Daily Sports Newspaper in Britain Folds After Seven Months

The Sportsman, Britain's first new daily newspaper for almost 20 years, ceased business on Thursday, Oct. 5 after less than seven months of publication following its failure to secure new funding.

Launched in March this year by ex-Daily Telegraph journalist Charlie Methven and Jeremy Deedes (former chief executive of the Telegraph Group), with backers including entrepreneur Max Aitken, the paper hoped to benefit from the growth in sports and general betting.

It also wanted to challenge the domination of the Racing Post newspaper, which covers horseracing in Britain plus other sports on a daily basis.

However, poor sales allied with distribution problems and high initial expenses, combined with a failure to capitalize on events like racing's Cheltenham Festival (not ready in time) and World Cup soccer, saw The Sportsman fail to meet its original break-even target and, after sinking into debt, the paper was placed into administration in July.

Despite a re-launch in late August that saw the focus switch to horseracing in a bid to increase circulation, a long-term financial backer could not be found to secure the paper's future.

With shareholders unwilling to finance survival for another month, a statement was issued on Oct. 5 stating that The Sportsman had closed.

Ironically, The Sportsman's demise came just as its sales had started to improve, a fact that the paper's chairman, Jeremy Deedes, found hard to digest:

"It is a very sad note on which The Sportsman closes. Since we re-designed the paper six weeks ago, circulation has grown every week. Our last recorded sale of 21,000 was not only our best day's sale since the launch period, but also corresponded to the figure set out as the 'break even' under the new business plan. To be shutting on a rising sale is somehow more heartbreaking than if we had been in steady decline."

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