Neil Ashton has been snatched from the Daily Mail, to be appointed chief football correspondent at the News of the World.
Ashton will be based in Manchester, taking over responsibilities for covering United and City from David Harrison.
SJA member Harrison, 60, is leaving after 23 years at News International, first with Today and then, from 1994, with the News of the World.
“I prefer to describe it as semi-retirement,” Harrison told sportsjournalists.co.uk. “I expect to carry on doing some match reporting and I’ve been approached about a couple of book ideas.
“My last day officially will be May 31, so hopefully my last week will see me cover the Champions’ League final in Rome and then the FA Cup final at Wembley.”
Harrison is the latest long-serving journalist to leave the News of the World‘s sports desk team, following a round of credit crunch-induced redundancies at Wapping earlier this year. Sports news editor Mal Butler left the Sunday title, while reporter Geoff Sweet was found another job at The Sun‘s sports desk.
Adam Hathaway, who had covered rugby and cricket, has also left the paper, where among his tasks was the ghosting of England cricketer Kevin Pietersen’s column. Sam Peters has been appointed to replace him.
Ashton, 35, has been at the Mail for five years, where he is football news correspondent. He was previously a football writer at The People for four years. According to the announcement from the paper today, Ashton “will also play a major role in the paper’s England coverage and will be part of the News of the World team at all the biggest football tournaments and events.”
The News of the World already has a “chief football reporter” in Rob Beasley, a past award-winner at the SJA Sports Journalism Awards, and a “football editor” in Rob Shepherd, although a spokeswoman for the newspaper said that no one else’s position on the paper is affected by Ashton’s appointment, “they’re just different job titles”.
“I’m delighted Neil is joining us,” said Paul McCarthy, the sports editor at the News of the World. “He comes with a reputation as one of the best story-getters in the business, his contacts are first class and he has a real insight into football as well as a passion for the game which comes through in everything he writes.”
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