Football First: focus on the beautiful game
The UK’s first national sport-only newspaper Sport First has renamed itself Football First in order to concentrate purely on the beautiful game.
The move comes as part of a relaunch which intends to give readers more than just the Sunday paper’s comprehensive league match reports service.
Editorial director Chris Mann said he wants to include more columns, features and exclusives.
The paper is subbed by the Press Association in Howden, Yorkshire, and relies on a network of freelance contributors for much of its copy.
Circulation of the title, which is independently owned by Keith Young, was 97,000 in October 2001 but has since declined to its current ABC figure of 24,557.
Young said: “The breadth of different sports from rugby to cricket and golf is covered so well by the established Sunday papers, particularly the broadsheets, that it makes sense for us to specialise in a way that they can’t.
“We have the pagination and the resources to provide football fans with an in-depth dedicated read covering all leagues from the Premiership down through the Nationwides to the conference feeders, Scottish football and even continental leagues.”
Mann said: “Over a two-month period we have completely redesigned and overhauled the paper and increased our coverage of football with more words and extra pictures, adding stats pages, more news and features and a whole new betting section.”
He added: “Football has always been what sells the paper, we don’t get extra sales when Wimbledon is on or the Open, but we do when Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United are playing.
“We are never going to be a mass sale but we are going to be a strong niche sale. We put the price up to £1.20 a month ago and sales have held.”
Mike Parry has joined the paper to write a column, which also features his TalkSport co-presenter Alan Brazil and the masthead has been changed from red to blue.
Coinciding with the name change, Football First also launched an Irish edition this weekend, printing in Belfast for distribution throughout Ireland.
The Non-League Paper this week dropped its supplement covering the Nationwide Football League, also called Football First.
Launched in January, the right to use the words Football First was contested by rival publication Sport First which claimed it owned the copyright. No legal action was taken.
NLP editor David Emery said: “There are so many issues surrounding league restructuring at the end of the season that we’ve decided to devote the extra eight pages to non-league football.”
He said it was a coincidence that NLP’s Football First supplement had been dropped the same week as Sport First’s name change.
By Dominic Ponsford