Monday, February 25, 2013

Why the French love their sporting heroes – and their newspapers

THE French love their sporting heroes – even if they have to borrow them, a la David Beckham.
The 37-year-old (really?) former England captain played just 16 minutes as a substitute for Paris St-Germain in their 2-0 win over championship rivals Marseille last night but made the front pages of the papers sporting, national and regional.
The reports were gushing, praising Beckham for his part in Ibrahimovic’s added time second goal, and even drawing a cartoon in L’Equipe, still France’s best-selling national paper by a mile, sorry kilometre, despite steep losses lately.
The French love their newspapers too. The gentleman above couldn’t wait to get out of the shop to read his. And it was interesting to see the regional daily Charente Libre, published in Angouleme, 260 miles south-west of Paris carrying a picture of Beckham as its front page image.
That’s like the Newcastle Chronicle running a Manchester United story on its front, a laughable suggestion. But such is the star power of Beckham that he transcends national and regional differences.
I was surprised to see renowned newspaper guru Juan Antonio Giner have a pop at L’Equipe branding it as ‘not a very good design’ with ‘not a very good future’. It still sells more than twice both national dailies Liberation and Les Echos and provides the sports fan with a daily dose of everything that moves.

Oh, that a publisher in the UK could find a way to sell 200,000 plus copies a day of a sports paper, even given that the Wonderful World of the Internet is supposed to provide everything to all men. For information, interviews, comment and reflection L’Equipe is hard to beat. 
The argument has long been that’s what the UK national papers do in with increasing volume and competence and a sports paper would not work. Maybe not, but it would still be fun to try…
FOOTNOTE: L’Equipe also has an 88-page colour magazine free at the weekend. This week’s issue featured an interview with everywhere-man Will Carling. Didn’t see, though, that he was next up on Danny Baker’s Saturday morning Sausage Sandwich Game on Radio 5 Live.