US website ‘The Athletic’ signs top UK football journalists & target Barney Ronay, Jonathan Liew, George Caulkin & Oliver Kay

‘The Athletic’ sign top UK football journalists

Buzzfeed News have published an eye-catching article this week, revealing how a relatively unknown US website called ‘The Athletic‘ is poaching some of the best football journalists in the UK.

Is this the real transfer story of the summer?

According to Buzzfeed News, ‘The Athletic’ are offering attractive compensation packages to prise journalists from their current jobs in the UK media.

What is ‘The Athletic’?

‘The Athletic’ is a new media outlet which launched three years ago in January 2016.

Perhaps the most central feature of ‘The Athletic’ is the fact that it’s behind a paywall. Put another way, all readers of ‘The Athletic’ are paying subscribers.

‘The Athletic’ costs $9.99 (£7.86) per month or $50 (£39.35) per year.

In return for paying for content, readers are served long-form articles that deep-dive into a variety of topical sporting issues.

To be clear, ‘The Athletic’ is a general sports site.

They report on all the major US sports, while they now appear ready to make a move into the UK football arena.

Who has joined the ‘The Athletic’ so far?

Buzzfeed News reported the following:

It’s understood that the Athletic, which only last week announced an ambitious plan to launch in the UK, has already poached Times sports editor Alex Kay-Jelski and the Independent’s sports editor Ed Malyon.

With regard to Alex Kay-Jelski, it’s claimed that the Times reacted badly to his decision to leave the broadsheet:

When Kay-Jelski told Times management he’d be leaving the newspaper, two sources say, the editor was “frog-marched” from the newsroom with only a short email sent to the rest of the sports team.

As for Ed Malyon, he’s previously confirmed that he’s switching jobs on social media.

Transfer targets: Barney Ronay, Jonathan Liew, George Caulkin & Oliver Kay

Perhaps the ballsiest part of the Buzzfeed News report on ‘The Athletic’ are claims that the US publisher intends to sign up several other high-profile UK writers.

On target is Guardian reporter Barney Ronay. However, Ronay has confirmed that he’s staying with the Guardian.

Could the Independent’s Jonathan Liew switch employer?

Buzzfeed News note that attempts by ‘The Athletic’ to sign Liew have so far proved unsuccessful.

Liew was recently named sports columnist of the year at the Sports Journalists’ Association awards.

Other rumoured targets for ‘The Athletic’ are Times journalists George Caulkin and Oliver Kay. Readers are told:

Asked on Monday evening whether he’d be leaving the Times after 17 years, Kay declined to comment. The Times and Caulkin did not return requests for comment.

How are ‘The Athletic’ funding all of these acquisitions?

As reported on Digiday last week, ‘The Athletic’ have raised “over $100 million (£78.7 million) in funding”.

What’s the impact on the UK sports scene?

It seems clear that aggressive expansion plans from ‘The Athletic’ are having a significant effect on the current journalism sports scene in the UK.

Buzzfeed News report the following:

One well-known football writer told BuzzFeed News that journalists are “talking of little else”.

“[The Athletic has] offered old journalism money, signing-on fees, comp schemes, equity,” the writer told BuzzFeed News. “They have been super aggressive … they have gutted the Times.”

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