BCAFC programme feature: vs Forest Green Rovers 2nd 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.

The compilation of this feature has been an interesting exercise in selecting old programmes, looking at their historical context and examining the evolution of the matchday publication. I believe that they are important records not only of the history of the football club but also of social history. Above all else they are a reminder of the changes that have occurred in the sport as well as in Bradford.

Today’s programme for example is based on the cover design from the 1989/90 season which ended with our relegation from the second tier. If it wasn’t bad enough to finish second bottom of the table there was the appointment of John Docherty in March, 1990. If we didn’t know it by the end of that season, the next twenty months were not exactly going to be entertaining from a ‘football’ perspective.

Programmes that season had different colour photographs on the cover of each issue. These featured City players in the then first choice strip of claret and amber stripes and black shorts or the away kit, another traditional design, of white shirts with black shorts.

Flicking through old programmes of that season, a number of themes stand out from a modern perspective to which I draw attention.

In 1989/90 the club shirt was sponsored by Grattan, the (printed) catalogue clothing retailer. Prominent on the second page of the programme was a full-page advert for the firm who boasted being ‘League Leaders in Home Shopping’. Whilst Grattan still exists, it’s fair to say that a different form of home shopping is more commonplace nowadays.

Another advert promoted the ‘City Chat Lines’ which offered ‘plenty of interesting chat, interviews, competitions, news and your very own opinion line’. Anyone calling the 0898 888 640 number today is unlikely to hear anything relating to BCAFC but in 1990 it was considered a fantastic commercial opportunity for the club to generate income. It was a premium call line and I recall complaints at the time it was relatively expensive. City Chat Lines was an initiative made obsolete by the internet but arguably it was a forerunner of content currently found on the club’s webpages (NB it was not until 1996 that City fans had their first online presence).

Business adverts in the programme of 1989/90 stand out for the brevity of contact details – no internet or social media addresses, nor mobile phone numbers in those days. And the telephone code for Bradford was then 0274!  It would be a long time before mobile phones became commonplace and in 1989/90 they were still referred to as car phones which is where they tended to be used. By the way, there were no adverts for such phones in the programme which said a lot about their cost.

The last programme of that season included an interesting comment about closed circuit television which had become identified as an important means of crowd control and monitoring. That season marked the completion of the installation of CCTV at every League ground (NB all 92 as this was still prior to the Premier League). The work had been funded by the Football Trust and it was boasted that the cameras had a range of 150 metres and an ability to recognise faces. The same article mentioned that the Football Trust received £9.5m every year from the ‘Spot-the-Ball’ competition run by Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters. Oh the days of analogue film media!

Printed football fanzines were then very popular at most grounds in the UK. At Valley Parade I suspect that The City Gent came close to outselling the programme at the time and the club sought to capitalise on the popularity by giving the then editor, Mick Dickinson a page in the programme to write about the fanzine scene. It was an interesting feature that regularly included contacts and correspondence from visiting supporters. Again, the internet has played its part in reducing the sales of both fanzines and programmes and the circulation of The City Gent is now a fraction of its peak.

The then commercial manager at the club in 1989/90 was Tony Thornton whose page ‘Commercial Corner’ included the proud boast ‘Come on down to the City Shop, it’s bursting at the seams with goods listed below and many more and the price is right.’  As examples of merchandise, Bukta tracksuits were priced at £22.99/£29.99; Bukta replica shirts at £9.50/£11.99; and shell pants (the then new scourge of high street fashion) at £19.99 whilst ties could be bought for £4.95. The retail revolution at Valley Parade had still to occur and it was not until 1996 that Geoffrey Richmond transformed the offering, but nonetheless in 1989/90 the club had made tentative steps to generate more income from this source.

Final mention is of the advert for the National & Provincial Building Society, then a major employer in the city. Anyone remember that big office block opposite City Hall??

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.