Pulse sought to do things differently. Professional and knowledgeable still, but with an unashamed Bradford bias from a proud Bradford radio station. The commentary and pre and post match shows were more opinion-led. Emotions were on greater show. They wanted Bradford City to win, and were not afraid to be explicit about it.

Of course such bias is not to everyone’s taste. And after a season as wretched as 2018/19, it’s no surprise that criticism of the Pulse grew sharper from some quarters. But think of the glory moments too. The history makers season. Chelsea. Both Thornton brothers produced iconic commentaries of these moments that now form part of the memories. In the nicest possible way, Radio Leeds used the professional but downbeat Dave Fletcher over 2012/13. He was certainly less excitable.

The commercial radio approach of leading with opinions will always see the Pulse’s punditry disputed by some. How often do we as fans agree on anything? I know I’ve driven home from a game many times with the Pulse on the car radio, shouting loudly about my disagreement over their post match assessment.

I sometimes hated the Pulse, but more often than not I enjoyed it. As a supporter going to games, the drive home from the match with the radio discussing City is a key part of the matchday routine. You’ve watched 90 minutes of action, and you want to reflect on events and hear from the manager. For many years I had chosen Radio Leeds over the Pulse, due to disliking adverts. But at the time, half of the Radio Leeds post match coverage was devoted to Huddersfield Town. I grew increasingly fed up of listening to Kieran O’Regan droning on about a team I didn’t care for. So many years ago I switched to the Pulse.

And whilst the adverts can go on a bit, the 100% devotion to Bradford City made for much more interesting listening. Tim Thornton and Ian Ormondroyd were a strong commentary team, with opinions you could respect. In 2014 Tim joined Sky Sports and was replaced by his brother Jason. He was also an excellent commentator and not afraid to share his views.

So as City fans, we were blessed with choice – which is always a good thing. The calm, assured traditions of the BBC. Or the more emotional, claret-and-amber-spectacled Pulse. There was such a clear difference between the two styles, and no right or wrong on which was better. It was all down to personal preference.

Of course I write this with a large degree of bias for the Pulse. In the summer of 2017, Jason Thornton approached me about co-commentating on games for the 2017/18 season. My debut was a League Cup defeat to Doncaster Rovers. I absolutely loved the experience, and though I didn’t think I was particularly great, I got plenty of good feedback. Over the last two seasons, I’ve co-commentated on some 30+ matches. Jason is brilliant to work with and I learned a huge amount.

Doing live radio is exhausting but really fulfilling. I’d spend part of the week preparing notes on the opposition and nicking some useful stats from fellow WOAP writer Tim Penfold. I enjoyed the pre and post-match chats especially. You got a glimpse of behind the scenes at Valley Parade and what life is like in the press box. There’s some really nice, dedicated staff who work behind the scenes who deserve more appreciation than they get. Seeing managers and players up close after games, for post match interviews, is also interesting. Some are friendlier – and more intelligent – than others.

Commenting on live events can be exhilarating but also challenging. We have no replays of incidents in the Valley Parade press box. You’re making an instant judgement on big moments. Inevitably we got some things wrong, and the response from some listeners wasn’t forgiving. And yes, the referee would be blamed often on the Pulse which some didn’t like. I always found that a bid odd. When I’m sat in the stands as a fan, I and plenty of others are always blaming the ref even when it’s harsh on them.

What I also learned to appreciate doing the Pulse was the extreme reactions you get from fans. If City were losing (and sadly that happened a lot over the last 18 months), some fans would be tweeting in their anger – not at the team, but at me and Jason. It was quite bewildering that something I might have said at 2.20pm without massively remembering would be brought up, out of context, in anger at 5.30pm after another home defeat. “How can you say Player X has had some good games this season – he was awful today!!!”

You sometimes get the impression, from social media, that everyone hates the Pulse. Certainly the Bradford City-bias annoyed some who seemed to prefer impartiality from their local radio station. But so many other fans loved it passionately. You’d see it in the Tweets you received or from talking to fans at matches. I remember at one game a bloke came up and handed out chocolate bars to us. A lot of fans would get in touch to say how much they enjoyed my comments. You’d see other guest commentators, such as former City heroes, get much bigger reactions. Lee Duxbury, for example, was well liked.

The Pulse’s roots lie in the old Pennine Radio, which was set up in 1975. In the 80s Pennine Radio provided live broadcasts of City matches, with the commentary of the Fire Disaster by Tony Delahunty one that has become really well known as a regularly-used and definitive account of how that fateful day unfolded. In 1991, Pennine FM was rebranded “The Pulse”.

Aside from short breaks in 1992 and the late 90s – when the station sponsored Valley Parade – Pulse commentaries have been a firm part of the Bradford City scene ever since the 80s. But for this season, there won’t be any commercial coverage of Bradford City. From speaking to the club today, there are ideas about improving the iFollow experience, but they’re very early on and would obviously need to be commercially viable to actually be implemented. So for now, only Radio Leeds will provide live coverage of the Bantams.

They’ll do a great job of course. But if their post match coverage is like recent seasons, we’ll have to fight it out with Leeds and Huddersfield to get any post match coverage. Last season I spoke to several Leeds United fans who were frustrated that there was no radio station devoted solely to their team post-match, and that their drive home from Elland Road would see BBC Radio Leeds’ airtime taken up talking about Huddersfield and City. They were jealous of City for having the Pulse. Unless Radio Leeds changes their approach, we’ll soon know how they feel.

Along with the retirement of the Bantams Banter podcast, there will be less voices talking about Bradford City. And even if that voice wasn’t for you, the Bradford City community is poorer for having fewer ways to engage and follow the club.

Categories: Opinion

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18 replies

  1. Very disappointed Jason.
    I can’t understand the Pulse at all.
    I was always tuned into away game commentary.
    Now can we get BCB to cover games so we at least have local radio station covering games

  2. Radio Leeds do a great job covering City and I like their Monday night football round up show which used to include former Width of a posts Katy Whyatt. However last season the new sports editor who took over from Gareth Jones decided to do away with a dedicated pre and post match for each club and replaced it with a dreadful phone in covering all West Yorkshire clubs and City never get a look in either pre or post match. Maybe Radio Leeds could revert to the dedicated club format of a couple of seasons ago.

  3. I must admit that a goal for our opponents on radio Leeds really was a goal but the same goal on Pulse was a mile offside , their goalkicks should all have been corners and every throw in should have been ours. However I accepted it all with a wry smile trying to imagine what had actually happened until I saw my solitary mate who wasn’t also biased for the truth. The main miss for me will be the pre match build up and the tweeters after the game for all the diverse comments. Yes , a sad day for Bradford City.

    • We still have Simon Parker for his enthusiasm and biased reporting. Not a word written about the bizarre missed penalty call late in the game at Wimbledon which preserved a win for City last season.

  4. Yes, very unhappy to read this. It’s part of our match day ritual to put the Pulse pre match coverage on in the car as we drive to the game, then put it back on on the way home to get the manager’s interview; plus listening to the odd away game on it. We followed the historic Chelsea game on it; and coverage won’t be the same without James Thornton, your good self, Jason, and other co- commentators like Mike Harrison. The raising tempo of excitement and the screaming jubilation when City score….

    …..I’ll be writing to Baeur Media to tell them what I think of this…..

  5. A sad day for both broadcasting and listening choice. That’s progress from a supposedly progressive parent broadcaster I’ve never heard of.

    I’ve tried both stations and stuck like glue to Pulse2. I enjoyed the Saturday afternoon banter, interviews and full-on commentary from both Jasons and felt very much part of what was happening on the pitch and away game stadiums, especially when the Press Box was located right behind the home fans!

    Of course. I’ll still listen to the away matches and I suppose it will become the norm, but I very much doubt it will replicate the passion of the voice of Jason Thornton on a Saturday afternoon.

    What a shame, and just as we are poised for our next climb up the Divisions.

    Thanks to all commentators, and contributors over the past few years.

  6. Tim and Stix in the Mix?!? Sad news!
    Hopefully there is an opportunity from this for someone to do something new/different – like Kurupt FM perhaps?

  7. The voice of Bradford City when I was growing up in the late 80s and 90s was always Chris Cooper (with Bobby Ham) on Pennine/The Pulse. I still remember his commentary from the first game I listened to after deciding I liked football and wanted to support City – the 1-0 win over Spurs in the FA Cup when Mitchell scored from Kennedy’s short free kick. I loved the goal alerts, and his great commentary for the play-off semi-final at Blackpool – “The Blackpool Tower might by a mile down the road, but it’s the Twin Towers that beckon for City now!”

    When I went to uni in Manchester during the Premier League years I could pick up Radio Leeds over the Pennines a little better than the Pulse, so I started listening to Derm Tanner’s commentary more, which I also greatly enjoyed. Over the years I alternated between the stations, and now living away from Bradford I have to listen to what iFollow provides. McCall’s first season back, with Chris Cooper and Jason Thornton sharing commentary duties, was great, but since then it’s been Radio Leeds on iFollow. I like Tim Steere, although his co-commentators aren’t always great. I hope they’re able to find someone passionate and knowledgeable to commentate with him – Gary Jones maybe? Or perhaps the club could hire Chris Cooper if he’s available and produce their own commentary for iFollow?

    Either way, it’s the end of an era, but I’ll still have the memories.

  8. What’s really annoying about BBC Radio Leeds is that the commentators DO show passion towards Leeds and to a lesser extent Huddersfield but just not to CIty.

    The post match coverage of City is pathetic and sometimes only includes the interviews with a manager and a player. We have to endure that god awful phone in dominated by moronic Leeds fans. This is particularly galling if listening on ifollow having paid for the privilege. I will definitely miss the post match coverage from the Pulse.

    • Not sure where people get this, Tim Steere shows no passion with City. Listen to his commentary for the winning goal against Shrewsbury at home last season and tell me he has no passion. I find him a very good commentator.

      • I agree, and I believe I’m right in saying he is a city fan too. You don’t have to be screaming down the microphone and shouting at the ref all the time to show passion, and anyway, sometimes being a little bit more reserved makes for better commentary as he’s able to convey more accurately what is happening on the pitch without getting lost in the moment – and giving clear commentary is, after all, what he’s paid to do.

  9. Used to listen to Pennine radio before there was live commentry when they used to interrupt the middle of a song being played to let you know ‘the GOAL light was flashing at Valley Parade’, or simply ‘it…it…it…it….its a Goal’.

    I remember as a seven year old, too young to attend a 1980’s evening match, sitting out in the hall at our house waiting and waiting for news from the City v Liverpool league cup tie. The joy or deflation when that moment came, “goal light flashing at Valley Parade, is it good news or bad, Tony Delahunty?”.”AND BRADFORD CITY HAVE SCORED AND ITS BOBBY CAMPBELL!”


    • Very true Paul ,it used to be really nerve wracking when City were leading 1 0 at an away ground, then they used to shout “It’s a goal”, heart in the mouth time ,and then it would be a goal at the Shay so I could breath again.

  10. As producer since 2012, this is a sad but for me inevitable time. Missed all those promotion/cup games but still hold some good memories of them.

  11. I’m gutted to lose the Pulse covering the bantams. There were always my preferred choice as they were 100% city and not diluted with Leeds and Town.
    Sad times

  12. I will miss the pulse commentary so Much

  13. Sadly match days will never be the same with the decision not to cover City matches. I will miss the many diverse pre and post match opinions of fans, the interviews and the many guest summarisers.
    I particularly liked the declared bias in commentary as it was different from the norm and was very well delivered by 2 lifelong City fans in Tim and Jason Thornton.
    Some equally entertaining and very different co-commentators with people like ‘Sticks’, Billy Bingham and latterly you Jason! Forthright views were a trademark and I for one enjoyed listening. Clearly the refs have got their own back over the years and influenced the decision by the owners to pull the plug.
    It’s never ideal to have just a sole supplier so let’s hope it’s not the end forever!
    Thanks and good luck to Jason T and all the sports team at Pulse 2 👍🏻

  14. Used to have to sit through hours of Asian music on the “ meeting place” hosted by Yaqoob Ali?? Just to get a quarter hourly update on a Tuesday or Wednesday night away game in the early eighties whilst still at school…good old Pennine radio!!!

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