Book publishers just 24 hours away from launch of new rugby league magazine ‘Forty-20’

Neil Barraclough

Rugby League Books speaks exclusively to Scratching Shed Publishing on the eve of their new rugby league magazine ‘Forty-20’ hitting the shelves for the first time.

They say there’s nothing like diversification to keep a business fresh – and book publishers Scratching Shed have taken that on board as they prepare for the launch of their new monthly rugby league magazine ‘Forty-20’.

Issue one of Forty-20 hits the shelves on Wednesday, 13 July, and marks a major change for Scratching Shed, who until now have been known as the publishers of a range of books – including many rugby league titles.

Scratching Shed co-director and Forty-20 editor Tony Hannan told Rugby League Books: “It’s an exciting time.

“We’re trying to do something completely different, so there’s always a bit of a worry that people will find it so strange and unusual that they won’t like it, but we’re quietly confident that when people see Forty-20, they’ll like it.

“We’re trying to go back to the future, if you like. We detect a mood across society as a whole of people going back to more authentic things such as real ale, folk music – people seem to be turning back to more rootsy-type stuff.

“That’s partly what we’re trying to do with Forty-20, but we also want to create the original excitement of Open Rugby. You used to be really eager to read the lively and provocative writing in there. We’re trying to recapture a bit of that, and also give rugby league the same treatment other sports get.

“A very obvious comparison with Forty-20 is the football magazine ‘When Saturday Comes’ – it’s got a feel of a high quality fanzine, the writing is top notch by the best writers around, there’s great photography and it’s done on high quality paper. Everything’s been thought through in that respect.”


Scratching Shed Publishing was started three years ago, with an original focus on books, “although we did think from the word ‘go’ that we’d like to do a magazine at some point,” says Hannan.

As a former editor of Rugby League World, Hannan’s own experiences are sure to benefit the new title. He said: “We felt there was a gap in the market. We don’t see ourselves in competition with Rugby League World, which looks fabulous these days – it’s going to be complementary to that.

“Anybody buying Forty-20 thinking it’s going to be full of posters is going to be disappointed, because we’re not about that. We’re taking a different approach and people will see that for themselves.”


Hannan added: “If Forty-20 stands for anything, it would be unity within the game. Partly through the way the game’s structured in this country, there’s quite a divisive mood afoot. If you’re not in Super League, then Super League’s rubbish, and vice versa. There’s also blame for certain problems being put individual clubs, the summer/winter argument for amateurs, and a general mood of factionalism. If Forty-20 stands for anything, it’s pulling the game together.

“One of the things we’re going to try to do is treat the whole game the same. Wherever you play and watch rugby league, and whatever standard you’re at, we’re all part of the sport of rugby league. The stories will guide us: if there’s a great story coming out of Coventry, for example, then that might well be on page six rather than hidden at the back. Wherever the great stories are, that’s what we’re interested in.”


Having committed to produce a monthly magazine, Hannan and fellow Scratching Shed Publishing co-director Phil Caplan now face a range of different challenges.

“The obvious thing is that we’re now on a monthly treadmill again, and we’ve got to hit deadlines. Distribution is always an issue as well. At the moment distribution of books is very difficult, especially for small independent publishers like ourselves. It’s not quite as difficult with magazines – there’s more of an avenue in – but it is still very, very complicated.

“We do intend to try to get the magazine as widely available as possible. We’ll be aiming to get it available in the south, the Midlands, the north east and Wales, but clearly we can’t flood those markets in the early days. However, people can order it through their local newsagents, wherever they are in the country, plus we’ve got details of our subscription offer on the Scratching Shed website.”

Enjoy this? Join us on Facebook or sign up for free email updates to make sure you never miss a thing from Rugby League Books.