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 a design from 1981/82.
In the 1981/82 season the club programme had two designs with the change in December, 1981 coinciding with the club’s revival of the Bantams identity which had been abandoned as old-fashioned fifteen years before. The club had subsequently promoted its traditional nickname, the Paraders.
By the beginning of the 1980s the dilapidated state of Valley Parade served to discourage the Paraders identity but the change to ‘Bantams’ was also about trying to raise the profile of the club. As in 1974, the then chairman Bob Martin was not averse to such rebranding, albeit on the cheap.
Having been appointed as player-manager during the 1981 close season, the former Derby County and England centre-half Roy McFarland had made an immediate impact at Valley Parade and by December, 1981 Bradford City was well placed for a promotion challenge from Division Four. The new Bantams identity was intended to proclaim the club’s ambition that, having narrowly missed promotion in 1980, the goal would be achieved in 1981/82.
The programme at the start of the season had been called ‘The Parader’ and featured a silhouette of a floodlight and football stands on its cover. Ironically the image was not that of Valley Parade but of Park Avenue, the designer – Pete Bell – having been a former Avenue fan. If you look closely, the finials of the former Dolls House pavilion at Park Avenue can be clearly seen but this point of detail was overlooked when the design was authorised by the club. The chances of this having occurred when the two Bradford sides were rivals in the Football League would have been unheard of.
The new programme cover likewise had a basic design and was called ‘The Bantams’ with the club’s new crest being prominent. In an era that predated computer clipart or graphics, the image approximated more to a hen than a bantam. (Of the three different bantam-themed crests used by the club in the early 1980s it was evident that no-one at Valley Parade at the time knew what a bantam looked like.) The other feature of the cover was a primitive sketch of three players, two of whom wore the club’s white shirt with claret trim (a design that we can expect to see more of next season).
The programme cover for the fixture with Scunthorpe United on 14th February, 1982 featured the new design. Other than the change of cover, the content and internal layout of the programme in 1981/82 remained unchanged. For that matter, despite the new nickname there was little change at Valley Parade although Bob Martin would probably claim that the new Bantams identity was inspirational in helping to secure promotion as runners-up behind Sheffield United.
The switch of identity mid-season was probably more notable for the change in editorial in the Telegraph & Argus. All of a sudden, there was a shift of reference in match reports from Paraders in favour of the Bantams as if that had been the nickname all along.
Other than a new range of souvenirs, the new programme cover was the most obvious display of the new identity at Valley Parade. However, Bradford City AFC was not the only club at that time resorting to design and rebranding on the cheap. In 1982, Scunthorpe United introduced a new ‘Iron Fist’ crest having launched a competition for a new design which was advertised in their programme. Mine was the winning design having been sketched on a sandwich wrapper whilst travelling back to Bradford on a CTC’73 coach from The Old Show Ground in October, 1981. Oh, how football branding and marketing has evolved in the last forty years!
The menus above provide links to features written by myself in the BCAFC programme during previous seasons.