It would appear that the days of the matchday programme – at least as a mandatory requirement – may soon be coming to an end.
At the end of the current season, the EFL are planning to vote on scrapping their ‘automatic match programme publication’ regulations, which state that every Football League club must produce a mandatory programme for every home fixture.
Several clubs have their fingers crossed, as many are now struggling to justify the cost, effort and resources required especially given that readership, and therefore revenues, are falling year on year.
Indeed, Notts County chairman Alan Hardy appeared on BBC Radio Nottingham on Monday night to confess the financial reality of it all:
[Producing a programme] doesn’t make us any money, it loses us a stack of money.
It’s one of those historic football things isn’t it? Unfortunately it’s a dying art, people just aren’t buying them.
Season by season it’s going down 20% every year.
Hardy also explained that he has no desire to see programmes disappear entirely, just that clubs should have a choice as to whether they continue producing them or not – which is fair enough, we suppose.
Several clubs have attempted to switch to a digital programme, but trials proved to be largely poorly received. The appetite just doesn’t appear to be there anymore. Things have moved on.
While collectors and completists might still dabble, plus the odd casual fan hither and thither, most of the information contained in the programme is now instantly available elsewhere, be it the club website or social media.
Why would any given fan, already wrung dry by the cost of an average ‘matchday experience’, fork out another £5 on a pamphlet half-full of adverts from club sponsors?
Of course, there are still clubs out there who pour a great amount of effort into their programmes – Wolves have scored big with their comic book-inspired covers, for example – but most are fairly dreary by the by.
Pies understand the nostalgia and heritage involved, especially with fans of a more mature vintage, who can map their footballing existences through their programmes – their first match, their first European night, their first title/promotion/relegation, etc – but that’s clearly not enough to sustain an ailing endeavour.
They have been part of the landscape for over a century, but then again, so were half-time cigarettes.
The EFL vote will be held at their AGM in June, after which we may see a host of team’s opting out purely for fiscal reasons – which would be a sad demise for a once-staple aspect of the game, but not overly gut-wrenching as far as we’re concerned.
Who knows, after the PROGXIT referendum, the programme industry may well live on for another century, perhaps in a new guise. Perhaps we shouldn’t see this as an inglorious end, but as a new beginning, full of exciting new possibilities.
What sayeth thou, Pies fans? Would you be sad to witness the death of the matchday programme? Or do your sympathies lie with the club’s struggling to make them pay?