SubScribe: Snowboarding Jenny struggles to hold her own against Kate up front ...and Man Utd on the back Google+

Sunday 16 February 2014

Snowboarding Jenny struggles to hold her own against Kate up front ...and Man Utd on the back

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GB's first snow medallist, Jenny Jones. Photograph: Daily Telegraph

Editing is all about making decisions. Sometimes the choices are tough.

Do we go with a new picture of a pretty blonde few have heard of, but who has done something no Briton has done before?

Or should we use a photograph of the pretty brunette we've seen tens of thousands of times, and doing something most mothers do every day? A photograph, what's more, that has already been seen in every supermarket and newsagent on the cover of Hello! magazine.

It was a close call but n the end, the brunette edged it. The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George in St Lucia was the front-page choice for five papers last Monday. 

 Four went for the snowboarding bronze medallist Jenny Jones. 

The royal mum and baby were the winning choice
 for most papers, even though the picture
had been on supermarket shelves for a week

Jones not only failed to secure a front-page slot in the Mail, she didn't get onto the back either. In common with almost every other paper, the Mail splashed its sports section on Manchester United's draw with Fulham. 

The exception was the Telegraph, which led its general sports supplement with the Games and restricted Moyes' misery to the Total Football section. The Telegraph is far from alone in having a supplement  devoted entirely to football, but it is the only paper to exercise this sort of restraint. 

The default setting for everyone else is to have football on the first few pages working in from the back of the main paper as well.

BBC2 achieved an audience of up to 3m for Jenny Jones's snowboarding event in Sochi, and its Winter Olympics coverage had a bigger share of the all-day audience than ITV on both Saturday and Sunday. So people are interested.  This is just the sort of achievement that inspires youngsters to take up a new sport they may never have thought of.

Yet only the Guardian used an Olympic picture on the back - every other sports section restricted Jones to a puff to the coverage inside.

It's not only snowboarding that suffers. Even in the miserable rain and wind, millions of people will have been out walking, running, jumping, climbing, swimming, pogo-jumping this weekend. Yet minority sports don't get a look in.

The mainstream sports don't do much better. Last weekend saw the start of the Six Nations rugby, the British indoor athletics championship and the ECB explaining why it has given Kevin Pietersen the boot. All of these, and horse racing, found homes however bijou - everywhere. But what about tennis, badminton, hockey, golf, cycling, boxing, rallying, equestrianism? 

Almost all consigned to the 5pt results page. Is this right?

Fulham's Darren Bent celebrates after the 94th minute equaliser
against Manchester United last weekend

Several years ago, Gameoldgirl had a bit of a run-in with the Times sports department when a strong cricket story broke late on a Sunday evening. Were we interested in taking it up front? 

Not the whole story, but we'd certainly like a write-off to cross-ref to the sport splash.

'Oh we won't be splashing on it.'

'Because we always splash on football.'
'But you've got 24 pages of The Game for football.'
'Yes, but we have to splash on the football.'
'Well, couldn't you split the page and do the picture on the footie and a text splash on cricket?'
'No. That's not the style. We give the whole page to football. But if you want to change the way we do things...'"

Gameoldgirl retreats in surrender.

When the sportsman had disappeared back to his office, a former sports executive who now holds a senior position in news, leant across the desk and said: 'He's right, you know. We have to splash on the football whatever happens. ..And I much prefer cricket.'

Another standing rule for a Sunday at the Times was that the front page puff had to be devoted to The Game and that it was not to be diluted with pointers to any other element of the paper. 

Nor was it unusual for the main front-page picture to be football-related. 

This approach was not born from the whim of a particular editor - it was embraced by successive editors, deputies, night editors and sports executives not only at the Times, but at many other papers.

Every stop is pulled out to ensure that every evening result is in the next day's first edition - and if a European game goes to extra time and penalties, a paper can be up to two hours late on the presses and they still won't start without the final score. If the front page is offstone ten minutes late on any other night, there's hell to pay.

The rigid philosophy has been tempered over the years, but football continues to dominate every section that claims to write about 'sport'.

Of course football is big business, very big business. It's also soap opera, the main topic of conversation in the pub, at dinner parties -  at any social event, in fact, where strangers seek common ground to make small talk or where friends and neighbours dramatise their rivalries. No one is doubting the very great interest in the game.

Football coverage is such an essential selling point for newspapers that many of them have 16, 20 and 24-page supplements. So essential that Monday papers routinely devote more column inches to that one sport than to the entire home, foreign and business sections put together.

So why do those must-read, must-puff  football sections never have any advertisements in them? 

SubScribe doesn't have the answer, but we thought it would be interesting to do an audit of one day's sports coverage across the national papers to see how the valuable space is shared out.

Match of the Day routinely attracts around 4m viewers. Radio5Live and its Sports Extra sister also have a growing audience - reaching more than 6.5m a week, according to  quarterly ratings released last week. 

There will therefore have been few sports fans who woke  on Monday unaware of the tensions and last-minute dramas at Old Trafford. 

Of course this was the main football story of the day. Of course Moyes is under the microscope. The question here is whether sport in general is suffering from this level of coverage - and whether it bears any responsibility for the ludicrous turnover of football managers this season.

We hear endlessly about the need for the nation to get fit. Yet our sports pages cater almost entirely for the armchair pundits who wear tracksuits for no reason other than to hide the blubber and catch the dribbled pizza. 

That is why SubScribe thinks the balance needs to be shifted.

Here is the evidence from last weekend: 

Monday's sports coverage in numbers

Sun back page 10-402-1
The Sun
Main book 11 of 60 pages
Back page

Splash Man U 
Picture Rooney 
Puffs 1 x Olympics
2 x football

Inside pages
4 x football, 2 x Olympics, 

2 x racing, 1 x rugby, 
1 x Pietersen
Goals supplement 28 pages
Supplement advertising
2 20x3s, baseline strips on several pages, all for Wickes

Total football space 
33 of 88 pages (37%)

Independent back page 10-02-14
Main book
16 of 56 pages
Back page
Splash  Cricket
Picture Bent (v Man U)
1 x Olympics
1 x football

1 x athletics

Inside pages
5 x football, 4 x rugby, 

2 x Olympics, 1 x athletics,
1 x Pietersen, 1 x opinion, 

1 x results
Advertising None

Total football space
5.5 of 56 pages (10%)

Guardian sports cover 10-02-14
Main book
0 of 34 pages
14 pages
Picture Olympics
Splash Man U
s/c on Pietersen

6 x football, 2 x rugby
2 x racing

2 x Olympics, 
with cycling and athletics
at the edges
1 x opinion
Advertising 4 house ads

Total football space
6.5 of 44 pages (15%)

Telegraph sports front 10-02-14
Main book 0 of 30 pages
Sport supplement 16 pages
Cover Olympics
Puffs 1 x rugby, 1 x Pietersen
Inside pages
6 x rugby, 1 x opinion

4 x Olympics, with golf at edge
2 x racing, 1 x cricket
1 x athletics/equestrianism
Total Football supplement 

22 pages
Sport advertising 

1 10x7, 4 house ads
Football advertising 
1 page
Total football space
22 of 68 pages (32%)

Daily Star back page 10-02-14
Daily Star
Main book 11 of 52 pages
Back page
Splash Man U
Picture Rooney
Puffs 1 x football
1 x Olympics
Inside pages
4 x football, 4 x racing, 
spread on Olympics and Pietersen with bit of rugby, golf and athletics
Seriously Football pull-out

20 pages
Supplement advertising "in association with Wickes" 
1 x full page, 1 x half page,

1 20x3, 1 25x3, front page 10x5 
Total football space
25 of 72 pages (35%)

Mirror back page 10-02-14
Main book 
11 of 52 pages
Back page 
Splash Man U
Picture Moyes
s/c football

Puffs football

4 x football 2 x rugby, 2 x racing, 1 x Olympics, 1 x Pietersen
Mirror Football
supplement 20 pages
Advertising "In association with Vauxhall" straplines,
baseline strips, 2 x half-page, all Vauxhall

Total football space
25 of 72 pages (35%)

Express back page 10-02-14
Main book 12 of 64 pages
Back page 
Splash Man U
Pictures: Bent, Moyes
Write-offs Olympics, Pietersen, rugby
Inside pages
6 x football, 2 x rugby
2 x Olympics, with Pietersen, athletics and boxing at edge
1 x racing
Advertising 10x5 Sky,
25x3 Wickes, 15x2 betting, 
3 house ads
Total football space
7 of 64 pages (11%)

Times back page 10-02-14
The Times
Main book 12 of 64 pages
Back page
Splash Man U
Picture Man U
Puffs 1 x Olympics, 1 x rugby
Inside pages
4 x Olympics,racing 4 x rugby,
1 x cricket, 1 x racing, 1 x opinion
The Game supplement 20 pages
Game advertising Sky Sports baseline strips, 3 house ads
Total football space
21 of 84 pages (25%)

Daily Mail back page 10-02-14
Daily Mail
Main book 16 of 72 pages
Back page 
Splash Man U
Picture Rooney
s/c story Pietersen
Puff rugby
7 x football, 3 x rugby, 2 x opinion
2 x Olympics, with Pietersen and Football Extra, 1 x racing
Advertising Wickes 25x3, 
Sky Sports 10x5, 
Lloyds Pharmacy 15x2,
1 house ad
Total football space
8 of 72 pages (11%)

i back page 10-02-14
Main book 10 of 56 pages
'Back page'
Picture Bent (v Man U)
Splash Sport Matrix roundup
Inside pages 3 x football, 2 x Olympics, 
1.5 x rugby, with golf and tennis, 1 x Pietersen, 0.5 racing, 1 athletics + results roundup
Advertising 4 house ads
Total football space
3.5 of 56 pages (6%)

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