Non-League Paper tackles Sport First

Sport First insists it owns the name Football First and not The Non-League Paper

The Non-League Paper expanded into territory normally covered by Sport First when the latter decided not to publish for two weeks over Christmas.

NLP editor David Emery brought out a supplement called Football First, with coverage of FA Cup and Nationwide League matches.

This Sunday, Football First goes head-to-head with Sport First for the first time. Emery has yet to decide whether the supplement will become a permanent feature.

The move has led Sport First to accuse Emery of cashing in on a brand name he does not own.

Emery said: “As well as going down the pyramid of football to increase coverage of minor leagues, we’ve been wanting to include some senior football as a service to our readers.

“When we found out that Sport First wouldn’t be publishing for those two weeks it gave me the chance to do some market research on our readership.

“The first week we did an eightpage pullout covering Nationwide Divisions One, Two and Three and then we did a 16-page pullout on the FA Cup. I was thinking about doing it anyway and Sport First not publishing gave me a window of opportunity.”

Emery, who was launch editor of Sport First in 1998, added: “‘Football’ and ‘first’ are fairly generic words. Copywriting them would be very difficult.”

Sport First, which has an ABC circulation of 27,117, last year moved production from London to the Press Association offices in Howden, Yorkshire. Editorial director Chris Mann said: “We took advantage of the festive season to take a two-week break as part of a relaunch. We are going to be bigger and better in the new year starting this Sunday.

“David Emery saw his opportunity and jumped in. It seemed rather curious that a paper calling itself The NonLeague Paper would cover national football.

“We thought it was also rather curious that he used the name Football First that we own. We own the internet domain name and have used it in the paper for five years.”

He said the relaunch would bring in more colour, more features and more investigations.

The NLP, with a weekly ABC of 42,518, goes biweekly from 23 January when it adds a Friday edition. It plans to expand coverage of the country’s 50,000 football teams, taking in Sunday leagues, pub teams, schools, universities and forces.

Sportsbeat news agency, which has the contract to provide much of The NLP’s original content, extended its work to organise Football League coverage, while its production division is subbing the pages.

By Dominic Ponsford

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