Being a specialist title, finding a different angle on stories and putting FourFourTwo ‘at the heart of the football industry’have been key factors in its success, according to editor-in-chief Hugh Sleight.
Speaking as the magazine celebrated its 150th issue, Sleight said its rise in sales to more than 100,000 in the past five years was reflective of a general trend towards niche titles in the men’s market: ‘At the moment we’re into a pattern of people looking at specific interests, vertical titles. That kind of one-stop-shop for everything isn’t working to the same degree. People want to drill down into their particular niche interests so that’s certainly been a benefit for us.’FourFourTwo marks the milestone this month with five different souvenir covers featuring ‘The men who changed football’– Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Roman Abramovich, Arsene Wenger and Sky TV. The first issue was in September 1994, launched as the first adult football magazine. Sleight said: ‘When FourFourTwo launched, adult football magazines didn’t exist. You had the kids’ magazines but there had never really been a grown-up magazine, so that was a cultural shift.’FourFourTwo tackled the challenge of competing with up-to-the-minute football coverage offered elsewhere, with fresh angles on stories or previews.
Sleight said: ‘There’s saturation coverage, so what we have to do is find a different kind of story – the story behind the story, or looking ahead to an event before anyone else has started thinking about it.’Sleight, who has seen an increase in sales from 67,246 to 111,406 since his arrival in 2001 as deputy editor, said that featuring lower league football that appeals to more fans has helped the circulation. ‘When I arrived you could talk to a lot of fans and they’d never heard of FourFourTwo. I don’t think that’s the case now. We’re much more mainstream, at the heart of the industry. One of the challenges is that football is such a tribal sport. What we have to do is provide a magazine that fans of all types of club are interested in.”