Clissitt is sports head in Guardian/Observer merger

Ben Clissitt, the Guardian‘s sports editor for the last eight years, has been named as head of sport across the Guardian, Observer and in a management restructuring.

Ian Prior, Clissitt’s deputy sports editor, is the favourite to take over as sports editor on the daily title while Brian Oliver continues as sports editor of The Observer in a reshuffle aimed at a 24/7 operation when the titles move to new premises in Kings Cross at the end of this year.

Of five “platform-neutral” senior editors announced across news, international news, sport, business and consumer for the two newspapers and their website, four are existing Guardian section editors.

After spells on business and as deputy features editor on the paper, Clissitt was appointed assistant sports editor at the Guardian in 1996 and promoted to sports editor in 2000. A history graduate and an avid Alan Partridge fan, Clissitt previously worked at the Independent on Sunday, where he was deputy sports editor.

A year ago, he was approached to join the Telegraph group as a “uber sports editor” across daily, Sunday and website (a role ultimately taken by Mark Skipworth). But Clissit had an 11th hour change of heart about leaving Farringdon Road, and it is believed he was then offered a similar role at the Guardian group by editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger.

An email to staff signed jointly by Guardian editor-in-chief Rusbridger, Observer editor John Mulholland, new head of news, business and sport Paul Johnson and digital director Emily Bell, said: “All these people have been involved in all of the meetings to look at how we will produce our journalism in the future.

“At the outset, we said we wanted to devise a way of working that would deliver our vision for 24/7 news provision (within existing budget and headcount) and prepare people to work in an integrated way in Kings Place.”

The email stressed that “separate section editors, responsible for maintaining a distinctive tone of voice, will be retained in each subject area for all three platforms”.

According to Observer insiders, there is concern about the nature of the appointments, and how much control of budgets and appointments will be ceded to the new group section editors.

In a statement, Rusbridger said: “These appointments are a crucial step towards delivering our vision of the future, providing news 24/7 while maintaining the distinctiveness of the Guardian and Observer.

“They mark the beginning of the next stage towards greater integration, a process which has already involved significant collaboration and consultation. Reporting to Paul Johnson, these new roles will help shape new teams from the Guardian, Observer and”

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