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Martin Smith column: Sad days for Sheffield Wednesday radio-fans - or will they just iFollow them instead?

Owls fans at Wigan for the first game of the new season. Pic Steve Ellis
Owls fans at Wigan for the first game of the new season. Pic Steve Ellis
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You can spot them a mile away.

Earpiece in, faces twisted, eyes distant.

The non-available Owls fan absorbing a Radio Sheffield live commentary of Wednesday’s games.

Those familiar voices and crackly commentaries have sustained generations of Owls on match days at Meadowhall, the mother-in-law’s and those niggling DIY days. But no more.

BBC Radio Sheffield has been told by Sheffield Wednesday that it will not accept their reduced offer to cover commentary of Owls matches this season.

End of an era?

Local radio coverage of away games is one of the staples of a football fan’s life all over the country.

If your team’s not up there in the Premier elite and covered on Five Live the BBC regional radio service is vital.

But according to the club’s website Wednesday are to extend their own iFollow Wednesday commentary to away games and fans will be able to subscribe to their service – for £4.49 a month or £45 a season.

And there’s the rub.

Fans will have to pay the club for something they got from the BBC for free because the club wouldn’t accept less money from the Beeb to allow coverage – a 10% reduction that all other clubs have apparently accepted.

On one hand you might think ‘good on them’ for not agreeing to the same deal for less cash.

On the other you wonder if their drive to bring in more money through iFollow subscriptions might just be breaking a connection with fans.

Wednesdayites have been making their feelings clear and by and large they don’t like it.

With Financial Fair Play restrictions hitting the club’s transfer dealings it needs all the money it can get to balance the books.

But is this just penny-pinching?

Meanwhile, Rotherham United lost a good friend at the weekend with the death of Barry ‘Chuckle’ Elliot. Honorary club President and lifelong Miller Barry and his brothers, especially fellow Chuckle Paul, backed Rotherham in some tough times for the town and the team.

The thousands who met Barry or both over the years will have their own tales to tell.

Having been in their company for a day as they prepared for panto in Wolverhampton a few years ago it’s fair to say they didn’t disappoint.

Two friendly and professional blokes who liked making people laugh.

To you Barry.