Football’s back! But what is there to cheer in this competitive publishing sector? Alan Geere takes his rattle and rosette onto the newsstand.
What’s it about: ‘Fan's guide to watching games across Europe and the UK’ – explainer on Twitter page.
Vital statistics: August 2017 issue: 92 pages of 295mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £4.99 cover price. Sale unaudited, but running ‘just under 3,000’ says the publisher. Published by Eurofootballcities in that Wembley of publishing, Biggleswade.
Cover: A big picture of a Chelsea fan to illustrate a piece about visiting Stamford Bridge. She is actually outside Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, but let’s not quibble. Four coverlines and five place names to get excited about visiting. Footballer count = 0.
Content: Part ideological travelogue, part weekend away with the boys. But it all adds up to a comprehensive insight into people and places you won’t find in other magazines, let alone football magazines. A succession of destinations unfold, complete with maps and pub guide (The Wee House in Dundalk is recommended) plus personal reminiscences and info such as flights and tickets.
Digital: Website link on page two, but it’s really just a portal to subscribe and buy back issues. Click through to Twitter (1,381 followers) and Facebook (2,534 likes). Let’s just say, there is scope for digital development.
What they say: “It’s been a steep learning curve for me as I’ve had to deal with all aspects of the publishing process, but it’s been a great deal of fun too.” – publisher Jim Stewart bares his publishing soul in an interview at launch.
Verdict: As the newest kid on the block, this lavishly produced number has found its niche – “dedicated to following the beautiful game at home and abroad” – and is filling it with quality writing, decent photographs and information galore. A cracking offering at 92 pages that gives great value for money and a smile or two at some of the more arcane destinations (Armenia, Romania and Guernsey just in this issue).
What’s it about: ‘Celebrating the best of football’ – description on Twitter page.
Vital statistics: August 2017 issue: 116 pages of 289mm x 215mm. Matt paper, heavyweight matt cover, perfect bound. £4.99 cover price. Combined ABC (July-Dec 2016) of 60,227, with 2,952 from digital. Published by Haymarket in Twickenham.
Cover: Masthead obscured by a rather menacing looking Antoine Griezmann – “football’s hottest property”, if you’ve never heard of him – two other coverlines, one small picture and the names (yes, just the names) of 13 footballers you should be expected to know. Footballer count = 2.
Content: Straight into dull editor’s letter (the letter, not the editor) on page three before a sensible contents spread on pages 4-5. ‘Upfront’ kicks off with a very long Q&A (31 Qs) with a former French footballer, only made bearable by the questions coming from readers. That Griezmann feature with coincidentally a two page ad from Puma featuring l’homme himself in the middle. Some neat retro drawings – shades of the legendary Paul Trevillion – with the summer signings feature, a thoughtful piece on a Brazilian footballer turned politician and a lovely retrospective on the Dallas Tornado epic 1967 world tour.
Digital: Clear digital signposts winking out of page three to website and a whopping 429k followers on Twitter and more than a million likes on Facebook. News, info, videos, cut and thrust with readers. These guys clearly know their digital although editor Hitesh Ratna, who proudly displays his Twitter name with his Editor’s Letter (see above), has managed just seven tweets since August last year.
What they say: “FourFourTwo has Messi as guest editor. At the Northern Echo we once had the Chuckle Brothers as guest editors,” – Twitter correspondent plays guest editor hardball.
Verdict: The matt paper feels lovely. Tons and tons to look at and read make this a properly grown-up magazine. But it still manages to be nicely irreverent - check out Random Club Profile – and My Perfect XI where players pick the best team they’ve shared a pitch with, is worth a magazine of its own.
What’s it about: ‘No 1 for footy every week!’ – page three boost/boast.
Vital statistics: July 25-31, 2017 issue: 48 pages of 270mm x 198mm. Gloss paper, self-cover, stitched. £3.50 cover price. Combined ABC of 18,803, all from print. Published by Kelsey Media in Kent.
Cover: Busier than a White House press secretary. Five mini promos, plus the cover story of ‘Transfer Dream Team!’. Eleven (or !!) exclamation marks – a Spotlight record! Footballer count = 19ish.
Content: Comes in poly bag with ‘9 cool gifts’. Contents spread on pages 2-3, all clearly numbered. On to ITK (In The Know) full of one paragraph bits and pieces. Will not be stretching anyone’s reading ability but lots of pictures, quotes and plenty of info for one-upmanship in the playground.
Digital: Website at matchfootball.co.uk with click throughs to a desultory 5,357 followers on Twitter but amazing 1,148,579 likes on Facebook, pulled in by videos and interaction opportunities.
What they say: “MATCH is at Goodison Park today to play on the pitch, wearing Everton’s new training gear! Cheers @Umbro! #TogetherBlue” – Publisher keeping it neutral on Twitter.
Verdict: Feels a bit thin, small and expensive (7.3p per page). The add-on gifts go some way to adding value and the distinctly old-tech league ladder, sorry ‘season tracker’, is well-made and should last until next May. Facebook efforts well rewarded by huge numbers.
Match of the Day
What’s it about: ‘The UK’s best-selling footy weekly’ – strapline on cover next to mugshot of Lineker G. (annual salary £1.75m, children).
Vital statistics: 25-31 July, 2017 issue: 68 pages of 298mm x 209mm. Thin gloss paper, heavyweight cover, stitched. £3.50 cover price. Weekly. Combined ABC of 38,116 all from print. Published by Immediate in London.
Cover: One big coverline, promos to a competition and giveaway posters. A range of strangely static stare-at-the-camera pictures of players, one cat, one dog. Footballer count = 7.
Content: Comes in lavish foil wrapper – “keep away from babies and children” – which affords promo opportunities aplenty and a home for the new season ladders. No contents page, so readers must navigate themselves around the big pictures and not many words. A section called Play – Tekkers/Gear/Gaming – changes the pace and there are competitions and quizzes to take part in. Lots to look at, but all very quick reads.
Digital: Signposts on folio lines to website which has neat moving tickertape style headlines. Videos, games, votes and a page of readers pictures and drawings. Editor Ian Foster has his own Twitter account (857 followers) which eventually leads to the mag itself, which has garnered 19.5k followers despite no promotion in either the mag or on the website.
What they say: “Make sure the kids are tucked in, because MOTD2 is about to start on @BBCOne!” – Guess that’s 1-0 to the parents. From the ‘official’ Twitter account.
Verdict: Given that it has a prime-time advertising slot at least three times a week on BBC1, it’s not surprising this is the best-selling weekly. Has plenty of names and faces it’s easy to identify with and gives full credit to the stars of the women’s game too. Quality league ladder, using hook-and-loop fastener (which may even be Velcro®) for the Premier League.
When Saturday Comes
What’s it about: ‘The half decent football magazine’ – tagline on cover.
Vital statistics: August 2017 issue: 48 pages of 297mm x 210mm. Matt paper, self-cover, stitched. £3.50 cover price. Combined sale of 19,300 with 800 from digital. Published by When Saturday Comes Ltd in London E1.
Cover: Speech bubble ‘joke’ picture (à la Private Eye) of Young England plus nine one-liner coverlines. One other small picture, masthead and page furniture. And, of course, that little Victorian caricature, named ‘Parvinder’ by readers, scurrying in the top corner. Footballer count = 6 (inc Parvinder).
Content: Taking its cue again from Private Eye, there is no jazzy layout, just respectful use of two and three column grids and small, but purposeful, headlines (eg Art in the right place on the Pelé exhibition). Match of the month is up to the minute (Scotland 2, England 2) while features on Mick Channon and the origins of the phrase ‘Beautiful Game’ provide the retrospective. Four pages of letters at the back are a joy to behold. Also loved the writers’ competition. How chuffed the winners must be to see their well-crafted words so tastefully displayed.
Digital: A half decent website with 42k Twitter followers but just 7.7k likes on Facebook, which probably says more about the readers than the output, which is largely the same on both platforms.
What they say: “A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday,” – exhortation on website to sign up for the WSC ‘Weekly Howl’.
Verdict: The former enfant terrible of footy magazines might have grown up a bit with lots to read in some serious depth, more PhD than GCSE, but it retains just the right edge of cynicism to keep the loyal fans happy. The generous weight of paper makes it feel like more than 48 pages.
What’s it about: ‘Global Football since 1960’ – tagline incorporated in masthead.
Vital statistics: July 2017 issue: 84 pages of 283mm x 194mm. Matt paper, heavyweight gloss cover, stitched. £4.90 cover price. Combined ABC of 22,708, with 1,072 from digital. Published by Time Inc in Farnborough.
Cover: Cut-out pic of the not instantly recognisable Marcelo, billed as ‘Brazil’s attacking gem’, seven well-crafted coverlines, four other small pictures and plenty of white space complementing the house red colour. Footballer count = 8.
Content: Rather understated contents on page 3 lead into ‘In Pictures’ displaying engaging photos from global action. Typical on-the-money columns from World Soccer literati Keir Radnedge (47 years at World Soccer) and Brian Glanville (86th birthday this year). Somewhat disjointed design and small type make it a challenge at times but when you’ve got four pages on the ‘World Cup for FIFA-less nations’ in Northern Cyprus, readability is a small price to pay.
Digital: Engaging enough website which is storming through the qualifying rounds of the Pop-up Ads World Cup. Clear signposting to Facebook (85k likes) and Twitter (21k followers), although ‘Open in new window’ would help keep readers on the site.
What they say: “Looking for a Doncaster Rovers fan who can answer some questions today about the new season” – editor Gavin Hamilton taking a distinctly small world view on Twitter.
Verdict: Has been on the newsstand for nearly 60 years, outliving Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, Soccer Star, Football Weekly and even Shoot (now digital only) with its penchant for the esoteric story from some of football’s farthest flung corners. Still doing what it has always done in the best possible way.