Today I done something rather unusual . I actually read the matchday programme at Pittodrie . Nearly every week I buy a programme, mostly as a memento of the match. Some fans treat their programmes with white gloves and store in airtight pockets,never actually reading them. I do not read them but end up curling the programme in my pocket and storing it once I get home in a shoe box. But not today. I read the articles during the warm up and at half time and have to say I was impressed with the quality of the articles. Why had I never taken the time before? Of course the programme has the usual contributions from players and management but it is the other articles which make this publication such an enjoyable read. There are articles from established journalists and broadcasters.But it is the articles on matches from the past or the fans view from abroad that provide an alternative dimension to the matchday programme.
Matchday programmes used to be a team list and have a managers column in amongst all the local company advertisements.They were quite small publications. For detailed analysis and comment about their team fans would buy a fanzine. I have only ever bought a fanzine a couple of times mainly because I didn’t like the editorial line my clubs fanzine took. These fanzines are now in decline which is sad as many a talented football journalist started out writing in fanzines. The fanzines provide real critical analysis and views which usually differed from the official club line as it was written by fans for the fans. Many fanzines were influential in communicating with the wider fan base and were important in campaigns to save clubs and oust managers and directors. Some printed fanzines are still kept going by committed volunteers but their print runs can be very low. In this internet age there is plenty of media outlets for fans to follow whether it is online fanzines, magazines or forum sites. All these have contributed to the decline of the printed fanzine at a time when it is probably just as needed as it ever has been.
There is a revival of printed football publications with the launch of magazines such as the Scottish Football Periodical Nutmeg and The Blizzard . At a time when football news is dominated by a 24 hour news culture fans are looking for magazines/websites that provide critical analysis of the game. In many ways clubs have been able to manipulate the media for their own means. Now fans are looking at outlets where they can voice their own views where they are not moderated. Of course there is plenty of websites,social media and online forums that allow this. But actually fans voice can get lost in the internet as it is so vast. There is something far more powerful in the printed word. The printed word is not of course eternal although can be perceived to be, which is more important when you are trying to make your point.
The matchday programme will always be an official club publication , to inform fans, provide a souvenir and raise money for the club. I would dread to think that this would move to an electronic format like the daily newspapers have. So I certainly will be buying my matchday programme at every match. Ironically as I write this blog I am all for supporting the fanzines and magazines which have given fans a voice for many years and hopefully many more. We certainly need publications that enable fans to articulate their views otherwise we may lose our game to the money men. And of course equally they are a good read as well.
PS: National Library of Scotland is trying to preserve some of the old club fanzines.NLS