The Athletic: Who is the US media brand playing fantasy football?

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The Athletic is shaking up the game

There's a new kid on the block, and they're not messing about. US sports media agency 'The Athletic' have already poached some of the UK's most well known football writers, and they don't seem like stopping anytime soon.

Sources claim that the bullish company, launched in Chicago in 2016, have already "gutted" the Times sports team, starting with editor Alex Kay-Jelski.

Sports editor Ed Maylon has also left his post at the Independent to join the exciting new venture, while Yorkshire Evening Post correspondent Philip Hay - who has been covering Leeds United for the past 15 years - has also departed the local paper for a fresh challenge with The Athletic.

Liverpool Echo's chief correspondent for the Reds James Pearce and Tim Spiers - who has been employed by the Express & Star as chief Wolves correspondent for the past decade - are also making the drastic switch.

Two sources say that when Kay-Jelski informed the Times that he was leaving, he was "frog-marched" out of the newsroom by security and only a short email was sent to staff explaining his departure.

It is understood that The Athletic are in advanced talks to poach the Times' chief football correspondent of 10 years, Oliver Kay, alongside northern football correspondent George Caulkin.

Kay has been writing for the respected broadsheet newspaper since the year 2000 (chief correspondent since 2009) but refused to comment on his future when asked if he would be joining his former colleague at The Athletic.

'Stories with substance'

Launched in Chicago in 2016, The Athletic initially covered each of the city's sports teams, including the Chicago Bears (NFL), the Bulls (NBA), the Cubs (MLB), and the White Sox (MLB).

It's sole objective is to give fans from a specific city in-depth coverage and analysis of each of the sports teams residing in that particular area, focussing entirely on well researched, expertly written, interesting articles, while disregarding discardable 'clickbait' news pieces riddled by advertising.

The tagline on their website home page reads: "Go beyond the box score with quality local and national sports coverage from an all-star team of writers. No ads, no clickbait — only stories with substance."

Following it's success throughout the previous three years, the US-based company are now expanding to the UK, initially covering the Premier League. It's being reported that The Athletic will officially launch in the UK in August, with a brand new team of 55 writers all covering next season's top-flight.

Will it take off?

A spokesperson for the Athletic released a statement last week, in it saying that they [The Athletic] were "building a line-up of the most talented and connected football journalists."

"We are looking forward to launching The Athletic's written, audio, and video journalism in the UK,” the spokesperson added.

“This is the home of the world's most popular football league, of a wealth of brilliant writers, and of fans with an insatiable appetite for coverage of their teams.” [Buzzfeed News]

The Athletic's chief of staff, Akhil Nambiar, said in a recent interview with Digiday last week that "a lot of writers have come from the world of clicks," but vowed that The Athletic will focus purely on the sport itself and provide readers with the stories they want to read, from the best writers in the business.

Nambiar added: “This is not an extension of the US; this is about how to empower our writers for a UK audience.”

Unsurprisingly though, The Athletic is not a free service; if you wish to read the articles which will be written by the above mentioned journalists next season, it'll cost you.

Currently, subscriptions to the digital platform are charged at $9.99 (£7.86) per month, or $50 (£39.35) per year. Prices are expected to be similar when they are released to the UK market in August.

Many people are sceptical that The Athletic will take off this side of the Atlantic, however, with the rising fees for services such as Sky Sports and BT Sport considered.

People already pay through the nose to keep up to date with the obscene amount of live football shown on TV during a season, why would they shell out more to read articles that they could just find online for free?

the Athletic
The Athletic will launch in the UK this August, with a team of over 50 writers covering the Premier League.
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