With no football on until further notice, I’ll take the opportunity to fill my column this week with a moan about the digital revolution that is sweeping the SSE Airtricity League, or at least was until games were suspended. Digital programmes that is. Online matchday magazines rather than the tried and trusted, traditional printed one.
Several Premier Division clubs now have digital programmes – Shelbourne, Cork City, Derry City and Dundalk. More will likely follow suit. No print costs, so a saving to the club in these financially challenging times. Better for the planet too in these environmentally challenging times. But are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Are we losing something by ditching print?
For me an essential part of a matchday experience involves the purchasing of the programme. I like the physical article, in my hands to leaf through while waiting for kick-off and at half-time, on my bookshelf thereafter. I collect them, in the same way as others collect stamps or concert ticket stubs [something else that’s dying out – you can get your ticket on your phone now].
Getting rid of printed programmes follows the same logic that saw vinyl records replaced with the smaller and higher tech CDs [themselves subsequently usurped by MP3 files, downloads, streaming etc.]. This proved to be a flawed logic as vinyl came back. Ditto with actual books and Kindle versions. People want the physical copy. It’s aesthetically and artistically more pleasing, and for me a good football programme is a work of art.
Putting a programme together is a labour of love, and this applies just as much to an electronic version as it does to a printed version. I suppose they are the same thing these days, in preparation terms, up to the point where you reach the stage where you have the option to press ‘PRINT’ or not!
They had the digital versus print debate in the lower leagues in England recently, and print won out. If printed programmes fell off the table completely, they would eventually be missed and brought back. I say let’s cut to the chase and just keep them instead of going through the getting rid and bringing back stages!
It will be a nice problem to have – when football returns – whether or not to buy a programme or whether or not there is a programme to buy. If we are divided by our attitude to digital versus print programmes, we are united in our desire to see our stadiums open again and our league resumed.