Austerity programme 1921/22


My article in the BCAFC match day programme v Wycombe, 25-Aug-18


Among the new range of retro souvenirs in the City Shop this season is a t-shirt featuring the programme cover from March, 1922 for the Bradford City v Sunderland fixture which was in the club’s final season in the old Division One.

Bradford City had been promoted to the first tier as Division Two champions in 1908 and spent a total of ten seasons in Division One: 1908-15 and then 1919-22 (punctuated by the abandonment of League competition during World War One).

Issues from that season are pretty rare for which there are a number of explanations. The first is that few programmes were likely to have been sold and probably no more than a thousand printed for each game. In turn this could be explained by levels of disposable income but also the fact that the content was limited and arguably poor value for money. Indeed, in contrast to the standard of City’s pre-war programmes the content was very basic and the editorials limited. Unsold programmes would have been destroyed but the club is unlikely to have purchased excess stocks. However I believe the principal reason why few of these programmes appear to have survived can be explained by the standard of the paper.

The aftermath of war witnessed major paper shortages, a phenomenon repeated after World War Two. Paper was not only in short supply but expensive as well. The quality of commercial printing paper was also poor. Inevitably this would have forced economies for Bradford City AFC – like other clubs – in the production of a match day programme. In comparison to the programmes issued before the war, those in the 1920s were printed on lower grades of paper and had fewer pages. Unless the original programme had been bound or preserved at the time of purchase, few are likely to have survived intact or been retained. Of course had people known that they were purchasing a future antiquity they might have taken more care but most spectators would have regarded a programme as ephemeral and not for keeping.

In my book, A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS I write about the history of the City programme and offer the suggestion that the standard of the City programme has historically been a very good indicator of the financial health of the club. Economies in the production of programmes were invariably a first resort at Valley Parade when times were tough, even to the point of cutting the number of staples!

Despite the austerity flavour of the 1921/22 publication, what continued to characterise the City programme was the adoption of pen and ink hand drawn sketches on the front cover, a tradition that dated to before World War One. In this instance the player is drawn in the old yoke shirt design that had been worn at the time of the 1911 FA Cup Final and the stand design in the background is based loosely on the original Midland Road stand. It’s a good sketch and the new t-shirts on sale look great!

John Dewhirst

John’s book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS is on sale in the City Shop. In future issues of The Parader he will feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like him to feature or provide background about, contact him at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst
John has written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Articles by John Dewhirst on the history of Bradford sport

Elsewhere on this blog you can find his programme articles from earlier games this season and last.


Details here about the new bantamspast History Revisited book by Jason McKeown and other volumes in the same series: BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS


Discover more about Bradford football history at

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