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Are Football Match Programmes Slowly Becoming Extinct?

manchester-united-football-programme.jpgGrowing up in Wales, many of my cold, wet winter nights were spent cowering under a lightbulb studying every word and every page of football programmes. I had my Swansea City programmes that I brought home from matches, but I was deeply indebted to Steve Earl Football Programmes for helping to grow my collection. Goodness knows how much money I spent with them in the late 70s and early 80s.

When I moved to Florida in 1984, I was immediately thrown into a world where soccer was virtually extinct. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers had just folded. There was nothing on TV. As a high school freshman, all I had was the varsity team I played on as well as a local travel team where I achieved one of the few highlights of my pretty short soccer career. My coach’s name was Steve Ralbovsky, recipient of the 1975 Hermann Trophy (soccer’s equivalent of the Heisman trophy) and had 15 U.S. caps to his name. My claim to fame was being the only kid on the team to tackle our coach and keep the ball away.

To help cure my homesickness, I began collecting football programmes again. This time, I spent what little pocket money I received by converting them into international money orders and sending them to the Swansea City Club Shop. There Myra would send me a batch of programmes every few weeks to my home, where I would again scour through every page as I read about Swansea slipping further and further down the Football League until their near extinction.

So when I went to Switzerland a couple of weeks ago to watch Italy against Holland at Euro 2008, I was excited at the prospect of buying a football programme. To be bewilderment, there were none available for sale at the game. No one was walking around outside or inside the ground selling them. When I arrived in Zurich the day before the game, I remember seeing the official programme for the entire tournament for sale at a newsagent, but I passed up the opportunity thinking it’d be easier to get one at the match. I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t buy it at the time.

But with the popularity of websites, blogs, message forums and the advances in being able to surf online on mobile phones, is there a place for football programmes in today’s society and are they slowly becoming extinct? Maybe it’s me, but I don’t hear or read discussions about football programmes anymore. Even when attending Premier League matches, I don’t see many supporters purchasing them. And in the United States, they seem to be even less popular than in Europe.

I fear for the future of football programmes. The cost of printing and paper is exorbitant. Plus there’s the issue of being timely. With the Internet, articles can be written in minutes after news breaks. Football programmes have to be written days or weeks in advance, so the content is usually more dry such as programme notes from a manager or a player profile or an article about the history of the club.

But there is a certain appeal about football programmes, something a lot more tangible than visiting a website. Years from now, football programmes are a wonderful souvenir that bring back so many memories. Sometimes it’s just the smell of a programme that triggers vivid images of being at a game. That’s something that websites can’t do.

Let’s hope that football programmes stick around for Steve Earl’s sake.

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  1. Frans

    November 21, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Programmes will always be there, it’s part of the football history. I have collected all my life and still don’t like it when there are no programmes issued. So do a lot of others.

    At fans log their match visits and lots of them connect a scan of the ticket and match programme as many still collect, at least the matches they attended. It is their memory of a match.

    There is also an option for fans to log their match programmes and other memorabilia ( on line and the numbers are growing fast. Fans have their own digital museum; always opened and no entrance fee. And fans use it a lot. So fans might not always get value for money but they still buy them when attending matches.

  2. Jack Mitton

    April 13, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Note: Members’ Magazine 40 pages (not 30 in previous post) oops!!!

  3. Jack Mitton

    April 13, 2010 at 6:29 am

    INDEPENDENT VIEW – The Northern Programme Club Members’ Magazine contains 30 full colour pages with over 50 programme illustrations. Send £3.10 (inc postage) for a recent edition. We are always interested in programme exchanges (current season or other) we can supply in bulk. Contact me for details. Membership is £5 per Year (Advanced) or 4 x 1st Class Stamps (Standard). Why not join up and receive many member benefits and free entry to our Monthly Members’ Draw where you can win 50 programmes! Email for details: or sae to: The Secretary, NPC, 5 Lily Avenue, Bedlington, Northumberland, NE22 5BB. JUST IN… 2009/10 Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur (Sold out at the match – few available) £5 each (inc postage) Sunderland v Fulham (few), Birmingham City, Manchester City £3 each (inc postage) Subject to availability. Cheques/Postal Orders payable to: Northern Programme Club.

  4. Richie

    February 5, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I read with interset this article, being an avid collector myself also from Wales , a Cardiff city and Ton Pentre fan, i agree about the price and content of these modern programmes which to me are way over the top, a return to simpler team news, brief recent history and history of players etc should be the order of the day, or at least be a choice between the 2. Programmes will never become extinct as there is too much revenue for the clubs involved,as well as demand by the supporter, but for the collector of memorabilia/memories of simpler days, the day of excitement of finding that flimsy fragile piece of history that fills you with romance and nostalgia,i fear will soon become exctint. my first ever match was Ton Pentre v Cardiiff fac 1st round, and that programme is still magical to me.

  5. pete waby

    January 30, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I believe that the football programme is here to stay (UK) because nowadays they are so much more than a mere programme. Take this season’s Liverpool programme, 84 pages and such a fantastic read. It would take you about an hour to read all the material inside.

    I restarted collecting in the early 90’s after coming out of the forces and immediately I was hooked. Now some 10,000 programmes later and I am still as excited now as I have ever been, the thrill of finding a bargain at the car boot is beyond belief.

    So do not worry, football programmes are here to stay.

  6. Barry

    November 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I have a few old classics from the 70’s. I suppose they might be worth something now.

  7. gabriel

    November 17, 2009 at 5:06 am

    hi my name is gabriel and i have an idea about football programme on tv,taking children from streets and make them as next generation in the industry of the football . many thanks

  8. Steve Earl

    November 15, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    All the best,

  9. Football programmes

    September 27, 2008 at 3:27 am

    Very interesting article, but i don't fear for Football Programmes, they are not a dying breed. Over the years being involved in both buying and selling football programmes, interest now is as high as they have been in the past.

    Your visit to Switzerland for Euro 2008, though the game you went to did not have it's own individual football programme a guide was produced for the tournament which covered the entire competition, i believe this is due to the close proximity of all the games.

    Football Programme at matches are ,well it seems to me, to be a British thing, though for the European competitions the foreign clubs do produce a matchday magazine.

    Just recently a Newcastle fan bought a 1910 FA Cup Final programme for £3,000,and there is always large interest in FA Cup Final Football Programmes. So no they are not dying.

  10. Lonnie

    June 25, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I love what Arsenal do or were doing. They (at least last season) allowed visitors to their website to download PDF versions of the match programme’s. I thought it was such a brilliant idea…I wish more teams would do that for their supporters. I hope Arsenal continue the downloads and that others take up the idea as well.

  11. Kartik

    June 25, 2008 at 8:33 am

    MLS has stopped publishing the informative magazines they used to sell at the book shoppes in the early days of the league: the season preview, the all star program, etc. Also, they now give the paper thin programs away which features out of date info. MLS’ website is very good, but you cannot “collect” websites.

    Football magazines too are suffering. Recall Total Football from England? Gone. Shoot is going bye bye also. Four Four Two? Still alive but getting less useful as time goes on. World Soccer? Still indispensable but needed a major makeover to stay that way.

  12. Oldham Fan

    June 25, 2008 at 6:49 am

    The price of programmes and the relatively out of date information (compared to the internet) does mean I fear, programmes will become extinct.

    I wonder if simple A4, one page affairs should be issued instead. Something similar to a team sheet with a quick bit of blurb that could be knocked up on a home PC by office staff on the day of the game.

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