It was a bold move but the Netflix of sports journalism has changed the industry for the better

Back in 2019 when the rumours were circulating about the launch of a new, in depth football journalism subscription, I was one of the people who was admittedly sceptical about it.

As some of the best regional football journalists in the country started to hand their notices in, everyone in the industry were left questioning what was going on.

Then the launch of The Athletic UK was announced. The sports website, founded in the US was a subscription based sports journalism service.

For £60 a year you were set to get the best, indepth analysis and exclusives anywhere on the market.

Before I finally signed up to the product a few month ago, I was, as I have admitted, sceptical.

With so much football rumour, news, speculation already out there, albeit on unbearable websites full of pop up ads and clickbait, will the average football fan be willing to fork out £60.

Subscription figures haven’t been released but judging by the long and extensive recruitment process, coupled with the expansion of staff in recent months I’d say the answer on some level was yes.

As explained so extensively in GQ earlier this year, Ed Maylon, the former Independent and Daily Mirror Sports Editor alongside ex Times man Alex Kay-Jelski were tasked with assembling the cream of the crop of football writing around the country.

As well as filling their roster with the best in regional journalism such as Phil Hay and James Pearce from the Liverpool Echo, the pair went big.

The headline names include the likes of Oliver Kay, Sky Sports’ David Ornstein and German football expert Rafa Honingstein.

According to reports some reporters around the UK were even contacting The Athletic in a bid to earn a spot.

With the cavalry assembled they were ready to flood the market with the best and most in depth football journalism out there.

Their first season in the English game was to coincide with the biggest pandemic seen for generations.

For many newspapers and media companies who were forced to furlough staff, it was a disaster.

The newspaper industry was melting as it was before the pandemic, and Covid has done nothing to help the cause.

But scrolling through The Athletic app during the pandemic, it almost worked the other way as far as they were concerned.

When the traditional written press were scrambling around to fill column inches with little to no sport going on, The Athletic was still able to bring the off beat and off diary exclusives that you wouldn’t find in the tabloids.

David Ornstein was one of the standout signings for The Athletic

Just scrolling through the app today stories on how Chelsea almost lost Stamford Bridge, Maradona almost rocked up at Sheffield United and the US pair plucked from college football to play for Everton are some of the unusual tales.

What The Athletic has done is offer a product that is not available anywhere else on the market.

Stories with similar quality are only really found on the pages of the broadsheets in this country.

And that isn’t a swipe at the regional reporters in this country.

I know a raft of reporters who work all hours to provide the best minute by minute coverage of sides up and down the country.

But as many people have achknowledged, the newspaper industry in the UK is only going in one direction.

For a time clickbait and pop up ads were the new thing. Now people are fed up of them.

They want quality without going through all the junk in a bid to get to it.

That is what The Athletic is offering and will continue to offer while it still has so much editorial muscle at its disposble.

It remains to be seen how successful companies such as The Athletic will go on to be in the years to come.

The quality is there and with the newspaper industry diminishing year on year, that may in turn make The Athletic a stronger beast in the long run.

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