What's sport got to do with it?

Tyler Brûlé made waves by making Wallpaper interesting. Now he plans to give sport a sweat-free makeover
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The Independent Online

Tyler Brûlé got the idea for his new magazine on the tennis court. Brûlé, creator of Wallpaper magazine, the last word in contemporary living, thinks there is room for another sports publication.

Tyler Brûlé got the idea for his new magazine on the tennis court. Brûlé, creator of Wallpaper magazine, the last word in contemporary living, thinks there is room for another sports publication.

The notion struck when Time Inc's golden boy was playing tennis with Wallpaper's art director Herbert Winkler and photo editor Ariel Childs. Brûlé insists the newcomer will be unlike any other sports magazine. Forget Men's Health or Sports Illustrated. Dispel those images of sweating athletes and mud-splattered footballers. The mere suggestion he could be producing a publication which shows how to get a designer six-pack stomach makes Brûlé shudder visibly. "We're not in football territory, in fact we're not covering sport at any level," insists the man who founded the bimonthly interiors and travel magazine in 1996 only to find them both within the Time Inc empire a year later.

Brûlé says he considered including a running page in Wallpaper, but decided the fit was not right. The newcomer, however, will target the same affluent 25-45 year old as Wallpaper - those sophisticated, global consumers who feel the need to be connected to urban life in Sydney, Los Angeles and London. Sport through the prism of Wallpaper seems the best way to describe the concept. And Brûlé thinks that like Wallpaper, his latest creation will be "just as relevant in the South Pacific as it is in the South of France".

In summer there could be advice on which is the season's tennis racket. "We might feature six good rackets costing between £170 and £300. But it wouldn't be a huge review of 200 brands or a Which? magazine type of assessment. I hate that. It's so boring and our readers haven't got time to wade through that sort of stuff". Winter could carry editorial on skiing or snow boarding. "It would be for the reader who's got 10 days to spare and wants to know which is the most fantastic resort for skiing".

Naturally, Brûlé says the title, "squarely aimed at men and women", will provide the right environment for the all important advertiser; travel companies and the sports brands of fashion houses. The initial 200-page publication will be bound on to Wallpaper and be available in 9 major European and North American cities as well as Sydney. Ultimately it will become a stand-alone title and mirror Wallpaper's 120,000 distribution in 43 countries. Before then Brûlé asserts the magazine will have a less outlandish title than its code name; Project Tart.

But there's little likelihood of the fans on the terraces finding Project Tart their can of lager. Sport First has a better chance, and last Sunday the paper crossed the border with a Scottish edition.

Managing director Neil Webster admitted the drive into Scotland had been difficult. "It was easier to get newspapers to the Falklands than get distribution in Scotland, but we've overcome those problems".

Sport First in Scotland is based on the premise that Scots love football at home and abroad; there are plenty of Scottish players in English soccer teams. And editor Chris Mann, who took over last summer after a stint heading the 24-hour commercial radio network News Direct, is a Scot, so that could help.

Speaking from his Old Street offices he is adamant the edition will be a winner. "We're a newspaper about sport. We're a tabloid but we don't have a political agenda and we're not interested in scandal. We're interested in hard news, analysis and exclusives". Such confidence is based on the fact that since launch nearly two years ago Sport First has attracted a loyal readership. Circulation is around 90,000 and while it already prints an Australian edition for expatriates there are ambitious plans for further overseas expansion.

Competition will nonetheless be fierce in Scotland. Not only is the magazine up against the Scottish editions of the London nationals but there's also the home players - The Glasgow Herald and Scotsman Publications.

David Emery, meanwhile, has his eye fixed firmly on the English grounds. Emery plans to launch The Non League Paper in the middle of March and without the cash for a massive advertising campaign "It's a word-of-mouth grass roots approach," he says of the £350,000 venture which is being underwritten by City financiers with a further £2million. Although on a tight budget Emery says success is virtually guaranteed with a 30,000 circulation and £2,000 in advertising revenue.

He may be taking comfort from last month's debut of Football Gazette. The Gazette with a 60,000 print run is a preview paper and brainchild of a threesome who established Storehouse Publishing in Hitchin. Trio member, Mark Wiseman, says the paper is attracting its own following from the country's 3.5 million soccer fans. A betting page is an added draw. "Football betting has become very mainstream. Our readers finish work on Friday, look at the previews and have a bet on that basis. It gives added interest to the game and the paper".

Ladbrokes reckons nearly £7 billion was spent on betting last year. Racing accounted for more than 90 percent and football six percent. All other sports combined accounted for a mere one percent.

Media Box, a small London publisher is aware of the pitfalls but is mulling a free glossy magazine for this crowded sector. Free Kick will be distributed to 100,000 Premier League fans under the auspices of the National Federation of Football Supporters. Martin Feeley, the company's creative director, admits the recent closure of magazines such as Goal and Total Sport make the sector look even more risky.

Over on the side lines what does the referee make of it all? "I just don't know how well they'll do," says Mark Field press manager for the media specialist MindShare. "From an economic standpoint the barriers to entry are very high. Additionally, every newspaper from The Daily Telegraph to The Sun has invested heavily in sports coverage."