A headline you can believe: The 'Sport' closes

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The Independent Online

As the Daily Sport appeared to have breathed its last yesterday, as its parent company ceased trading and called in administrators, it was still styling itself as "the world's most outrageous newspaper".

But the Sport's definition of outrageous has lately been rather different from the shock tactics it employed in its pomp when it acquired a cult following for outlandish revelations often containing references to extraterrestrial locations and figures of popular culture.

Thus the claimed discovery of a statue of the long-dead Elvis Presley on the planet Mars was worthy of front-page news in the weird world of the Sport. The paper's intrepid reporters purported to have uncovered a Second World War bomber plane on the moon and a London double-decker bus buried at the South Pole. Occasionally, the extraterrestrials came to us, as in "Aliens Turned Our Son into A Fish Finger."

It is no affirmation of the journalistic ability of the Sport's staff that no other news organisation was ever able to verify these claims. But the paper, launched in 1986 as the Sunday Sport by David Sullivan, the soft porn publisher and now joint chairman of West Ham United, found an audience among those who were amused by its apparent lampooning of tabloid headlines.

A quarter of a century later, the Sport does a different line in outrageous. On what looked like its final day in business, the paper was offering readers an unrelenting diet of pornography. Its website was boasting of a "collector's edition" that featured a photograph taken beneath the miniskirt of the singer Cheryl Cole and features with titles such as "Students Talk Sex" and "Booby Tuesday".

The paper's owner, Sport Media Group, called in administrators after suspending trading on the stock market. The company acquired the titles in 2007 and sought to capture young male readers who had abandoned newspapers for lads' mags such as Nuts, Loaded and FHM. But the ploy was a failure and in 2009 SMG turned to Mr Sullivan for financial assistance to get it through the recession. Yesterday it was blaming poor winter weather conditions for distribution problems that had hit revenues.

Buoyed by the initial success of the Sunday title, Sullivan began the Daily Sport in 1991. Its circulation reached a peak as late as 2005 when the daily edition was selling 189,473, but four years later the figure had plummeted to 72,592, and shortly afterwards SMG withdrew the Sport titles from the official circulation audits. The paper's sleazy content also saw it become the target of campaigns for it to be moved to the top shelves in newsagents.

Unless a new purchaser can be found to rescue the papers they will, if they can still be classified as newspapers, be the first national titles to close in 16 years, since Rupert Murdoch's News International took the decision to shut down Today. SMG said that the titles would not be distributed this weekend.

For the Sport, the presses appear to have stopped rolling. But who knows? Perhaps it could be on sale next week after all, up in space near the Elvis statue, at a news-stand being manned by Lord Lucan.

You couldn't make it up...

World War 2 Bomber Found on Moon, 14 August 1988.

World War 2 Bomber Found on Moon Vanishes, 21 August 1988.

Bus Found Buried At South Pole, 12 February 1989.

Aliens Turned Our Son Into A Fish Finger, 1996.

Donkey Robs Bank, 14 July 1996.

Marilyn Monroe is Alive & Working as a Nanny, 26 January 1998.

Woman Gives Birth To 8lb Duck, 30 June 1990.

Statue of Elvis found on Mars, 1 October 1989.