Friday, December 07, 2012

The History of the Football Magazine - The Early Years!

Prior to the saturation coverage of football by television and radio and the growth of the internet, other than results and match reports in newspapers, football magazines and annuals were the prime source of information for supporters. Many have long since disappeared, but a few still continue to enjoy success.

Here is a look back at the birth of the football magazine and those magazines that are still in existence!

The first black and white printed football specific newspaper in Britain was "Football" which ran from 4 October 18 until 11 April 1883.

From the late 1890's football clubs started producing their own programmes and newspapers started to produce football based editions.

Early Club specific publications included:

"The Official Programme: The Official Organ of Manchester City, Newton Heath, Broughton Rangers and Salford Club" from 3 September 1898 until 28 April 1900

"The Official Programme: The Only Official Organ of the Everton, L'pool, New B'ton, R'k Ferry and Tranmere Clubs" from 1 September 1898 until 29 April 1899

In the 20th Century we saw the arrival of the "Football Chronicle" which ran from 16 September 1911 to 25 April 1914 and continued after the war from 30 August 1919 to 19 December 1936.

"The Football Favourite" ran from 4 September 1920 to 30 April 1921, and continued as "The Football and Sports Favourite" (right) between 7 May 1921 and 30 March 1929.

In the 1930's the "Football Weekly" marketed as 'the great paper for the great game -every Wednesday 2d' was probably the best seller.

The question to address is what is the difference between newspaper and a magazine?

East Germany produced the earliest periodical that resembled a football magazine, "Die Fussball-Woche" (pictured right) meaning "Football Week" which was first published on 24 September 1923 in dessen Verlag. This is the earliest publication that resembles what we would now recognise as a magazine format.

All these pre-war periodicals were still missing the crucial element of colour photography.

The "FA Bulletin" the "Voice of the Football Association" commenced on the 20 September 1946 and would run monthly for the period of the football season. It changed to the "FA News" in August 1951 until 1956. It changed again to "FA Today" and finally ceased production in October 1979. It is hard to call this a generally available magazine, as it was sold on a subscription only basis.

If you want to add to the definition of a magazine in terms of using better quality paper and colour then the first football magazine in the UK was "Charles Buchan's Football Monthly."

This iconic magazine (pictured right) was launched in September 1951 and the world had its first modern style football magazine. It featured on its first cover, Blackpool's Sir Stanley Matthews. In its first year of existence the magazine sold 60,000 copies per month, peaking at around 150,000 in 1961-62.

The first original colour photographs appeared in the November 1957 edition. For many readers the pictures of players in CBFM were the only way supporters could see what an opposition player looked like, unless you had seen them appear at your own home ground.

A popular feature of CBFM was that unlike newspapers it carried news of every player transfer under the heading 'Transfer Market Moves.' Due to a lengthy 'lead time' in those days - the time between submission of a copy and actual publication some of the information provided could be anything up to three months old! However, this information detailed transfers of players between lower division and non-league clubs, for many readers it was 'news.' Such information was not available from any other source.

Other 'in vogue' CBFM features included: interviews with players, readers' letters and 'swap your programmes.' A page was also devoted to a feature on an amateur club, invariably a London-based or Home Counties club as the writer of this piece Norman Ackland was himself London-based, and was working on very limited expenses.

In the days before Sunday football became an established and integral part of many people's weekends, CBFM also had a feature called 'Fixtures Wanted' which was a double-page spread of small ads from teams all over the country asking for friendly games within a certain radius. Many of these teams boasted elaborate names such as Internazionale Celtic or Real Bexhill.

In the 1970's, as coverage of football on television increased and newspapers devoted more column inches to our National game, circulation of CBFM decreased rapidly until it folded in January 1974.

Charles Buchan's Football Monthly (CBFM) was without doubt the most recognised name of its genre. However it was not the only football magazine available during its 23 year tenure.

"Raich Carter's Soccer Star" (right) was launched a year after CBFM, on the 20th September 1952. Unlike CBFM, Raich Carter's Soccer Star was a weekly publication. Its unique selling point was that it featured different team photographs every week, on the front and back cover. Though the cover was glossy, the pages inside were matt and did not carry colour photographs until the late 1960's.

The Raich Carter logo was dropped in the summer of 1955 and the the name was shortened to "Soccer Star."

A regular contributor to Soccer Star was the football writer and historian Jack Rollin, who later launched and edited "The Rothmans Football Yearbook."

Every week Soccer Star carried results, teams and attendances for every game in England and Scotland. Despite the fact that this information was two or three weeks old, it still suggested immediacy as at the time no other newspaper or magazine conveyed such detailed statistics.

Soccer Star had a policy of heavily featuring lower division and non-league football in its publication, something that is almost alien to modern day newspapers and
magazines, that tend to focus primarily on top-flight football. Refreshing as this was, it also contributed in part to its downfall, when the requirement of the majority of readers was exactly that - top-flight and international football!
Like CBFM, Soccer Star suffered from poor sales in the late 1960's and as a result it merged into "World Soccer" magazine on 19 June 1970.

"World Soccer" (pictured right) was the world's second oldest monthly football magazine when it started in October 1960 and is today the worlds longest running football magazine as it is still being published by IPC, with a monthly circulation today of around 52,000.

Next week I will continue with this article as I write  features on some other football magazines from varying generations, that you may also recognise including: "Shoot," "Match," "Soccer Review," "FourFourTwo," and "When Saturday Comes."

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