The match day programme may be in decline elsewhere in the country, but The Harrier remains in good health…
By Matty Paddock - 06/08/2018
Posted 4 months ago
I’VE BEEN wanting to write this for quite some time. As anyone who knows me will tell you – I do love a programme.
It isn’t just football programmes, either. Anything that produces one usually gets a sale from me. From stand up comedy, to live theater or WWE (technically the same thing, I guess) – I always like to have something to remember an event by, and a programme is usually the most tangible thing on offer. I’ve always been that way.
Perhaps that’s why, when the opportunity arose all the way back in 2003/04, I was so excited and eager to pen my very first piece for The Harrier – the official match day programme of our wonderful football club. I was still in education at the time, but I was living and breathing all things KHFC and was desperate to find any way at all to lend a hand and get involved. Personally, it was nice to see my name in print, but for me it was – and still is – about seeing something you’ve produced come to life. What will it look like? How will the design be set out? Will other people enjoy reading it? I asked myself those questions as much then as I do know, some 15 years later.
In that time, I’ve edited 346 different issues of The Harrier, including Tuesday night’s version for the game against AFC Telford United. Roughly speaking, that’s around 230,000 units. Almost a countless amount of programmes that have been purchased, read and (I hope) enjoyed. It may just be a relatively small part of my overall job, but I still can’t – and never would want to – escape the anticipation I feel when a new edition drops here at the ground. I remember how much I used to love buying issues myself and how much I still enjoy programmes wherever I go, and I love the idea that something I’ve helped put together might go some way to making other football fans feel the same way. Not just because I’ve written or edited it – I’m under no illusions that people buy The Harrier just to get their latest fix of my penmanship – but because somewhere, I know there are people who still love programmes as much as I do.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I heard the news earlier this year that EFL clubs had voted in favour of not actually being required to produce a print issue any longer. It means that, at some point if not already, fans attending Football League games up and down the country just won’t get to have that tangible experience any longer. I can understand where the vote has come from – rising costs and declining sales for some just make it too difficult for clubs to justify. The rise of the online world and especially social media and its ‘instant’ way of accessing news has rendered the programme, in some aspects, obsolete.
There are times costs must come first. An FA Trophy replay in 48 hours’ time against opposition you’ve already faced at home? Spending hundreds of pounds to produce an issue just isn’t necessary. But the idea that come 3pm on a Saturday for that all-important crunch league game, there is just no issue on sale at the ground is too sad. Again, I understand the commercial principles For me, though, that’s all part of the challenge. I am pleased that, for now at least, the National League has not relaxed the compulsory directive that a print issue must be produced. Clubs must still find the right balance between cost and content and make sure there is something worth the name.
In some ways, Kidderminster Harriers are lucky. In terms of sales, our programme retains a fairly loyal readership and, as such, the issue pays its own way and doesn’t leave us in the ‘red.’ There is still a lot to thank for that. Once again this season we’ve tried to produce interesting, informative and, where we can, amusing content. We’ve tried again to keep things fresh – some content you may find versions of online, but quite a lot you won’t – so there is still very much something for your £3. From our designers and printers, through to the likes of Andy Frazier who has been providing stats and Bob Hill who has been providing photos – both since before I was born, and I’m in my 30s myself. (sorry, guys!) . From those who proof read it to those who send in articles, to those who help sell it out in the ground entirely on a voluntary basis, I’d like to say thank you.
Producing a programme isn’t easy, and it’s probably only likely to get harder as times change and society continues to move on. There will, I’m sorry to say, probably come a time where The Harrier ceases to print. But for now and, I hope, for many years still to come, our official match day programme begins a new season in rude health.
If you’re a young supporter – or one of any age for that matter – and Tuesday night happens to be your very first game, make sure you get a copy. Here’s hoping you’ll enjoy it as much as I did all those years ago!
This article is about: Commercial