Three big names from the world of football have condemned plans to axe three out of nine sports reporting positions on the Daily Express.
Express Newspapers, part of Richard Desmond's Northern and Shell, announced plans this week to make 25 compulsory editorial redundancies – including five positions from the Daily Express's sports team.
In addition to three reporter positions being put at risk, two out of three sports page editors are also set to go.
The proposed 25 compulsory redundancies come after 150 journalists, out of 650, have taken voluntary redundancy in the last six months. Among those to have left are the Daily Express's rugby editor and its motor racing correspondent.
The National Union of Journalists described Express Newspapers' sports resources as already "miniscule" compared with rivals.
According to the union, the Daily Express currently has one columnist in addition to its nine reporters, the Sunday Express has two reporters and the Daily Star has five.
This, the NUJ said, compares with the Daily Mail's 24 sports writers, The Sun's 20 reporters and eight columnists, and the Daily Mirror's 13 sports reporters.
Reacting to the news, former England manager Graham Taylor (pictured, Reuters), who was axed as a columnist for the paper last year but remains a reader, said: “I do hope very careful thought, other than just saving money, is put into the decision of dismissing any number of sports journalists as, for me the present sports coverage in the Daily Express is as good, if not better, than any other comparable newspaper. That is why I buy it.
“In my opinion, if these dismissals take place the quality of the sports coverage will be impossible to maintain.”
Former England player and captain David Platt, another Express reader, is quoted by the National Union of Journalists as saying: “The Daily Express, in my view as a reader, cannot afford to see a reduction in its sport staff…
"The current standard of the Express sports coverage cannot be maintained with those losses and can only lead to, in my view, a loss in readership."
Former Arsenal player and Leeds manager David O'Leary is quoted by the union as saying: “I’m sorry to hear sports reporters will be leaving the Express. I think they do a fantastic job and surely that is going to weaken badly the excellent sports coverage they provide.”
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said the fact three high-profile footballers had spoken out was a "sign that [owner Richard] Desmond should sell the paper to somebody who cares about what the readers want to read".