Football programmes have been around for over 130 years and, ever since the early days, they’ve been used to advertise for businesses, products and events. That makes them a great collector item if you have an interest in social change.
While many fans now look to follow their team online and sales of football programmes are falling, it used to be the standard thing to buy one if you were heading to the match and wanted to see who was playing.
The first programmes were pretty unsophisticated and were produced during the new football league that started in 1888. On sale for just a penny, and only about a page, they were a way of clubs getting a little revenue back from fans.
Club owners began to see the value of letting local business advertise with them soon after and they were able to make even more money. Buy an old programme and it does provide a valuable snapshot of what life was like in bygone eras and what people were interested in.
You might be unsurprised that there are plenty of advertisements about cigarettes in many programmes through the 20th century. That was because most football going men and women smoked, and the programme was the perfect place to advertise to them.
In the sixties, seventies and eighties, advertising in programmes was at its zenith. Not only were local businesses interested, but also big corporations. Football greats were often pulled into help advertise products to club members.
Phil Parkes was advertising Cossack Hairspray, Peter Beardsley was selling his own game called International Football Grand-slam. Back in the 50s, Sir Stanley Matthews was promoting his own football boots through the Silverdale Co-Operative Society.
The theme of adverts changed over time from local businesses trying to simply sell their products to more aspirational ideals for the fashion conscious, sporting fan. That is undoubtedly because we were becoming a more affluent and leisure conscious society. In the 70s and 80s, you practically couldn’t open a football programme without seeing Kevin Keegan advertising something.
In the 130 years since football programmes were first introduced, of course, our society has changed immeasurably. Back in 1888, most people were focused on their local environment and stars were few and far between. Don’t forget, the first FIFA World Cup didn’t take place until 1930.
The 20th Century, however, was a time of great upheaval and development. Our view of the world changed dramatically between the two world wars. Men’s raincoats were advertised as sketched images in the 40s and it wasn’t until the 60s that we began really to get more glossy examples of programmes with real photographic images.
In recent times, advertising in football programmes has become less of an attraction for businesses both big and small. On the local, small club scale it’s still a profitable way to get your message out there. But for clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool, there are much better ways to reach out to fans, including online.
If you’re a collector of football programmes and have ones from different years, however, you can get a great amount of satisfaction from looking at the advertisements. They shine a whole new light on a bygone era. And, if you pick the right programme, it can grow in value as you enjoy its contents.