The argument between online and printed programmes

Opinion article for Blues Talk by Olivia Phantis – football fan, guest writer and friend of Burnham FC – 18/08/2022

Whether it’s a cup final, a big match between local rivals, or just a regular Saturday afternoon fixture, football programmes have been a staple outside grounds since the Football League was established in 1888. Originally a sheet of paper showing the team and space for fans to record the score, programmes started to become more of a link between the club and their fans throughout the late 20th and early 21st century. Now, with the mass popularity of social media and the near-constant engagement between club’s social media accounts and fans, do we still need the printed programme?

There are pros and cons for both sides of the argument. Digital programmes are more accessible for fans who can’t attend matches, but still want a keepsake in their absence. They also reduce the costs of production and printing, and the use of paper. Reading FC announced last season that they were axing their printed programmes to focus on their mobile app’s content instead. It is unlikely they will be the only ones to announce this in the coming years, due to the ease of putting material online. 

However, there is still something exciting about buying a glossy programme. It is something you can read at half-time, or on the way home, and provides exciting information about your club, including interviews with players and other interactive aspects. For example, Arsenal FC are reintroducing posters into their printed programmes to encourage people, especially children, to buy them. This is something the digital version just can not provide. 

It could also be argued that social media has replaced any need for a digital or printed programme at all. Clubs can now generate as much content as they require without the restrictions of a programme. More interviews with players and coaches, cameras in and around the technical area, behind the scenes footage. These all satisfy fans who are interested in anything to do with their clubs, and allow the clubs to continue maintaining their image through carefully curated media. 

Personally, I have an array of programmes from throughout the years, way back from my first game in 2005. However the allure of those have worn off recently. I could be tempted back by a special edition or if it’s a big game (a cup final for example, fingers crossed), but for many the content being generated by clubs is enough to satiate the need for extra material.

The dying medium of printed programmes is unfortunate as it signifies a move away from the traditions of football that many have held dear. One would hope that programmes will still be made available for the people who want them, and maintain a bond between the match-going fan and their club. 

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