Jobs may go as Sportsman pulls out of ABCs

The Sportsman will not be turning free or reducing its frequency following a decision to opt out of the ABC system for collating circulation — but there has been an admission that "one or two" jobs may go.

Advantage, part of Associated Newspapers, has taken over The Sportsman's distribution and will also audit the circulation.

Managers at the seven-days-a-week betting newspaper, which launched in March, claim this is because ABC figures contained a "number of inconsistencies, most notably in the Irish sales returns, both up and down, and we therefore agree that we cannot confidently post a correct ABC figure".

A Sportsman spokesman said: "To weaken the product, which inevitably job cuts would do, I don't think that's likely to be the case at all. There might be one or two, but I don't think you'll be seeing any dramatic slashing." He added: "Dropping frequency or going free would be way too dramatic.

When you've got cards and form, which is a lot of information you're supplying, a punter expects to pay for that. If you go racing, a racecard is £2.50 and you don't even get form.

"There is racing every day — if you're going to be a serious racing paper, you can't be anything less."

May's ABC figures showed The Sportsman edging up 2.36 per cent month-on-month from a launch figure of 21,819 in April to 22,333. But actual paid-for sales are still well short of its stated break-even circulation figure of 40,000.

Excluding bulks, The Sportsman dropped from 16,315 to 12,762.

Reports in The Times that the paper is hoping to raise between £3m and £4m to stay afloat were not confirmed or denied by The Sportsman — but the paper's spokesman said investmentwould be a "definite tonic".

Following reports that the paper would focus more on racing to compete with The Racing Post, a spokesman added that June circulation figures showed the paper was up 20 per cent each day of Royal Ascot, before crashing down on the Monday after the horse racing event.

The spokesman said: "It's basically football and racing that work.

Everything else will still be there, but we'll very rarely lead with anything other than football or racing. It does seem a betting person rather than a sports person seems to go for one of those two rather than anything else."

The opt-out from ABC will be for the "foreseeable future".

Managing director Max Aitken quit the paper at the end of May. The 29- year-old grandson of Lord Beaverbrook has not yet been replaced.

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