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Left on the shelf: good news for all cricket fans

It's a jungle out there for new magazines. So why is one publisher unleashing not one, but four, new cricket titles at the same time? PDCC talks to the man behind Gatt World.

In these days of the credit crunch and a collective tightening of belts you might think it was not the ideal time to be launching new consumer products, especially in the highly volatile world of magazine publishing.

Yet this is exactly what Chris Hogg, MD of Hogg Publishing Ltd. intends to do next month with the arrival of, not one, but four new titles - and all related to the world of cricket.

The cricket magazines already on the shelves are led by the Wisden Cricket Monthly plus newer titles Spin and the PCA related All About Cricket. They survive; just. But it's a competitive market with numerous casualties along the way.

Only last week the publishing industry waved goodbye to Model Tractor Collector, Garden Shed News and Rose West's Knitting Weekly amongst others. If ever there was a time to be cautious it is surely now.

Yet Chris Hogg is very bullish about the chances of success: "the interest in cricket worldwide has gone through the roof. Here at Hogg Publishing we think it is the right time to offer cricket fans the opportunity to read about the sport in an entertaining and informative format. I am confident that these new titles are going to be here for many years to come."

But four?

"Each one is very different so there is plenty of space for them all. We have conducted detailed market research and identified the specialist areas within the sport that supporters are most likely to enjoy. With the advent of Twenty20 more people have become interested in cricket and these new recruits might want to read something more basic than a long term aficionado might find to their taste. It's a case of tailoring your product to your potential audience; something we at Hogg Publishing are renowned for."

First to hit the shelves will be Gatt World, a monthly publication for all fans of ex-Middlesex and England captain Mike Gatting. Chris Hogg feels that there has always been a gap in the market for a Gatting-based publication. "Gatt's a very popular figure still amongst cricket fans all over the world. Gatt World will feature news, analysis and fun stuff for young and old alike."

Even Gatt himself has given this one the thumbs-up.

"Oh yes Gatt is very keen on the magazine. It's official, without being official if you know what I mean. GATT will be giving us interviews but we won't be afraid to dig the dirt if necessary."

Gatt World will be in newsagents next week. Issue 1 has a 50p-off coupon for a regular sized jar of Branston Pickle.

picture of "Gatt World"magazine cover

Next up will be Hogg's flagship title - Owzat.

Owzat takes its lead from existing weeklies like Heat and Closer which focus entirely on celebrity and the gossip that is attached to that world. "You might say that's a bit shallow but there is a huge market for it and we are simply giving people what they want. Owzat will be very different from the rest. It's all about the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll lifestyles of ... umpires! When was the last time you saw a story about Barry Leadbeater leaving Faces Nightclub at 4am with Danielle Lloyd on his arm? Well Owzat will cover that and a whole lot more. We will be there when Patsy Harris falls into a taxi outside Sugar Reef with a mystery blonde. We have more gossip than the 11am Girls" said Hogg with a knowing grin.

picture of "Owzat"magazine cover

Then for the more serious cricket fan there is a special magazine designed to meet their needs.

Chris Hogg: "I'm very excited about Forward Defensive. We forget sometimes that not everyone wants the cut and thrust of Twnety20, 50 overs or even 4-day cricket. This magazine is designed specifically for such a person: someone who appreciates classical defensive play, blocking an end and thoroughly strokeless batting."

It's a risky proposition but can Forward Defensive really hold its end up on the shelves of WH Smiths?

"Absolutely! Why not? It's packed with technical advice as well as true life stories. There's a great article in Issue 1 about a bloke in Perth who batted 8 hours for 12. Apparently they all came off the edge. He was gutted at the end for being so cavalier. Those sort of inspiring true life stories rarely get an outlet anywhere else. I think Forward Defensive will become the definitive journal of international stonewalling."

The first issue of Forward Defensive is in the shops on Monday priced £3.95.

picture of "Forward Defensive"magazine cover

The last of the new magazines is Heavy Roller - a wry mixture of wicket preparation and heavy rock.

Chris Hogg has high hopes that this heady brew of turf management and metal worship will appeal to groundsmen (and cricketing rockers) everywhere. "Take a close look at county cricket. During any passage of play the ground staff are inevitably shacked up in their hut listening to classic rock. That's why crowds get frustrated as to why it takes so long to get the covers on when it rains; they're in all in a shed discussing the secret meaning of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway."

The connection between pitch maintenance and progressive rock is well known in county circles. Junior groundsmen often traditionally spend the winter months as roadies for visiting rock bands.

"Heavy Roller will combine contemporary green-keeping articles with all the best from the heavy music scene", explained Hogg "where else can you find tips on how to prepare a wicket for a slow left arm Chinaman alongside a review of a Budgie gig in Oswestry?"

There are plenty of rock magazines out there already. What makes Heavy Roller different?

"That's simple ... I like Mojo, I like Uncut, I like Q, but where in those publications do you get to read about what Hawkwind really think about uncovered pitches? Or Fish from Marillion's views on turf blight? Or even what Mick Hunt thinks about the new Uriah Heep box set? You will only get that in Heavy Roller."

Heavy Roller is available over the counter of any self-respecting newsagent on the last Thursday of every month. The first issue comes with two free gifts: a CD of previously unreleased live tracks from The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and a sachet of Nutrisorb liquid calcium.

picture of "Heavy Roller"magazine cover