Programmes of old by John Dewhirst
Football programmes have traditionally been a staple of the match day experience, historically a collectable for many supporters. At Valley Parade, programmes have been produced for first-team fixtures since 1909 and the sale of single sheet team cards dates back even further. This season the match day magazine celebrates the rich heritage of old programmes from earlier years and today’s issue is based on the design from 1983/1984 when we played Southend United in the old Division Three.
The programme in 1983/84 was a very basic affair with minimal content and gave all the impressions that it had been designed and compiled as something of an after thought. Certainly, there was little effort invested in its production, in complete contrast to modern issues.
How a programme is designed, compiled and even printed says much about a club’s competencies and financial well-being. For example, the quality of paper on which programmes were printed is a good indicator of financial health. The adoption of lower grade, unbleached paper between 1919 and 1939 (compared to what had been used immediately before 1915) is worthy of mention. In particular the adoption of war-grade, rag paper in 1963/64 highlighted the perilous state of Bradford City finances at that time. Having finished 91st in the Football League in 1962/63 (and forced to apply for re-election) the club instigated a number of savings of which one was to produce the programme in-house, a venture that lasted only one season with printers re-engaged from August, 1964. Things were so bad that the programme was not even stapled, an economy that continued until March, 1966. The club’s accounts for 1963/64 confirm a one third saving in print costs compared to 1962/63. Unfortunately, the £298 cost reduction had limited impact on total losses of £15,564!
Subtle economies in the production of the programme in the early 1980s betrayed financial difficulties which explained to some degree why the quality of Bradford City programmes lagged behind that of other clubs. Although an improved version with a full colour cover had been introduced (for the first time) at the start of the 1982/83 season this didn’t last for long and the publication of four page and latterly single sheet issues by March, 1983 were symptomatic of the inability of the club to pay print bills, an early warning of the insolvency crisis the following summer. At least the club produced a programme in 1983/84 and after the excesses of earlier years it was probably considered appropriate to be economical.
The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.