Non-League battle kicks off as ex-employee launches rival

Non League Paper owner David Emery has threatened legal action against his former news editor, David Watters, who has launched a rival to the paper.

Emery claims Watters has breached his employment contract by launching the rival title, Non League Today, backed by a claimed £1m investment.

Watters, who is the group editor of the new full-colour title, was hired by owners the International Publishing Group – an Australian media company.

The group has bought the former NLP website, nonleaguedaily.com, and will put out the new title with an initial print run of 140,000, compared with the Non League Paper’s print run of 114,000.

The former NLP features and results casual, David Fletcher, has been hired as a full-time associate editor on Non League Today, and one fulltime journalist has moved from the NLP to the new title. There are two full-time reporters, a designer, a production editor and two full-time subs.

Columnists include former Blackburn Rovers forward Simon Garner and non-league expert Robin Jones.

The Non League Paper has been through several changes of ownership in recent years. Last year, then-owner BHT Media turned it into a pull-out section of stablemate The Football Paper.

Then, the title was bought by editor David Emery, who revived the NLP as a standalone title.

“BHT Media, in my opinion, killed the golden goose,” said Watters. “I believed non-league football deserves its own paper. It should have 10 newspapers.

Non-league is getting more and more popular. I wanted to launch this paper because I thought I could do a better job than what the NLP is doing.

“I think the sports departments on local newspapers have just lost out in the cost cuts. There is a domination of the Premiership and they don’t see non-league as a selling point. This is where we come in. There are 40,000 football clubs in the country and they deserve to be covered.”

Explaining why he left the NLP, Watters said: “After going into administration twice and going through several changes of ownership, the paper was always in trouble and I had lost confidence in it.”

Non League Today is available on Sundays, priced £1.50.

NLP editor David Emery said that, despite new competition, his paper’s sales figures on the first day of the football season were better than any first-day sale in the past three years, at 39,512.

He said: “Back in March, David said he was going to change direction, but he had a clause in his contract saying he couldn’t work on a non-league paper. It then turned out he was leaving to launch a rival paper.

“It’s nice to have a rival out there, but it’s just a shame the way it has happened.

To have a rival coming out every Sunday against us has put everyone on their toes and has added an edge to the competition.

“We cover all the lower leagues and have far more information in our paper at the moment.”

The NLP has taken on nonleague player Stuart Hammonds and former manager of Stevenage, Graham Westley, to write weekly columns.

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