Brough Scott has described the sale of the Racing Post, as announced before Christmas by owners Trinity Mirror, as “a great opportunity” for the daily betting paper and its associated businesses.
Scott, sports feature writer on the Sunday Telegraph and a three-time winner of the SJA’s sports feature writer of the year award, has been interviewed by the Press Gazette over the pending sale of the publication, of which he was a founder and remains editorial director.
Following its launch in 1986, funded by the Maktoums, the Post established itself in a market dominated by the Mirror-owned Sporting Life, ultimately leading to the title being acquired in 1998 by Trinity Mirror and the Life being closed. Last year, the Post saw off another rival betting title, the short-lived Sportsman.
Now, the Racing Post has a seven-day-a-week operation, plus three weeklies, an official form book and a 24-hour-a day website that includes Britain’s first live streaming coverage of racing which also offers online betting facilities.
“This operation needs direct handling – it needs to be a business of its own,” Scott told Press Gazette.
“We are an operation, not a sports division of Trinity Mirror; that’s a complete misnomer. We are the Racing Post Group. At the moment we don’t have a Racing Post board and are just a tiny cog in the wheel. There haven’t been the synergies, but we are the only thing Trinity Mirror’s got that is a world No1.”
The Racing Post made £17 million profit in 2005 and £6.9 million in the first-half of 2006. “We have just been a cash cow and that’s not much fun for people who are energetic and creative to feel they don’t get any return on what they do. What we want is to have a stake or say in what you do. It’s self-evident – if you have a stake in it, it makes a difference.
“Trinity runs a very tight ship; they have taken most of the fat out of it. Management say you can run it with half the number of journalists and three robots.
“You could run the Racing Post at a cheaper cost, but you wouldn’t be able to charge a premium price for it; it’s £1.40, it’s a premium product. You could use PA pictures and copy but you then cut off your nose to spite your face” Scott said.
He expressed anxiety over how Trinity Mirror might run the sale, and over the ambitions of any potential buyer, warning against the temptation to move into the general sports newspape market, while talking of the need for greater investment in the group’s website activities.
“The worst any buyer could do is turn it upside down and call it the Sports Post. Hopefully the lesson of The Sportsman is it doesn’t actually work like that. Our success is that it’s a racing paper for racing punters who also bet on sports. The Sportsman was a fundamentally bad idea.
“I want to take the project we’ve got forward and to make it the No1 international multi-media racing and betting publishing operation. If you’re growing a business you need more people and investment in the website. ”
Read the Press Gazette article in full by clicking here.