Deedes gambles on sports newspaper

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The Independent Online

Jeremy Deedes, former chief executive of the Telegraph Group, who is heading the venture, said the paper would serve the "explosion" in interest in gambling on the results of all sorts of sport and also on City betting.

He said: "This is not a sports paper. This is a betting newspaper, which will provide all the statistics and information needed to bet on racing, golf or whatever. For people who bet, this will be their bible."

He is in the process of raising the £12m needed to launch The Sportsman. With up to 128 pages per edition and a staff of 100, the paper needs a circulation of 40,000 to break even.

Traditionally, punters have put wagers on horse-racing but over the past few years, football and other sports have attracted a lot of betting money. And in the City, highly sophisticated "spread" betting has proved enormously popular, offering the opportunity to bet on everything from the future share price of a business and upcoming interest-rate decisions, to who will fill a vacant chief executive position at a major company.

The Sportsman has been billed as the most important newspaper launch since The Independent in 1986. It has already attracted initial financial backing from Zac and Ben Goldsmith, sons of the late Sir James Goldsmith, a man who was better known for suing newspapers, rather than bankrolling them.

The tabloid paper is the brainchild of Charlie Methven, a former Daily Telegraph journalist, who teamed up with Max Aitken, the great-grandson of the legendary Express Newspapers owner Lord Beaverbrook.

The pair tempted Mr Deedes, who helped Eddie Shah launch the Today newspaper in the 1980s before running the Telegraph papers, out of retirement for the second time. Last year, Mr Deedes, 61, the son of former Telegraph editor Bill Deedes, was brought back briefly to fill the role of chief executive of the Telegraph Group, which publishes The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, when the newspapers were put up for sale last year. Mr Deedes, speaking from the golf course yesterday, said that the "buzz" of a newspaper launch was too hard to resist.

The Racing Post already provides daily horse-racing coverage and all the national newspapers provide exhaustive sports reporting. But Mr Deedes said a "sea-change" in the nature and level of betting meant that a new kind of title was needed.

"Editorially, one day we might lead on football, the next day on a horse-racing story or the general election," he said. "We will better reflect the betting market as it exists today."

The gambling industry was worth £44bn last year and it is a sector hungry to advertise to potential punters in newspapers and magazines. Mr Deedes is tying up printing and distribution arrangements for The Sportsman, which may involve cutting a deal with the Telegraph Group, which is now owned by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay.