`Sporting Life' falls at final hurdle

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The Independent Online
PLANS TO launch Britain's first national daily sports newspaper have been ditched, Mirror Group confirmed yesterday.

About 40 members of staff on the ill-fated Sporting Life project were told by Jeremy Reed, the managing director of the group's sports division, that jobs on other Mirror titles would be found for them if they wanted. The final decision to scrap the enterprise was taken after research revealed that the maximum circulation the title could hope to achieve was 200,000.

"An investment of pounds 10m to pounds 15m would have been required," a Mirror Group spokesman said. "And at that level of circulation, there was no guarantee of a return on the investment." The spokesman added that while the Sporting Life brand name would remain alive on the Internet, there was no prospect of the title being revived by the Mirror Group in print form.

A significant factor in the demise of the Sporting Life was the departure of David Montgomery as the Mirror Group's chief executive in January. Mr Montgomery's successor, John Allwood, is understood to have told executives to establishing quickly whether the paper would yield a speedy return or be little more than a long-term status symbol of dubious financial potential.

The reaction among former staff yesterday oscillated between bitterness and philosophical resignation. One journalist estimated that the aborted relaunch had cost Mirror Group more than pounds 2.5m. "The decision was supposedly made this week because research showed it would only sell 200,000 to 225,000. But last year, the break-even point was supposed to be sales of 150,000."

John Mulholland, now deputy editor of The Observer, was originally drafted in to revive the Sporting Life last March. Weeks before the 19 October publication date, re-cruitment was frozen and the launch delayed on the basis that more research was needed. Mr Mulholland left.

Another former staffer said: "It was always going to be a gamble but, once John left, I think we all suspected the project was doomed. I don't think The Mirror had any long-term view of what they were trying to do. `All at sea' would be a good description of their behaviour."

Mirror Group profits,

Business, page 18

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