Sunday newspaper kicks off sporting week

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST edition of a newspaper devoted entirely to sports will hit the newsstands tomorrow. Called Sport First, the paper will be a 48-page broadsheet which is hoping to cash in on the apparently insatiable demand among newspaper readers for sports coverage.

The paper is aimed at the "serious" sports fan although it will have the liveliness of a tabloid.

Keith Young, the entrepreneur who has funded the venture with more than pounds 1.5m of his own money, said the paper was aimed at readers of the Sunday broadsheets who want more sports coverage. Priced at 50p, it is designed to be a secondary purchase for Sunday newspaper readers.

Mr Young's is aiming for a circulation of 150,000, and the paper needs to sell 100,000 sales a week to break even. Mr Young regards this as a modest target. "You've got 17 million newspapers produced in this country every day," he says. "I'm trying to expand the market by 0.9 per cent."

The venture is a slimmed-down version of Mr Young's original idea, which was to launch a daily sports paper. However, he struggled to find funding for the idea and eventually settled for a more modest Sunday format.

The paper will have a core editorial staff of about 20, but will rely heavily on stringers and freelancers to supply match reports. It will be divided into two 24-page sections, with the second segment devoted entirely to football. It will also focus heavily on statistics, offering a comprehensive results service for even minor regional football leagues.

The success of BSkyB has shown that British consumers are willing to pay heavily for access to sport, especially football. However, no pure sports paper has ever succeeded.

The format works well in other European countries, though. Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport has an average circulation of 376,000, with a peak sale of 618,000 on Monday. In France, L'Equipe sells 372,000 copies a day.

Mirror Group, which owns the Sporting Life, is believed to be preparing to expand the racing newspaper into a general sports title later this year.

Mr Young also has plans to expand First Sport, first producing extra issues on Saturday and Monday, before moving to a seven-day operation. However, he says the decision to expand will be driven by the market.

"We can't become a daily until the market wants one," he said.