Magazines relegated in readership league

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The Independent Online
THE heightened interest in football has had the perverse effect of threatening the future of some of Britain's best known football magazines.

In the latest round of circulation figures, football magazines are looking as ragged as a Tottenham defence: Shoot lost 20.5 per cent of its sales in the last six months of 1997; Match dropped 23.5 per cent; Soccer Stars fell 22 per cent; Total Football went down 11.7 per cent and Total Sport lost 10.4 per cent.

Only the original of the new breed of adult football monthlies, Four Four Two, and the club magazines dedicated to Manchester United and Liverpool managed to buck the trend.

These falling sales are a long way from the optimism of a few years ago when the men's magazine boom provoked publishers to pile into football magazines like they were a foreign transfer market.

Some believe that the magazines inevitably suffer because their advance print deadlines make them less than topical. Some even say it is because of the difficulty of making anything a footballer says sound intelligent and interesting.

However Paul Simpson, editor of Four Four Two, believes the reason for the slump is much simpler: "You just have to look at the proliferation of extensive sports sections in newspapers over the last three years. The pages devoted to sport have probably increased tenfold as newspapers try to use sport as part of the circulation war. They are using them to get readers to sample their newspaper, and are promoting heavily off the back of their sports coverage. Only a few years ago, the coverage was mainly match reports. Now they are doing the longer features that used to belong in magazines."

The magazines do not even have a World Cup frenzy to look forward to. So many special supplements and one-off magazines are produced during the finals that they are likely to see only a small uplift in sales.