Sportsman opens with 200,000 launch copies

By Lou Thomas and Dominic Ponsford

Some 210,000 copies of The Sportsman flooded newsstands on Wednesday as Britain’s first major new national daily newspaper since The Independent was launched.

The title needs to sell 42,000 copies to break even, but bosses have opted for a big print run in its early weeks to test the market. The title, which has a team of 80 journalists, is available in 32,000 of the 50,000-plus news outlets in the UK and Ireland.

Editor-in-chief Charlie Methven said: "It was pretty frantic, there were all sorts of things going on but we got it out. We got to all the print sites and hit all our trucks."

Issue one of the paper revealed bigname contributors including former footballer Andy Gray, jockey Kieren Fallon, TalkSport’s Alan Brazil, former cricketer Imran Khan, rugby star Mick Skinner and darts player Phil Taylor.

Times racing editor Rob Wright said of the new paper: "They’ve got a more newsy angle to it but are incorporating plenty of betting angles as well. I think it’s quite a good product to be honest."

A Sportsman insider told Press Gazette: "We were expecting teething problems one way or another. Certain systems that we put in place that we weren’t particularly sure about, that we knew were reliable, but we’ve been tinkering with all week, completely fell into place and worked. Most of us were done on time, sitting around drinking the beers and eating pizza provided by [chairman] Deedes and co.

"I think the biggest shock was that because we’ve been doing dummies, there was always the feeling after you’ve done a dummy, a feeling of ‘yes we’ve got it out’ and then you saw people sitting back tucking into a beer thinking ‘oh fuck’ we’ve got to do it all again tomorrow’."

The Sportsman is a seven-day a week paper and sells for £1, competing with the Racing Post which sells for £1.40.

Racing Post editorial director Brough Scott, commenting on the launch, said: "We had more golf than them today.

We had more tennis. People talk about football, but racing has betting as a central dynamic. The truth is betting is not a central dynamic of sports interest.

They may be interested in betting and sport, but those who follow football, rugby or cricket are interested in the sport first and the bet second.

"We’ve had 20 years of racing and 15 of developing sport and balancing it.

Obviously we may have got it completely wrong and we’ll go off into the sunset, but I don’t believe we have.

With sport, the national papers will have more sources than they have but with racing we have more sources than they have. The Sportsman has got to get through Saturday. For these sort of papers Saturday is double the sale.

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