'The Daily Sport is just like The Indy...but with tits'

Once it ran stories of warplanes on the moon. Now the notorious title is taking on 'The Sun', says Tim Walker of his vision for turning the paper's fortunes around

The first edition of a revamped Daily Sport ran a political story on the front page. John Prescott's struggle with bulimia had hit the news over the weekend, so the paper splashed on it, next to a busty, auburn-haired beauty, with the sensitive headline, "Spew Jags!" Inside, the paper asked, "Who ate all the pies?" "Me!", Prescott responded with a bulbous speech bubble, "Now where's the bog?"

Barry McIlheney, the Sport's new editor, leans back in his chair and laughs. He's buoyed by the first day's feedback; anecdotal evidence suggests that the relaunched paper has made healthy sales. With an editorial staff of less than 60, housed on the top floor of the Daily Express Building in Manchester, he has redesigned a national newspaper on a budget small enough to make most of Fleet Street's finest weep.

"Most papers decide they have to cover everything that happens," says McIlheney. "But it simplifies life to say, 'We don't: we just want loads of pretty girls, tons of sport, and to make people laugh.'"

The paper's priorities are heralded, a day later, by the Chelsea-Liverpool score below the masthead, sandwiched between a scantily clad girl and a rallying cry urging readers to "Parp for Victory". And that's McIlheney's mission statement – games, girls and gags.

The men behind the relaunch have a history in lads' magazines. McIlheney and editorial consultant James Brown launched Zoo and Loaded, respectively. They've also parachuted in the Telegraph's Julian Bovis as chief designer and Rebecca Jane as head of glamour.

"We're looking to pick up a younger breed of bloke who's used to reading FHM, Loaded, Zoo and Nuts, but who doesn't seem to have a tabloid," McIlheney explains. "We want to give them a paper that says, 'You don't have to wade through the horoscopes and Celebrity Big Brother to get to the bloke stuff.'

"We'll only cover Big Brother if there's a particularly fit girl in it wearing a wet T-shirt. That extends to sport. Most blokes don't care who David Beckham shags. They just want to know if he can still take a free kick."

The Sport's illustrious reputation took a tumble in recent years, with the paper's content edging towards sleaze rather than good old traditional sex. Advertisers deserted the paper in droves – unless they were publicising sex chatlines or other, even seedier services. As the paper gradually lowered its tone, its readership descended, too. The most recent figures suggested that circulation had dropped to around 97,000.

"It was so far off the radar that we were able to redesign it on a low budget and have quite a bit of fun with it," says Brown. "Our aim is to produce something that's funny, throwaway and taps a little into the heritage of the original Sunday Sport, which was a great alternative take on life. Everyone takes things too seriously. The papers have a joke on April Fool's Day and a couple of columnists, and that's about it. So the idea of a daily paper that takes the piss a bit seemed like a great opportunity."

McIlheney is confident that he can reverse the decline. The paper's structure has been streamlined, and the adult ads corralled in a separate supplement, making the rest of the paper clean enough for respectable advertising. The Saturday and Sunday editions will soon follow the Daily's lead and, finally, the digital platform will get an extreme facelift, too.

Afternoon conference is swift and efficient. Stories are simply cut if they don't fit the new editorial agenda. A piece about Gordon Brown talking to Shakira began as a news story, with a fictional transcription of the pair's phonecall to accompany it.

"In the end," says Bovis, "I thought the only funny thing was the pisstake conversation, so we kept that and got rid of the story."

The following day is St George's Day, and there's debate over a feature suggesting other Georges who deserve a national holiday (Clooney, Best, Harrison and so on). While "The Madness of King George Day" caters to the more sophisticated sector of the Sport readership, "Barry George Day" may just be offensive. There's a quick discussion. Eventually, it's replaced in favour of "George Galloway Day".

Mark Smith, the sports pages editor, is one of the veterans of the Sport's newsroom. "Not Mark E Smith of The Fall," McIlheney clarifies. "Although we're trying to get him to guest edit an edition." This might be another joke.

Smith's pages remain relatively dry, explains McIlheney, because otherwise people find it difficult to trust the sports coverage. However, they do allow themselves a humorous piece at the expense of Carlos Tevez, who is apparently planning to record a song in praise of Man Utd ("My Fer-gie Amor", the headline will run). Meanwhile, Smith wants to herald the invention of the "exhaust-burger", a grill attachment for your car exhaust, which will cook your half-time burger on the way to the match. The story is deemed so funny that it gets upgraded to the news pages.

The paper contains the odd highbrow cultural joke; for instance, the daily "Kraftwerk Konundrum" and even a literary gag, of sorts: "Personally, I do find Proust a little bit jejune," says a girl squeezing her naked breasts together. "Fancy coming on my face?"

There's also an unexpected twist to the latest edition: a piece reflecting on 15 years of violent crime since the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It doesn't exactly conform to McIleheny's stated criteria.

"The Stephen Lawrence story doesn't fit in to the strict prism of, 'It's gotta be sport, it's gotta be girls, or it's gotta be funny.' But I want to try other stuff to see how it looks, see what the reaction is. We want to do a story no one else would do, or a story everyone does, but in a unique way."

In that respect (and others), McIlheney argues, the new Sport is not unlike The Independent. The pull-out section where all the sauciest stuff lives is called X-tra!; The Independent's features supplement is called Extra. "The big, graphic covers we're doing are like The Independent," says McIlheney. "We're trying not to be driven by a traditional news agenda. Our idea is a 'newszine': a newspaper with a magazine sensibility."

Bovis, his chief designer, agrees. "On the news stand, this looks completely different to The Sun and the Mirror, the same way The Independent does next to The Telegraph. The Sport is like The Independent, with tits."

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

SEO Executive

£24 - 28k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical SEO Executive to join one ...

Research Analyst / Insight Analyst

£25k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Research Analyst / Insight Analyst to joi...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?