SOUTHAMPTON based Radio Hampshire went off the air permanently yesterday – to the surprise of both staff and listeners.

Staff at the station which broadcasts from St Mary’s Stadium were told the company had been shut down and would cease broadcasting immediately.

They were told in the late morning and by the afternoon the station was completely off the air.

The Daily Echo attempted to contact the studio, but the telephone number appeared to have been disconnected and director Jason Bryant was unavailable for comment.

Eyewitnesses reported people removing equipment from the station’s studio in Britannia Road, which are leased from the football club.

The station – formerly known as The Saint and SouthCity FM – had been organising the Heroes 2009 awards, which celebrated the efforts of ordinary people to improve their communities.

Now sponsors have been left wondering what has happened to the money, believed to be in thregion of £14,000.

The Daily Echo understands that the awards will no longer take place on June 9 as planned.

One sponsor, who did not wish to be named, said: “I know staff there had no idea that this was coming and neither did we. It’s been a huge shock to everyone.”

An insider told the Daily Echo that the station had been placed into administration with debts of £70,000. Staff had offered to work for free if a buyer could be found to run it as a going concern but the offer was turned down, it is thought.

The closure also raises question marks over the commentary of Saints games, as Radio Hampshire provided Southampton FC with online commentary of matches via the Saints TV website.

According to the latest Rajar figures from March, Radio Hampshire had a 1.3 per cent share of the local radio audience.

The station was formed after Saints bought SouthCity FM for £1m in 2004 and merged it with their in-house radio station The Saint, which at the time broadcast on Sky TV and DAB digital radio.

From then it was known as The Saint and was on the 107.8FM frequency and DAB across South Hampshire, however it struggled to make a profit and Saints’ relegation from the Premier League resulted in the club needing to save money where possible.

As a result, in July 2007 it was bought by Town & Country Broadcasting for about £100,000 and renamed Radio Hampshire, in an attempt to move it away from a being a football focused broadcaster.

It de-merged from Town & Country and bought Winchester’s Dream 107.2 in November last year and began broadcasting on that frequency too, until yesterday’s closure.