The Daily Sport is known for its brazen sexual content, ridiculous stories and sense of mischief.
But its new management has launched a bid to tone down the sleaze and market the red-top to young men more used to splashing their cash on expensive football tickets and £100 nights out.
Editor-in-chief Barry McIlheney, founder of lads’ mag Zoo, as well as Heat and Empire, and consultant editor James Brown, founder of Loaded, were in London last week to show what they claim is a £1m relaunch to advertising agencies – armed with research commissioned by Sport Media Group.
It found that 72 per cent of young men earning less than £25,000 spend an average of £100 on one night out.
McIlheney said his aim was to make the paper pass ‘the Tube test’– whether a man would feel comfortable reading the paper in public ‘or in front of their girlfriend”.
‘From the day I arrived I knew I needed to do something quite radical, because it needed a radical turnaround,’said McIlheney. ‘The perception of the paper was that it was off the radar altogether.”
McIlheney admitted that ‘changing the letters page typeface would not be enough’to turn around the fortunes of a title which sold just over 95,000 in April.
Designer Julian Bovis was drafted in from The Daily Telegraph to give the daily title a fresh, magazine-like feel with a new masthead and more colour. The Sunday Sport will receive similar treatment next and improvements to the website will follow later this year.
The paper’s famously bizarre stories continue on the front page –it reported a claim that that Gordon Brown was gay. Last month a fictional ‘Prezza’s Pie Diaries’shed some satirical light on the former deputy prime minister John Prescott’s self-confessed bulimia.
As James Brown admits, the paper has never been one for hard-hitting investigations. ‘We’ve got a very good bunch of journalists there and it’s fucking funny. That’s what you want, it makes you laugh,’he said. ‘You’ve got to remember that this paper’s most famous scoop was ‘World War II bomber found on moon’. It’s not exactly Private Eye doing Rotten Boroughs, it’s a fun paper.”
Major personnel changes have been made – 20 voluntary redundancies will be made this year. Brown and McIlheney said they are not planning to bring in many more staff to replace those 20 though they may advertise for roles later in the year.