Safe as Milk?

From the Rage Online newsdesk Sunday, October 1st, 1995  

Safe as Milk?

Football has long been a rich feeding ground for the vultures of quick profits and mass commercialism. Anything to do with the game that is marketable is packaged and repackaged and redesigned many times, and still the public snaffles up any keepsake, souvenir or piece of shoddy memorabilia which has some small relevance to their team. Look in the ‘shopping guides’ in any of the proliferating football magazines and you’ll find adverts for all sorts of ephemera: models of premier league stadia; football gnomes; autographs for sale: ‘Decorative Woodwork Football Plaques’; and the usual plethora of videos, programmes, magazines, and kit. Oxford United is as equally guilty of milking this market as all the other clubs, and I am equally as gullible as all the other supporters. Just the other day I bought United’s latest metal lapel badge to add to my collection. This one bears the proud slogan: ‘Oxford United – Manor Ground – 1925-1997’. How crass is that? We haven’t even received full planning permission for the new stadium, let alone started building it, and the club has produced trinkets commemorating the fact. Has anyone stopped to consider how to wipe the egg off the club’s face should planning permission be refused or, more likely, the building of the new ground be delayed for any number of reasons? Profiteering gone rampant!

Equally exploitative is the astonishing increase in the number of magazines dedicated to football. It would appear that the new motto of the mid-90s is ‘if it’s about football some idiot somewhere will buy it’. There have always been football magazines, varying in quality from Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly and World Soccer to Match and Shoot (not forgetting those childhood favourites Scorcher and Score). But now there are more magazines jostling for position on the newsagents’ shelves than you can shake a stick at. The first of this latest batch arrived mid-way through last season. Four Four Two had the advantage of being the leader of these new adult-oriented monthly magazines, and its format has been virtually copied this season with the arrival of Total Football and Goal (not even an original name could be found for this one). They all feature standard articles, generally interviews with players and managers, reviews of books, videos and (heaven help us) fanzines, and they have news sections consisting of small snippets from various clubs in the premier and Endsleigh leagues. It is in the news section that most of the tokenism to the ‘smaller’ clubs occurs, the heavier articles being almost always concerned with premier league teams or the ‘bigger’ Endsleigh teams such as Wolves and Birmingham City.

But it is in their treatment of fanzines that these commercial ventures show their true light, for it is patent that they either have no understanding of why fanzines exist, or else they deliberately trivialise these supporters’ magazines despite the fact that most of their irreverent editorial comments could have come straight from the pages of the fanzines they so despise (fear). For example Four Four Two, in its monthly review of fanzines, gives marks out of five to the copies they review. It is nowhere explicitly stated how fanzines are graded, but it becomes obvious when at the end of each review they reprint from the magazine ‘best gag’. And fanzines that tend to be more serious (like Raging Bull?) are marked down for lack of humour. So that’s it. Fanzines are there to entertain with jokes. Start looking at the in-depth issues, such as the reasons why the fanzine boom started in the first place, and we are getting above our station, we’re not publishing what people want to read (apparently).What we should remember is that, unlike fanzines, these mass produced glossies have huge budgets behind them. Goal is published by the vast conglomerate that is IPC Magazines who also publish 90 Minutes (and hasn’t that deteriorated recently?), Four Four Two is published by Haymarket Trading etc. They have national distribution and can attract multi-national companies on their (doubtless not cheap) advertising pages. They will never, ever be published by people who are at the heart and soul of the game. The idiots who travel up to Hull for a crap Division Two fixture which you know you’re not going to win even before you set off. That is why these glossy, commercial, bland magazines are destined to remain amongst the dross of footballing ephemera – because they have no soul.

Charlie Buchan FM

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 1st, 1995 at 12:00 am and appears under Archive. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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