BCAFC programme feature: vs Oldham Athletic 20th March, 2021

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 1952/1953 when we were rivals with Oldham Athletic in Division Three (North).

During the 1950s the content of the Bradford City programme was very basic and there was little change from one year to the next. To be fair this was not unusual among clubs and neither was it confined to the lower divisions. Government control of paper supply was not finally lifted until 1956 and paper remained in short supply until the end of the decade. The size of the programme was also smaller than what had been produced before the war with an inch shaved off both the length and the width. The quality of paper used to produce the programme in the early 1950s differed considerably on occasions and my interpretation is that it was a case of using whatever paper the printer could supply.

With corresponding high costs of production, it made sense to economise and as a consequence minimal effort was invested in the programme. Higher print/paper costs forced a 50% increase in the cover price in December, 1952 and it remained at 3d until 1964 (having been 2d since 1944). It was not until the 1960s – and post 1966 in particular – that football clubs recognised marketing and commercial opportunities through match programmes and the cost of paper was no longer as prohibitive.

Midway in the 1956/57 season came a change in cover design but the content remained the same with no more than eight pages including the front and rear cover. Team cards for reserve games and friendlies were a single page issue and featured the civic crest that was also used as club badge by both Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue.

In the immediate post-war period the standard of the programme published at Park Avenue was consistently better than at Valley Parade. In some ways it was a form of proxy competition between the two clubs and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Bradford leadership was acutely sensitive to the branding of their club. By contrast the Park Avenue programme covers were much more formal, as if to imply seniority.

It was not until 1958 and the restructuring of the English lower divisions from regional to national formats that there were radical changes in programme design. Typically, the southern clubs had been more adventurous in their commercial activities – programme publishing included – and this appears to have encouraged change at northern clubs. Oldham for example embraced such change but at Valley Parade it was confined to new cover designs. Between 1959-66 Bradford Park Avenue was the more innovative in programme design, pioneering a pocket size no more than 8cm by 13cm that would also appear at Boundary Park. It was the introduction of the City Gent character in 1966 that heralded a new era at Valley Parade with a radical mid-season redesign of the cover and an increase in size to 12 pages.

The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.

Link here to galleries of historic BCAFC programmes on this blog

Link to feature about the historic development of the BCAFC programme since 1909 published on VINCIT.