Owners put their cards on table for Sportsman launch

By Dominic Ponsford

The owners of what could be the UK’s first new national daily
newspaper since Today was launched 19 years ago have promised to
revolutionise the way journalists are employed.

Former NUJ father-of-the-chapel at the Daily Telegraph Charlie
Methven is prospective editor-in-chief of The Sportsman which is aiming
for a spring 2006 launch. The planned paper will cover sports betting
and has a target circulation of 40,000 seven days a week.

Methven,
29, said: “I’m absolutely determined to make this the prototype 21st
century newspaper. All staff will be incentivised and we intend to
voluntarily recognise the NUJ if the staff want that and work closely
with it on all the things it can offer such as training.

“My
experience is that most journalists work at 70 or 80 per cent of their
capacity because they don’t feel they have got any stake in the success
of the business. It would be unheard of in the City for people to be
expected to work at 100 per cent year after year and have no share in
the company’s future.”

Methven started his career as trainee racing reporter at the Sporting Life before spending seven years at the Telegraph.

He was one of 90 journalists to accept generous redundancy terms from the Telegraph Group in February.

He
said The Sportsman will be “totally betting event led” with the paper
leading on cricket, football, racing, golf, Wimbledon or even politics
depending on what is attracting the most interest from gamblers.

He
said: “The content will be data, information, entertainment and
education about sports betting. Betting is meant to be fun and it can’t
be fun if you are losing fist-fulls of money so we hope we will help
our readers to avoid that. We want to inject humour and a fun spirit
into the whole thing and make it a really good fun read.”

It will
be tabloid size, run to 128 pages and be about 50 per cent horseracing-
related. Methven is intending to recruit 80 journalists out of a total
staff of around 100, including an editor and deputy editor.

According
to former Telegraph chief executive Jeremy Deedes, who is helping to
put together funding for the project, enough money for the paper’s
firstsix months is already in place. And he said he is in talks with “a
number of institutions” to provide the £12m needed to make the project
sustainable.

Max Aitken, great-grandson of the former Express Newspapers owner Lord Beaverbrook, will be managing director.

The
Sportsman will provide competition for Trinity Mirror’s Racing Post,
which made £18m operating profit on turnover of £48.9m last year.

Racing Post editor Chris Smith said: “It seems to ignore the fact that 15 to 20 per cent of our paper is about sports betting.

We’ve
been a virtual monopoly for seven years since we merged with Sporting
Life, so it’ll be nice to have someone to make us look to our laurels.”

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