The Athletic launches in UK and promises new level of football reporting

Simon Austin's picture
by Simon Austin
Athletic

Subscription sports website The Athletic has launched in the UK and claims to have “the biggest team of football journalists ever assembled,” including four-time sports journalist of the year Daniel Taylor and former Yorkshire Post chief football writer Phil Hay.

For the last few months, the website, which launched in the US three years ago, has been raiding national and regional titles for sports journalism talent.

The likes of David Ornstein, the BBC sport correspondent, and Hay announced their departures on social media but were not able to reveal they had joined The Athletic.

That changed today as the UK title officially launched, along with an extensive list of writers, and The Athletic UK Managing Director Ed Malyon, 29, declared he was now overseeing the “best sportswriting outlet on the planet without a shadow of a doubt”.

Former Daily Mail and Times sports editor Alex Kay-Jelski is editor in chief of The Athletic UK and notable appointments include: Manchester-based Taylor, who won acclaim for his coverage of football’s abuse scandal for The Guardian; Oliver Kay, chief football correspondent of The Times; Ornstein, sports correspondent at the BBC; George Caulkin, who covered North East football for The Times; Hay, the former Yorkshire Post chief football writer with more than 165k Twitter followers; and German football expert Raphael Honigstein.

In the US and Canada, The Athletic covers about 270 NFL, NHL, NBA and college sports teams. Last week it announced it had passed the 500,000 subscriber mark at an average annual fee of $64. It has raised over $90m from financiers such as Comcast Ventures, the media conglomerate’s investing arm, and hired about 450 journalists.

The start-up promises to do for sports journalism what Netflix has done for TV drama. The UK venture is backed by £10m and is aiming to attract more than 100,000 subscribers in the UK.The cost is £9.99 a month or £59.99 a year and a 50% discount is currently being offered.

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Malyon said the current newpaper model “does not work”. He added: “It is broken, and nobody seems to want to do anything about it. On the surface that just means an industry in gradual, managed decline, but it has consequences that reach far beyond that.

“The volume business model naturally incentivises anything that provides web traffic. Anything being the operative word. In 2019, this means extreme opinions, unverified news reports and anything that will provoke enough of an emotional reaction in someone to share the piece through either love or hate.

“It is why there is this scramble to ‘break’ (read: repeat) news as soon as it is reported elsewhere. It’s how we ended up with news outlets simply parroting every line uttered by those who most divide us rather than daring to question it.”

Kay-Jelski added: “What are you going to get? Well, it depends what you want, really. You can follow our Premier League feed and get the best stories, analysis, features, interviews and long reads on every team from award-winning writers up and down the country. 

“Today, for starters, we have exclusive interviews with Liverpool chairman Tom Werner, Dortmund’s Mario Gotze and Leicester’s new signing Ayoze Perez.

“There is also fascinating insight into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tanguy Ndombele, the tactical underpinning of Manchester City’s title-winning defence and what really happens at clubs in the transfer window (and yes, set-piece bonuses for players are a thing).”

Club reporters:

  • Arsenal – James McNicholas and Amy Lawrence
  • Aston Villa – Gregg Evans
  • AFC Bournemouth – Peter Rutzler
  • Brighton & Hove Albion – Andy Naylor
  • Burnley – Andy Jones
  • Chelsea – Liam Twomey
  • Crystal Palace – Matt Woosnam
  • Everton – Patrick Boyland and Greg O’Keeffe, pictured
  • Leicester City – Rob Tanner
  • Liverpool – James Pearce and Simon Hughes
  • Manchester City – Sam Lee
  • Manchester United – Andy Mitten and Laurie Whitwell
  • Newcastle United – Chris Waugh
  • Norwich City – Michael Bailey
  • Sheffield United – Richard Sutcliffe
  • Southampton – Carl Anka
  • Tottenham Hotspur – Charlie Eccleshare
  • Watford – Adam Leventhal
  • West Ham United – Roshane Thomas
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers – Tim Spiers
  • Derby County – Ryan Conway
  • Leeds United – Phil Hay
  • Nottingham Forest – Paul Taylor
  • Sheffield Wednesday – Nancy Frostick
  • West Bromwich Albion – Steve Madeley
  • Celtic – Kieran Devlin
  • Rangers – Jordan Campbell

 

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