The Sportsman, the betting paper that was Britain’s first national to launch for 20 years, today called in the administrators.
Despite anticipated bumper betting interest in sports events such as the football World Cup, the paper has struggled to hit the modest 40,000 circulation targets it had set itself ever since its March launch was delayed, missing the important Cheltenham Festival week.
Some 80 journalists are employed at The Sportsman, with management saying today that their jobs are safe as publication will continue as additional investors are sought.
The newspaper’s launch team included Charlie Methven, the former Daily Telegraph diary editor, as editor-in-chief. Max Aitken, scion of the Beaverbrook publishing dynasty, was managing director, but he left the paper in May. The management managed to raise £12 million for the newspaper’s launch.
The newspaper’s chairman, Jeremy Deedes, said today:
“Negotiations with interested parties continue to secure the long-term future of the paper. In the meantime The Sportsman will continue to appear on the newsstand every day.”
Facing strong opposition from the long-established Racing Post, doubts must remain about The Sportsman‘s future. Plans to fully integrate the newspaper with its online presence fell through somewhat when its website was not ready at the launch date.
The newspaper’s circulation also became a matter of concern: it was due to post a circulation figure of 23,500 copies for the World Cup month of June, but the paper opted out of the independent audit by ABC for July. Its last ABC figure, for May, was 16,315 – a figure which dropped to 12,762 when bulk give-aways were discounted.
A spokesman for the administrators took a more positive view of matters, stating that staff wages were safe:
“We hope that it shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks. Administration guarantees the wages so everyone’s safe in that respect and contracts stay as they are at the moment. So It’s actually more positive than it sounds.
“Obviously it sounds very bad but in the long run it’ll be OK. The investors have chosen not to liquidate the company so it shows that going forward they are very much involved. They haven’t taken that route so it does suggest confidence behind the product.”