Sportsman betting newspaper cashes in its chips

Around 100 journalists were made redundant on Thursday night when The Sportsman, the betting newspaper launched in the spring, closed down production.

Administrators had been called in at the paper in July, as daily sales failed to hit targets and the business had accumulated debts of nearly £4 million.

The founders of the paper – former Daily Telegraph diary editor Charlie Methven and ex-Telegraph Group managing director Jeremy Deedes – had hoped to cash in on Britain’s muilti-billion gambling industry.

But attempts to re-finance the paper or find a buyer had failed, prompting the announcement.

Staff were told this evening that they will be paid up to the end of this week and will receive a statutory amount of holiday pay, but the last edition of The Sportsman has been published.

“It is a very sad note on which The Sportsman closes,” Deedes, the paper’s chairman, said.

“Our last recorded sale, of 21,000, was not only our best day’s sale since the launch period, but also corresponded to the figure set out as the ‘break even’ under the new business plan.”

The paper’s circulation hit a low of less than 13,000 copies in May, against a break-even target of 40,000 a day.

As well as the staffers, The Sportsman also provided work for around 60 freelancers.

Previous reports:
Sportsman‘s future on the brink
First redundancies at The Sportsman

Roy Greenslade’s analysis for Guardian Unlimited:

Immediately after launch, I had my doubts. First, there was the failure to get the website up and running during the period of greatest promotional investment. Given that the website was supposed to bring in money, it was essential have the print and web versions on stream together.

Second, there was the problem of targeting an audience. Deedes and Methven both stressed that they were aiming to provide a paper for the new betting fraternity generated by the online poker craze. These would be more middle class than the average racing punter. But the paper itself looked anything but middle class. Its style – typeface, choice of headlines and material – was little different than the Racing Post, a paper of choice for 70,000 or so racing fans. I was alarmed to see that The Sportsman looked more like The Sun than the Daily Mail.

Read the rest of Greenslade’s blog here.

This entry was first published on October 5