Analysis: Football Fanzines
Fanzines have been at the heart of football culture since the 1980s. Russell Hotten picks his first XI
Monday 08 August 2005
A Love Supreme
One of Britain's most popular footie fanzines. A polished and professional glossy booklet, it is far removed from the DIY production style of many other fanzines. Strong on layout and design, there is a good mix of bite-size snippets and longer pieces. There is often a "Crap Joke" page devoted to poking fun at Sunderland's rivals, Newcastle. But ALS does not go in for ranting, and it is broadly supportive of Sunderland. There is, for instance, an article sympathetic to the club's hike in season ticket prices.
Britain's longest running football fanzine, Gunflash started life in 1949 and has just produced its 500th issue. It is the official magazine of the Arsenal Supporters' Club, so some might think that it does not qualify as an independent fanzine. But the important thing is that it is a voice of the fans, even if that voice is less opinionated than other fanzines. The lay-out is conservative, and many Arsenal fans think rival magazine The Gooner is sharper with better writing. But Gunflash must be doing something right to have survived this long.
Show Me The Way To Go Home
The club is struggling, but Show Me is a great vehicle. There are some strong words and strong language, but there is also a genuine dialogue between the fans and the club's owner. Reading match reports where attendances of 248 are considered good and where the only source of food at a ground is a burger van, is a salutary reminder about the state of football in the minor leagues. But 40-page fanzines like this also remind you that clubs in those leagues have supporters every bit as passionate as fans of Premiership teams.
Fly Me To The Moon
Emap's 2005 fanzine of the year, awarded because of the quality and passion of the writing, and the good humour. First published in 1988, unlike many fanzines it comes out for every home game. Has a circulation of about 3,000 per issue. Remains true to the fanzine ethic of low-tech production. The content is very much by the fans, for the fans, and the emphasis is on entertainment. There is a strong letters page, and good columnists (check out the surreal Unpleasant Feelings in the Bath if you get a chance).
Those Were The Days
Innovative front covers give TWTD an underground feel. The fanzine, which sells about 2,000 per issue, is appearing in a folk art exhibition at the Barbican centre, London, created by this year's Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller. Articles are written by a diverse band of dedicated fans, which avoids giving it a cliquey feel. There are plenty of items updating readers about club news, but also several dull space fillers. No area of the club is safe from criticism. A long article savages Ipswich ball boys for their lacklustre performance.
United We Stand
The front cover looks like a football programme, but the inside pages contain a simple layout and a lot of grainy pictures. It contains some of the best football-fanzine writing, and is strong on United's illustrious history. UWS features regular interviews with players and management - a credit to the fanzine's influence among fans. But it is not slavishly pro-club. It will be interesting to see how UWS covers the Glazer regime. Along with the rival fanzines Red News and the more fiery Red Issue it is leading an anti-Glazer charge.
This is a good example of the modern-day fanzine - intelligent, thoughtful, and proof that a good product can attract lots of advertising. It can sell 11,000 copies per issue. Surprisingly there is not much humour, but then Newcastle fans are clearly a disillusioned lot. A good fanzine gives a voice to people who would not otherwise be heard, and The Mag is an outlet for fans' frustration at Newcastle's lack of success - which a poll in the summer edition blames on the directors. It does not pull any punches in criticising players, either.
Purists say proper fanzines should look like they were printed and stapled in a bedroom - so congratulations to HotelEnders. This 44-page fanzine might be a shoestring project, but it's done with enthusiasm. And it's just the thing you need at half-time on a wet and windy day when your team is 3-0 down. There's the usual analysis of club and players, but also plenty of light-hearted stuff and one or two great jokes. HotelEnders sells 600 copies an issue - about 10% of the average gate - which is a respectable penetration for a small club.
Heroes & Villains
Glossy colour front and back covers, but inside it reverts to the traditional black and white fanzine. Plenty of effort has gone into this well-written and irreverent product. The Big Debate, a collection of fans' comments on a topic of the month, is thought-provoking for its range of views. This fanzine has an anti-Doug Ellis (the chairman) bias, but allows space for other views. The regular four-page spoof on the tabloid press's treatment of football, The Sunday Muckraker, is innovative even if it does not always hit the spot.
The Lion Roars
Has done a lot to improve the image of Millwall. Uses its pages to challenge intelligently some of the stereotypes that have dogged the club (though there is a large advert from a solicitor touting for business if you've been "arrested or appearing in court"). Some good analytical features, and an interview with the club's former chairman that actually says something worthwhile, rather than a few soft platitudes. The match reports have a fresh layout and approach, making them some of the best in fanzines.
Not The View
NTV (an antidote to the official programme The View) should provide magnifying glasses with each issue, as you have to squint to read some articles. Less strident than Rangers' fanzine Follow, Follow, and on balance has fewer references slagging off its rival. Celtic is steeped in history, but the features and letters in NTV concentrate on the present. Despite the glossy cover, the inside pages are of the rough and ready school of fanzine production. A Message Board section keeping Celtic fans and associations in contact is a good idea.
Been going for 18 years, but is not stuck in the past. There is detailed information about the club and The Fox manages to secure high-profile interviews with players and management. There's a proper cartoon strip, running across two pages, and a nice balance between news and funny items. At only 36 pages, The Fox is one of the smaller fanzines - but it is not padded out with obvious rubbish. Moderate in tone, and does not go in for attacking the club. Prints the best of the fans' forum website, which helps fuel debates.
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