Sunderland legend Gary Rowell’s off the airwaves as Real Radio pulls the plug on commentary

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist

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FANS’ favourite and Echo columnist Gary Rowell says he is disappointed he will no longer be commenting on Sunderland AFC matches, but hopes to return to the airwaves in the future.

Gary provided matchday coverage for Real Radio, but the station has said it will no longer provide live commentary of Sunderland and Newcastle United matches after the Magpies doubled their asking price to £60,000 for the season.

Radio bosses have said they will stop doing the North East clubs’ games rather than cover just Sunderland, which could leave them open to accusations of favouritism by supporters.

Real Radio had an agreement with Sunderland to cover the Wearsiders’ games for £30,000 but when Newcastle asked for more money, they decided to stop covering both sides.

It means that from the start of next season Gary and his Newcastle United counterpart Bobby Moncur will no longer be giving their views on the action.

The only free coverage of SAFC will now be available on BBC Radio Newcastle.

Gary, who grew up in Seaham and held SAFC’s post-war goalscoring record until Kevin Phillips broke it, said: “I don’t know the ins and outs of it but (co-commentator) Chris Cooper and I heard as it got towards the end of last season that there were problems for next season.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure what’s happened because I’m not party to it.”

Gary added that the experience of covering Sunderland games was “great” and that he’s hopeful that he will be able take the mic again one day.

The Echo columnist also said he was unhappy that it had been portrayed by certain sections of the media that he and Bobby had been “taken off the air”.

He said: “I was a bit disappointed when I read the headlines that it’s anything to do with Bobby and me.

“It’s totally out of our hands.

“Sometimes these things happen and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

A spokesperson for Real Radio said: “We will not be broadcasting football commentary when the new football season commences.”

Real Radio will continue to host its Three Legends phone-in show on weeknights featuring Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup winner Micky Horswill, Malcolm Macdonald and Bernie Slaven.