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 1998/1999 when we were promoted to the Premier League.
The fixture with Port Vale at Valley Parade was particularly memorable that season and the game on 29th September, 1998 finished with a 4-0 home victory with a brace of goals scored by Lee Mills against his old club. At this day 22 years ago we were positioned fourth in the second division behind Sunderland, Ipswich and Birmingham whilst Port Vale were fourth from bottom. At that time Morecambe were members of the Conference Premier having been promoted from the Northern Premier League in 1995 (and gained EFL status in 2007).
In 1998 the standard of the Bradford City publication improved considerably having previously been a very basic affair. Between 1996-2002 it assumed the title Claret & Amber, then Bantams World between 2002-11, The Bantams in 2011/12 before resorting to The Parader from the start of the 2012/13 season which continues to this day.
The title of The Parader is not new having originally been used between 1932 and 1940, in 1978/79 and then for part of the 1981/82 season. It had also been applied as the title of supporter yearbooks in 1951 and 1952. The title of The Parader has thus been the most used whereas The Bantams has been the least, for the second half of 1981/82, 1982/83 and in 2011/12 only. To date these are the only titles that have been adopted for the match day publication and as far supporters are concerned it has always been known simply as ‘the programme’.
A collection of programmes from the last twenty odd years attests to the variety of opposition at Valley Parade, a reflection of City’s movement through the divisions. What is also notable about programmes of the modern era is the standard of the publication compared to prior periods. In the last twenty years it became more appropriate to describe it as a ‘match day magazine’ than a traditional programme per se and this has been a phenomenon at most clubs, Port Vale and Morecambe included.
By contrast programmes from earlier seasons seem distinctly primitive. Nevertheless, what older programmes lacked in layout, colour and design they were arguably more distinctive and far more unique between different clubs. Nowadays, match day magazines are far more similar from one club to the next although what distinguished the Port Vale publication quite recently was the adoption of old cover designs and the use of historic imagery – much the same as the initiative at Valley Parade this season.
Collectors will also highlight the fact that the match day publications have become much bigger in size and content as well as bulkier through the use of thicker, better quality paper. Whereas previously you could store the issues from around four complete seasons in a single shoebox, now you’d be lucky to fit the first half of a season in the same space.
A combination of reasons has caused the decline in the number of programmes being sold at football grounds despite the improvements in quality. Of course, the biggest factor behind the trend has been the impact of the internet and availability of online news and media content.
Around twenty years ago football memorabilia (including programmes) became highly collectable as investments in their own right. Whereas you could previously accumulate a collection of old programmes at relatively low cost, the prices became prohibitive and I am sure that this was a factor in the decline in the popularity of programme collecting. Despite a subsequent drop in values, the interest among younger fans in collecting is now much diminished. Not only are fewer fans buying current issues, so too there is now less interest in collecting historic programmes.
The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.