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League of Ireland programmes

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You’re all familiar with the programme [matchday magazine, if you prefer!] seller shouting out ‘’Programmes!” when you enter a soccer stadium. Technically it’s ‘’Programmes?” I suppose, as they are essentially asking you if you want to buy one.

Do you always buy one, even if only to browse through before the game and during halftime? Maybe you’ll glance at it again over the coming days, as it reappears occasionally from under shopping bags and jackets in your car, or turns up fleetingly around the house without you having sought it out, before eventually ending up in the shed to grow mouldy or in the green bin [maybe choose the shed from now on since we’re going to be paying for the recycling bin].

Do you always buy one, and keep them as a collection? I know a lot of people who collect programmes, and consider them the best way to remember a match, what with filling in the scores, substitutions and even collecting autographs.

Perhaps you never buy one, and don’t see the point of programmes? You certainly wouldn’t be alone there. There’s a debate going on in England at the moment – initiated by the clubs in the English Football League – as to whether the requirement to produce a programme should be abolished. Clubs plan to debate and vote on the motion at their meeting in June. I know not all League of Ireland sides currently produce a programme, but most do. Would we welcome a move to abolish them, should a similar campaign start up over here as is currently ongoing in England, or would be fight it?

The argument against programmes is that they are unnecessary in the digital era. Team sheets and even a mini version of the programme can be downloaded to your phone. This will save the clubs the time and trouble of having to produce a programme, and selling the advertisements to make it pay for itself. This especially applies to clubs who struggle to sell sufficient numbers of programmes either through low attendances.

Personally I think a programme when done right is a wonderful thing. Just enough ads to make sure the programme pays for itself. Plenty of variety in the content, between statistics, features, photographs, puzzles, opinion columns and a look at the visitors. Much or all of the content will have been solicited from volunteers offering their writing services for free. A labour of love, if you like.

When the Kindle came in first we were told that books would be a thing of the past soon. Their sales dipped for a while only to come back strongly. Now I think the Kindle is a thing of the past [well, not quite, but it certainly didn’t take over]. The same argument applies to vinyl records and CD’s / digital downloads, only it took decades for vinyl to come back. I think the same thing would happen if programmes went – we’d be bemoaning their loss within a couple of seasons.

I always buy a programme at a football match. Essentially I have a two-tier collection. Programmes that I’ve written articles in are given pride of place on my bookshelf, while the others are kept in boxes, although not quite in the shed [more under the bed or in the wardrobe].

Brian Quigley




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