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‘British institution’ comes to an end as last local Saturday sports paper shuts

The country’s last-remaining Saturday sports newspaper has closed for good after 119 years.

The final edition of Portsmouth’s Sports Mail hit the newsstands on Saturday following the decision by the city’s daily title The News to shut the paper earlier this month.

The last Sports Mail was a bumper 56-page edition featuring a total of 55 archive front pages, six of which were featured on its cover.

Fifteen Portsmouth Football Club players were also interviewed, while Danny Cowley, the club’s manager, was the final cover star.

Last Sports Mail

Neil Allen, chief sports writer at The News, shared his sadness at Sports Mail’s closure on Twitter and revealed his copy had been signed by Portsmouth legends including former goalkeeper Alan Knight and long-serving club employee Barry Harris.

He wrote: “Been contributing to the Sports Mail for almost 22 years. Sadly, no more.

“Felt it was fitting to have the last copy signed by Knightsie, Barry Harris, long-serving press steward Mick Hogan and the final cover star – Danny Cowley.

“It has been an absolute pleasure.”

Lamenting the edition’s farewell in a piece for The Observer, “dedicated reader” Tim Adams wrote: “It’s been the slowest of deaths, but yesterday the ‘Saturday final’ edition of a singular British institution will be just that.

“While in the last 20 years beloved pink ’uns and green ’uns (and the occasional blue ’un and buff ’un) have disappeared from towns and cities across the country, Portsmouth’s Saturday evening Sports Mail, 119 years old, held out as the last remaining dedicated matchday newspaper.

“With it goes a century of a particular collective memory: that Saturday evening ritual of heading up to the local newsagent at 5.30 or 5.45 to await the mundane miracle of a stack of fat papers slung from the back of a van reporting from all across the city what had ended only an hour before, ink still smudgeable on banner headlines.”

“Just as the National Lottery did for the pools, so the internet has long done for the pink ’un. The impulse, mainly among men and boys, dads and lads, for team gossip, player ratings, transfer speculation, something to discuss in the pub or the workplace, has not diminished, but it is not now confined to teatime on a Saturday.”

The title was first published in 1903 under the banner of the Football Mail, later becoming Sports Mail. It was previously closed down in October 2012 after 109 years, but returned nearly 10 months later after an “outpouring of emotion” from readers.

Subsequent warnings that it could shut for good without further reader support were subsequently issued in both 2016 and 2020.