There are literally thousands of soccer websites throughout the Internet, but there’s only one that features the exquisite map drawings of Bill Turianski that make the beautiful game come alive.
Turianski is the mapmaker and wizard behind the curtain at the must-see billsportsmaps.com where he features beautifully handmade maps focused on several sports including soccer. The maps are packed with history, attendance figures, fun facts and more. Turianski was kind enough to agree to be interviewed for EPL Talk:
The Gaffer: Tell us about yourself Bill, and where you live.
Bill: My name is Bill Turianski. I live just outside of Rochester, NY. I went to school at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, on Long Island, and I lived and worked in New York City for 7 years after I graduated. I started following European football, particularly English Premier League football, in January of 2004, although when I was a kid, we watched English First Division matches on cable TV, and I have distinct memories of enjoying watching Nottingham Forest’s shock title march in Spring 1978.
Speaking of that era, I was a devout follower of the NASL’s Rochester Lancers, and I guess you could say the roots of my obsession with football attendance figures can be traced back to that period because the Lancers smallish gate figures were always an issue, and ultimately were why the ownership moved the club to Montreal.
The Gaffer: How did you come up with the idea of creating sports maps?
Bill: I remember back in the early 1980′s, the Rochester newspaper had an article about how the NFL allocates out broadcasts of teams by region…each team had specific TV stations that showed their games, over all the other teams’ games. That idea of regions where a particular team held “dominion” stuck in my mind for years. One Sunday in the fall of 1989, while watching the NFL (something I no longer do), I decided I wanted to make a map of the regions where each NFL team was the most popular. The regions were carved out in semi-circular arcs, colored according to the team’s colors. It was pretty primitive, but it got me going.
A little later, I did a series of Major/ Minor League maps by region. By this time I had gotten more detailed in the drawing of the logos and the depiction of the geographical aspects and political divisions on the maps…in other words, I started drawing in rivers and city boundaries. You can see these maps on my site in the Baseball category, and in the Hand Drawn Maps category. From 1990 to 1995, I made around 6 maps in this style (ie, focused on a region/ highly detailed/ showing all major and minor league teams), most of which were baseball (Hockey of the North Atlantic was another). I also made my first 2 historical maps, one of the NFL from 1920-1960, the other of the Golden Age of Baseball (1903-1953).
I moved back to Rochester in 1995, and for a few years I did less map drawing. Around 2003, I started thinking about doing a map of English football. I was jaded with North American sports leagues. My older brother was really into the Premier League, an Arsenal fan, and I told him I wanted to do a map of English soccer. He told me the problem was that teams get relegated and promoted each year. Undaunted, I started researching English football at the start of 2004.
The Gaffer: What was the first soccer-related map you created?
Bill: It was a map that showed the 26 most highly placed teams in the top two divisions, circa Spring 2004. I haven’t put it up on my site because I was unhappy with aspects of it, like making each club’s logo size too arbitrary. However, I re-did it around 2 years later, and it’s basically the same idea, but this time with the logos of the 50 highest placed teams at the end of the 2006-2007 season, with the logos sized proportionally to reflect gate figures… the higher the club’s average attendance, the larger the club’s logo is on the map. By this time I was using printouts of logos from the computer, but the map was still all hand-drawn (I had always used copier machines to get map images). That still didn’t satisfy me, so I turned to a computer-drawn method for a more precise map, and came up with this. I use Macromedia Firewoks program, which my younger brother turned me on to (he also later showed me how to get my site going).
The Gaffer: How long, on average, does it take to create a typical soccer-related map?
Bill: The hand-drawn maps took at least 40 and more like around 70 or 80 hours to make. That’s why I don’t do hand-drawn maps anymore. The computer-program-drawn maps take around 6 to 14 hours, but I can do them even faster now that I have a new computer. Sometimes the biggest time-waster is realizing the scale of logos and text is too big, so the first couple hours’ work is crucial in nailing down an overall scale that will render a map more “viewable”. Plus, a big concern is in finding high-quality logos, and the base map itself (thank you, Wikimedia).
The Gaffer: What new soccer-related maps can we expect to see in the future?
Bill: I have a 2009 Copa Libertadores map all ready to go. Sean Kelly from the Hasta El Gol Siempre site will be doing a write-up for that. So that will be coming up around Wednesday, January 21st. I am thinking of doing a Conference zoom map (ie, all 24 clubs in the 08/09 Blue Square Premier League, with thumbnail histories and club kits; go to Zoom Maps in my Categories section to see more of that style). Plus I will continue posting maps for each successive round of the 2008-2009 FA Cup (plus a gallery of Torquay United). Oh, and I want to do a map of Brazil’s 2009 Campeonato Serie A, so that will be up in March or so.
The Gaffer: Do you have plans to make prints of the sports maps available for sale?
Bill: That’s a sticky question, because I have lived with the fear of copyright infringement in my artwork for two decades now. Someone just put in a comment on my site the other day asking for a printed version of my 08/09 Premier League map and chart. It took me a day to realize that there was artwork from the Historical Football Kits site on it (which I attributed and linked to that site, of course…I always do that), so I couldn’t possibly print and sell them. Plus there is the over-arching issue of the logos of each football club…my maps would be pretty barren without them, but they are all (understanably) protected by copyright laws. I’m sorry that people who go to my site and enjoy the maps can’t get copies for themselves from me, but I don’t want to risk getting into trouble with teams or leagues. [Some viewers have said they printed out version of my maps themselves, so there's always that.] People get taken to court, fined and even imprisoned for selling copyrighted merchandise. However, my hand-drawn maps are another thing entirely, and I may print up some of the 06/07 English Football maps, among a few other (like the Golden Age of Baseball). The thing is, I decided to have a site not because I wanted to sell my maps as much as I wanted to put my maps out there, and maybe get some commissions or work from a magazine or publisher. Plus, I was doing them anyways, so I figured I might as well show them. This has been my hobby (obsession, really) for the last 20 years, and the way I see it, at least I get enough from ad clicks to pay for hosting and domain name, etc., plus a little pocket money.
The Gaffer: In doing your research for sports maps of English soccer teams, what has been your biggest revelation or most interesting fact you learned?
Bill: I have been thinking about that question for 2 hours now, and I really have to say that it is that Huddersfield Town won 3 League Titles straight from 1923-’24 to 1925-’26. I could understand if a football club from a small city like Huddersfield won the English championship in the very early days of the League (ie, like in 1898 or so), but the league really had been established by then. Trailblazing manager Herbert Chapman led Huddersfield to their troika of titles, then left for Arsenal, where he led the Gunners to 5 League Titles in a decade. In today’s atmosphere, he would never have lasted that second title-year at Huddersfield, one of the big clubs would have snapped him up sooner.
As any viewer of my site knows, I have a real fixation on small clubs punching above their weight. The other thing would be just how rapidly English crowds went from a couple thousand per game to 20,000 and higher (circa the era right before World War I), and then how massive the crowds were after World War II.
Oh and one more thing…how all the countries of the world save USA, Canada, and Australia adopted the sublimely brilliant system of relegation and promotion. It just blows my mind, growing up in America, that teams are actually forced to go and play the next season in what is basically the minor-leagues, based on on-field performance. It really colors the whole way football clubs are run, and makes for drama worthy of an Elizabethan tragedy. [I say this as my beloved Portsmouth FC face the real threat of being relegated his year.]
Coming from a city (Rochester, NY) that will never again have the chance to have a pro team in the top division of the major sports leagues, I find it so refeshing to know that all across the world there are major leagues watched by millions, where there are teams from cities the size of Binghampton, NY. Clubs like Blackburn FC, Villarreal CF, and AJ Auxerre come from cities that are really tiny (105,000 for Blackburn; less than 50,000 for the other two), but not only can they get to the top flight, they can be successful.
And the corallary is also so riveting…watching a huge club go down. The whole system turns huge chunks of the latter portions of seasons into meaningful affairs. Who cares about two baseball teams at the bottom of the standings playing in September? But all across the world, there are fixtures between bottom-dwelling clubs that make the headlines…all because of the threat of relegation.
The Gaffer: A lot of your maps are focused on the FA Cup, lower league clubs and non-league clubs in England. Do you have a particular team in England that you root for and, if so, who is it?
Bill: As mentioned, my top club is Portsmouth FC…they remind me of the Rochester Lancers so much. Their fans are incredibly stalwart…I love how they are known for singing “Play up Pompey” after the OTHER TEAM scores. That’s just so never-say-die. Bristol City FC, because I am interested in the West Country, and Ashton Gate looks so striking, and I think Gary Johnson is a great manager.
Colchester United because they are from the home of seminal rock band Blur, in unfashionable Essex. Stockport County because they are the highest placed fully-supporter-owned club in England (therefore I also pull for the other supporter-run clubs: AFC Telford United, FC United of Manchester, and of course AFC Wimbledon).
And last but not least, Forest Green Rovers FC. I first became interested in FGR because of their nice sounding name, then became fascinated by their (formerly) sloped pitch and the totally off-the-beaten-path location of Nailswoth, Gloucestershire, a market village in the Cotswold Hills not on any train lines (pop.: 6,600). When I finally got to see them play on TV (a 3-4 loss v. Derby County in the FA Cup 3rd Round on Jan. 3), it was one of the most entertaining matches I had seen all season. Their manager Jim Harvey has them playing real attacking football. But, in spite of that, they’re in a relegation battle.
The Gaffer: Go ahead and comb through the wonderful maps Bill has created at http://www.billsportsmaps.com. Thank you Bill for your dedication to the game.