BCAFC programme feature: vs Crawley Town 13th April, 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 1980/81.

In 1979/80 Bradford City narrowly missed promotion to Division Three, denied following defeat in the final game at Peterborough United. Despite being tipped in the 1980 close season as favourites to be promoted, the 1980/81 campaign ended in disappointment and a 14th place finish. The last home fixture against Hereford United in May, 1981 was watched by just 1,249 – a record low crowd at Valley Parade for a league match.

The programme of that season was similarly a disappointment and aside from its garish cover it had little to distinguish it. The kindest words would be to describe it as cheap and cheerful, a common characteristic of lower division programmes of that era.

The minimal editorial content betrayed the fact that there was no-one at the club with the commitment to producing a quality issue. However, it also reflected the fact that it was more difficult to compile and produce such a publication at a time when PCs, word processing and digital design software were virtually unheard of.

Most of the content was unchanged from one issue to the next and at the start of the season the printers produced a stock of standard pages with advertising content. Pre-printed templates with claret and amber inks were also produced upfront for the cover and editorial pages as a means to minimise production costs. Needless to say, there were few photographs and they were all printed in low resolution black and white. The editorial deadlines also meant that information was not always up to date, a particular issue at Christmas and Easter.

Programmes of this vintage are readily available on ebay for little cost and they provide interesting insights about social and economic change. For example few of the businesses advertising in the programme still exist, an advert for Leyland cars being particularly poignant. Likewise, that for Worthington Sports, an independent sports business that boasted being official suppliers to BCAFC. Or Sunwin Travel at Sunwin House that advertised itself as travel experts for rail tickets, air bookings, sea journeys and express coaches. No web addresses to be seen!

The fixtures printed in the programme are also a reminder of change. Of those competing in Division Four that season, nine are no longer league clubs (Aldershot, Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, York, Hereford, Darlington, Bury and Halifax); one is now established in the second tier (Bournemouth); eight are now in the third tier (Lincoln, Doncaster, Milton Keynes as legal successor to Wimbledon, Peterborough, Rochdale, Crewe, Wigan and Northampton); and just six are now back in the fourth tier (Mansfield, Tranmere, Port Vale Scunthorpe, Southend and ourselves).

In 1980 Crawley Town FC competed in the Southern League Southern Section, three levels below the Football League and few could have imagined then that they would achieve League membership. Crawley Town FC has a long history going back to its formation in 1896 as Crawley FC (with the club’s name changed to Crawley Town in 1958) but for most of its existence operated as an amateur and semi-professional side. In many ways the club’s current status in the football world reflects wider economic changes in the UK and the relative affluence of the South East.

In 1984 Crawley Town secured promotion to the Southern League Premier Division and it was not until 2004 that the club was promoted to the Conference (what is now known as the National League). In 2011 it won promotion to the EFL and this is now Crawley’s tenth season at the senior level.

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.