Daily Sport and Sunday Sport editor-in-chief Barry McIlheney is to step down from his role seven months after joining the re-launched red-top and is to be replaced by Murray Morse, the former editor of the Cambridge Evening News.
McIlheney, the former Zoo editor and founder of several magazines, has been appointed Sport Media Group’s group editorial director with responsibility for the two Sport titles, Front magazine, all digital content and any new magazines the company buys or launches.
Morse, who left the Evening News on 18 April, is to be brought in as editor of the Manchester-based Sport titles on Monday in his first newspaper job since leaving Cambridgeshire.
McIlheney told Press Gazette: ‘I’m very happy to be appointed group editorial director. I think someone with Murray’s experience will come in and do a really good job from a newspaper background. It plays to his strengths as my new role plays to mine.”
He added: ‘My role is moving away from the paper and working very much on the magazine we’ve got, the magazines we may well acquire or launch and all the digital stuff.”
Morse, who has extensive experience of working in regional and national newspapers and in broadcasting, had set up his own media consultancy where his clients included the National Council for the Training of Journalists. He helped design a new sports journalism NCE exam for the council and has had to turn consultancy work down to move to Manchester.
Morse told Press Gazette his arrival could lead to a more news-led approach at the Sport titles, though he stressed that McIlheney had done a good job in turning the newspapers colourful, magazine-style titles.
He said: ‘This is just a fantastic opportunity. There are big plans ahead for the group as a whole. And Manchester must be the last major media centre I’ve not worked in. I’m not saying there isn’t a lot to be done, because there is – particularly on the news side.
‘Barry was brought into do a job, his background in magazines and he followed the brief the letter. But in terms of the overall newspaper going forward, they obviously feel that bringing it back to the feel of a newspaper is the way forward.”
Morse described the offer as ‘too good to be true’and one that ‘came out of the blue”.
Both Sport titles have struggled since being bought by Sport Media Group last year. Their re-launch as ‘newszines’for young men, keeping their sexy content but ditching much traditional news content in favour of magazine-style features and graphics, has seen company shares dip from 77p when it first floated to 14p today.
The Daily Sport’s circulation for June was 82,920 while the Sunday Sport was at 78,976 – a 19 per cent drop year-on-year.
McIlheney was hired by consultant editor and Loaded founder James Brown – who now works one day a month for the company.
On joining the paper in January McIlheney said: ‘The Sport is the best kept secret in daily publishing – it is completely unique. It fulfils a very clear consumer need, not currently being met elsewhere. It is unashamedly ‘for the boys’.”
Sport Media Group chief executive Andrew Fickling had not returned calls at the time of publication.