The EFL will be voting next month on a proposal to scrap the rule that ensures clubs provide a match day programme. In the event of the vote meaning that match day programmes are no longer mandatory, individual clubs may still decide to provide one. I understand CUFC will continue to produce one.
For many supporters, it is still a part of their matchday routine. However, with the introduction of social media and club websites, has it become an outdated publication for modern times? Don’t we still need to consider the supporter who does not use the internet?
There are some who believe that the atmosphere at matches has become stale because many people are looking at their mobile phones for match day updates and scores throughout the match. Could a vote against the match day programme add to the problem?
During the years that I have been a supporter, the programme has changed in size, content and has become more expensive. They are now thrown away as they are difficult to store. Personally, I still love to look at the programmes I’ve kept to remember particular events, results and, in particular, the photos of players from the past and action shots, These are often a reminder of your life and the events that have taken place during it.
The programme has, in many cases, now become a corporate magazine going far beyond its original concept: to provide team line-ups, pen pics and some adverts to provide additional finance.
However, does it need scrapping? Are there more important issues that the EFL clubs should be dealing with? For example, the kick off times seemingly changing to suit television schedules; matches being postponed too late to prevent supporters travelling – or have they run out of ideas and are fiddling with things to justify their existence?
If programmes are forced online, the cost of producing them will still exist. Would supporters go online to purchase a copy when all the information can be sourced elsewhere on the web? Consumers can buy digital books online, but analysts now say that physical book sales are increasing because people like to hold something in their hands. This might also be the case concerning programmes. Supporters want something they can hold and read at half time, or another day.
Another area most clubs forget about is the revenue it can bring in via advertising, for example, player sponsorship. Would our sponsors still sponsor a first team player, or an academy player, if there was no way to display that sponsorship to supporters?
Are clubs looking for more ways to be environmentally friendly? Could this be the reason for change? I doubt it. If that was the case, there are many ways that the EFL could force clubs to improve their carbon footprint.
I believe it may be purely down to reduced sales. But, could this be due to programmes no longer providing or representing what supporters want to read? It is often a sanitised view. Very few clubs now provide programmes with interesting features or stories inside them. Few include supporter stories or controversial content. At every match, a number of programmes are given away to sponsors, diners, mascots, referees, club officials, home team and also to the away side. The first three are part of the match day experience – a souvenir of the day and part of the sponsorship package. Do clubs see these as commercial income or a programme sold?
Could it also be that programmes have become too big? When I started buying them, they could easily fit in a pocket, folded or unfolded. Now they need to be held throughout the match in your hand, which can be restricting.
I believe that if programmes are given a reprieve, they need to be smaller in size, provide what supporters want to read, and become less glossy and corporate.
If programmes don’t get a reprieve, the future might see a single page team sheet provided on match days, which can be purchased on the day. However, if this were to happen, changes would be required to the rules that instruct when team line-ups are finalised.
An alternative could be a monthly club magazine containing the information currently provided in the programme.
Another alternative might be a curve ball with the revival of the club fanzine. A publication produced by supporters for supporters to fill the gap left, or produced by the club. However, is there a club brave enough to do this?
What are your views?