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Inside Magazines

Mediaweek does New York

Covering soccer from the Big Apple
Sick As A Parrot is back at ACP Magazines, sort of!
By James Manning

During our week in New York we had to look

up Matthew Hall. The pop journo-turned
soccer blogger has a CV that goes from
Aussie pop mag Star! via the BBC to Fairfax
and The New York Times. Hall has called
Brooklyn home for the past five years and
he keeps an office on Manhattan where he
is partner in a production company called
Soda Presents.
The cover of ACP’s next edition of its newish
Watching the football world from New York sports title, the tri-annual Football+ which goes
on sale December 8
presents no problems, even though football
is a word he knows will never be used in the
US to describe the round ball game. got upset. However some of the
“I was at Fairfax when the sports depart- players need to ‘man up’ a bit and
ment in Sydney made the decision to call not be so sensitive to criticism.”
soccer football,” Hall recalled. “The Sun-
Herald sports editor, James Carey (who Sick As A Parrot
died sadly aged just 41 last year), and Rod “Then Sun-Herald sports editor
Allen from The Sydney Morning Herald took Tony Harper, who now edits Foot-
that big leap.” ball+ for ACP Magazines, came up
Before reaching a wider audience with his Matthew Hall on a cold New York morning
with the name. We wanted some-
great Sick As A Parrot Sun-Herald column thing irreverent and almost
(now sadly discontinued), Hall said, “I published in 2000 and 2006. The film was nonsensical to demonstrate it wasn’t
learnt my chops writing for pop culture broadcast by National Geographic, SBS just a soccer column. A lot of football fans
magazines. I worked for the BBC in TV, and ARD in Germany and won “Best had a wider interest in the sport. We would
London for four years as a sub where I Screenplay” at the 2006 Palermo Interna- often run quirky, personality tales…
learnt how to write. While people got to tional Sports Film Festival. there’s lots of crazy people doing crazy
know me for Sick As A Parrot, I was also Hall built a good relationship with Kewell things that are funny to read. A lot of
simultaneously writing about many differ- and seemed to succeed with interviews sports reporting can be tedious – particu-
ent things. where others tried and failed. How did larly in the US. They can be laden with stats
“I like people and I like people’s stories he do that? “Kewell had always been very and you get no idea of what when on. Tell
and that to me is the most interesting guarded to the media. That was part of the me the story of what happened in the game
thing in journalism whichever medium culture he grew up with as a young player and make it entertaining to read.”
you practise in.” at Leeds. He is a shy, reserved character. I
Some of that other work included news went out of my way to visit him persis- Football+
stories for the paper when Hall came across tently and get in his face. I told the truth “The idea had been kicked around for a
them. “The Sun-Herald was instrumental rather than just writing stories that couple of years between Tony Harper and
in bringing in the government inquiry that were based on my belief or thoughts. He ACP’s Michael Koslowski [publisher,
saw Frank Lowy’s people come into power and his manager liked my approach – the men’s lifestyle] but for various reasons the
in 2004. It was good to be part of that and fact that I tried to find the truth and that I time wasn’t right. 2010 seemed the right
to see what we wrote and see our influence checked facts.” time to launch a new football/soccer title
on events and regime change. At the 2010 World Cup, where Hall was and the first edition launched before the
“I also wrote a book called The Away working as a blogger for SBS Online, the World Cup and it was very well received
Game which let me develop relation- relationship between Australian reporters by advertisers and readers. [Launch
ships and trust with Australian players. and the Socceroos was often prickly. Hall edition sold over 50,000 copies with edition
Sometimes for their benefit…other times found himself in the middle of that. three out on December 8.]
not. One story that got a lot of coverage was “It was interesting to watch how the media “What we are trying to do is tell inter-
when Socceroo Mark Viduka said he hadn’t was dealing with things. Being able to speak esting long-form stories about the sport
spoken to his Leeds and Socceroo teammate with the players directly, although not from all around the world. From South
Harry Kewell for two or three years. That always on the record, was helpful. When America, to Australia and to Europe –
was a bigger deal for fans than the players. there is a lot of media control the media with some of the best writers in the world.
At that level of professional sports it’s not has to speculate about what’s going on To get these writers is a massive coup.
necessarily unusual for players not to talk and that is exactly what happened with We are not just publishing lots of mate-
to each other. Since then they have become Harry Kewell at the World Cup. What rial from another magazine, Football+ is
friends and have a better relationship.” some ended up writing was mis-informed built from the ground up with each story
A documentary film of the same name was opinion rather than what was factu- judged on its merits – not just if it can
adapted from The Away Game, two editions ally going on. The players subsequently fill space.”
16 6 December 2010

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