BCAFC programme feature: vs Tranmere Rovers 20th 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 1975/1976.

Every football supporter has his/her favourite club iconography, typically a crest or the design of a particular piece of merchandise. Programme covers likewise are often remembered not just for their design but for the era with which they are associated. That featured today is definitely among my favourites and evokes memories of two significant seasons in the club’s history.

Today’s issue is based on the cover of the programme from the game with Tranmere Rovers on 13th September, 1975 and features a design that was adopted for the seasons 1975/76 and 1976/77. Whilst it can hardly be described as an artistic or innovative design, I have always considered it something of a classic, even iconic.

The simple, balanced layout was impactful and incorporated considerable content from the club crest to the team photograph to the full listing of club officials and directors. The incorporation of the club colours also matched the style of the team shirts with single stripes on a white background. Even the font used for the main headings was characteristic of Bradford City AFC, having been widely used on club stationery and tickets during the early seventies. Whereas so many modern matchday publications are bland and based around similar templates, the strength of this design is that it was truly unique to Bradford City.

The club’s ‘bc – afc’ monogram logo of that time dated from 1974 and had marked a radical shift to minimalist design and an attempt to introduce a fresh image for the club. The new badge was designed on the back of an envelope (literally so) in the commercial office at Valley Parade, inspired by the identity of the new Bradford Metropolitan District Council which had adopted a modern style monogram bmdc logo without any reference to traditional heraldic devices.  The simple style of the programme cover between 1975-77 arguably matched the same modernising sentiments. (NB Such are the cycles of fashion that the ‘bc logo’ was abandoned in 1981 and the local authority later reverted to a more traditional logo.)

The impulse for change in 1974 had been the liquidation of Bradford Park Avenue and in April, 1974 the BCAFC board had even announced its decision to rename the club as Bradford Metro FC to signify a fresh start as a united Bradford club. Whilst the timing was in response to the demise of Bradford Park Avenue, the choice of name was also inspired by changes in government organisation that year. Bob Martin was convinced that the new metropolitan district would bring with it more people who would identify with Bradford and that the sole remaining football club in the district needed to capitalise on the opportunity.

Like the new club identity, the proposed team colours of amber and brown (the same as the new Bradford authority and its dustcarts) were equally radical. However City supporters, backed by former chairman Stafford Heginbotham, were unanimous in rejecting the proposal which the directors were then forced to abandon. Nevertheless, Bob Martin introduced a predominantly all-white playing strip with solitary claret and amber stripes as a sop to tradition. (White had been the club’s traditional third colour and eventually gave way to claret and amber in 1983.)

The meeting with Tranmere in September, 1975 resulted in a 3-0 home victory which was one of the few highspots in a league campaign in which City remained in the bottom half of the basement division. By the end of 1975 there were genuine fears tat the club might struggle to avoid finishing in the bottom four and be forced to apply for re-election. Despite the new look, the club still lacked money and financial problems were at the heart of the matter. It was a miraculous FA Cup campaign during 1975/76 in which the Paraders reached the Quarter-Finals that literally saved the club. It was Southampton who eventually ended the improbably cup dream in a memorable Sixth Round tie at Valley Parade in March, 1976. The funds raised from cup gates that season, as well as the revived public interest in the club, provided the momentum for a successful promotion campaign in 1976/77.

You can read more about historic City crests and nicknames on my blog from this link

John Dewhirst

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.