Plans to launch free evening sports paper

Chris Mackintosh, the former marketing director of Sport First newspaper, is to launch a free evening sports paper backed by a national publisher and sports associations, under the working title Sportsnight.

The plans are clearly based on the advertising successes of the two London free papers launched in the past 18 months, although recent moves by local councils to charge punitive levies for the high volume of waste created by the freebies might affect Mackintosh’s scheme.

It is a bold plan given recent attempts to launch a daily sports betting paper, The Sportsman, which folded within months last year, and the repeated re-launches of the specialist, but troubled, Non-League Paper. The commercial success of free weekly magazine Sport, though, may have encouraged Mackintosh and his investors.

Under his plan, the London-based daily tabloid will launch at the start of the next football season. It will publish every day except Sunday and is likely to be published as a joint venture between the founders, though Mackintosh is considering setting up an independent company.

Mackintosh told Media Week: “Combining the massive betting economy, demand from sports associations and an amazing upcoming five years of sport, including the European Championship, World Cup and Olympics, there is a gap in the market for a dedicated sports paper.”

Around 100,000 copies of the maximum 32-page tabloid will be distributed in pubs and social clubs.

Once established in London, regional versions of the paper will be distributed in about nine other areas, including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, extending the circulation to around 500,000 copies.

Mackintosh is looking to hire around 20 editorial staff and 10 to 15 sales staff. The lion’s share of revenue will come from gambling companies, with classified advertising for those selling tickets and memorabilia, which will be extended to a dedicated website.

The project will be funded by a number of investors, including venture capitalists, and plans to break even after two years.

There will be a focus on football, but also coverage of all other major sporting events. Mackintosh is in discussions with all major sporting associations in football, rugby, cricket, racing, golf, motor racing, and athletics. These bodies will provide content and revenue.

Sport First was set up by entrepreneur Keith Young in 1998 as a Sunday paid-for title. It was subsequently extended to Saturday and a midweek edition, but folded in 2004 because it had trouble competing with national newspapers’ Sunday sports sections.

Mackintosh also set up Chris Mackintosh Associates, a sales agency and contract publisher that closed at the end of 2006.

● Jeremy Deedes and Charlie Methven, two of the key figures behind the Sportsman, have moved into public relations.

Deedes, who was chairman of the Sportsman before it closed last October, has joined financial public relations firm Pelham as a part-time non-executive chairman.

Methven, the Sportsman‘s editor-in-chief, has become managing director of New Century Media, the parent company of PR firm David Burnside Associates.

“After the end of the Sportsman I had a good think about what I should do and I had a couple of good offers back in journalism,” Methven said.

“I decided that I didn’t want to go back onto Fleet Street, where I had a terrific 10 years. I wanted to move into a different sphere,” he added.

Football paper closes 4 months after salvage package

Sportsman betting newspaper cashes in its chips