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History of British Football Magazines

The evolution of what we now know as the football magazine started with weekly newspapers with high football content. Then came "Boys Papers" the newspaper with only football content but were aimed at the children's market featuring short stories on football matters (the forerunners of comics). Slowly the market called for 100% football content, which coincided with technological advances in printing in 1951 enabling the Charles Buchans Football Monthly to be the first modern looking football magazine, with colour covers and better quality paper.

First Football newspaper : The Goal: The Chronicle of Football was first published 22nd November 1873. According to J.A.H. Catton it was issued by a Mr E.M. Fraser of the Crescent,169 Camden Road, London ,N.W.The British Library has it running for only 21 or 22 editions and ceasing on April 25th 1874.

The Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle was an English weekly sporting paper published every Saturday as a broadsheet between 1822 and 1886.

The "Athletic News" was established in Manchester in 1875 as a "weekly journal of amateur sport".

The Athletic News was the leading football paper between the 1880s and the 1920s and was referred to at its peak as the 'Times of football'. In September 1888 with the onset of the Football league teh penny paper moved from a Saturday publication date to a Monday.Sales were 25,000 in 1883 and were 170,000 by 1919.

The 'Referee' newspaper was founded in 1877 as a weekly publication primarily covering sports news.

The " Boy's Own Paper " launched on January 18th, 1879 with a cover picture entitled "My first Football Match", unfortunately at this date this translated as a Rugby game.

In 1882 the short lived "Football: A weekly record of the Game" appeared which merged with Pastime the following year which in turn ran until at least 1895.

From the late 1890s football clubs started producing their own programmes and newspapers started to produce football based editions.

Early Club specific publications included:

"The Football Programme and Weekly Calendar, Manchester", 11 October 1890 till 28 February 1891

"The Official Programme: The Official Organ of Manchester City, Newton Heath, Broughton Rangers & Salford Clubs", 3 September 1898 till 28 April 1900

"The Official Programme: The Only Official Organ of the Everton, L'pool, New B'ton, R'k Ferry & Tranmere Clubs", 1 September 1898 till 29 April 1899.

As well as early club specific publications there were also 'Football Specials' probably starting with Birmingham's 'Saturday Night' which ran from 1882 to 1898. By the beginning of the twentieth century there were 170 provincial daily papers and about 100 evening ones and of course they would all feature sport.

"The Boys Friend" launched January 29, 1895, published by the Amalgamated Press, London. In 1902 two new Amalgamated Press tabloid papers appeared; "The Boys' Realm", in 1902 and "The Boys' Herald" a year later. Although both papers began with a similar content to The Boys Friend , the former would later take on sport as its theme while the later would become a hobby interest paper.

The game changing 'Book of Football' was a serialised magazine published in 12 fortnightly instalments during the course of the 1905/06 season.

According to Adam Riches in his excellent book "Football's Comic Book Heroes the childrens market" it was the 'The Boys' Realm' which in 1909 eventually finally created its first truly football exclusive publication. This was very much a paper aimed at children and was predominantly short stories.

Into the twentieth Century we see the arrival of the "Football Chronicle", which ran from 16 September 1911 till 25 April 1914 and continued after the war from 30 August 1919 till 19 December 1936.

The " Football Favourite " ran from 4 September 1920 till 30 April 1921, continued as The Football and Sports Favourite 7 May 1921 - 30 March 1929, then Boys' Football Favourite, ultimately becoming Boys' Favourite.

Amalgamated Press were seemingly trying 2 different football formats at the same time with Football Favourite (4/9/20-30/4/21) and Sports for Boys (20/10/20-21/4/21) to see which worked better and to find competition for the successful Topical Times published by DC Thomson. They ultimately came up with the winning and much more long lived " Sports Budget ."

In 1911 the "Football Players Magazine-Official Journal of the Association Football Players Union" was launched under the editorship of Evelyn Lintott. A very far sighted move with the Football League and Football Association many years away from producing their own publication. There is an argument for this to be classed as the longest running football magazine as it became " Soccer: The Official Journal of the Football Players Union " in 1947 under the revitalising influence of Jimmy Hill. The Union became the Players Football Association under Jimmy Hill's stewardship and their magazine " Footballers World " launched in 1993 and continues to this day.

The "Topical Times" ran from 1919 to 1940 producing over a 1,000 weekly issues in a newspaper format. Always at least half full of football content and offering occasional glossy cards featuring players. It was published by DC Thomson who went onto greater things with the Dandy and Beano.

Other newspapers of the time carried a lot of football copy but were not exclusively dedicated to football such as the "Athletic News" and the "Sporting Chronicle".The "Sports Budget and Football Special" launched on January 13 1923 ,the copyright is now owned by IPC.

Meanwhile in Europe East Germany produced an periodical that resembled an exclusively football magazine, "Die Fussball-Woche" The "Football Week" was founded by M. Noster and was first published on 24th September 1923 in dessen Verlag. September 1923 in his publishing house.

"Die Fussball-Woche" had the compact format was published weekly with a clear front cover "look" so it did not look like a newspaper. It was of course printed on newspaper and was black and white. But you could say it looks very similar to the Raich Carter Soccer Star that was not due in the UK for another twenty-nine years. The "Football Week" has evolved in Germany to become the " New Football week", abbreviated as fuwo.
"Die Fussball-Woche" has become very collectable in the UK because it carries a lot of English content and photographs on English teams that does not exist elsewhere. It is invaluable for when English teams toured Germany and no English records were kept.

An excellent publication came out in 1935 called the "Football Pictorial and Illustrated Review".Followed by the "Football Weekly" in 1936.Marketed as "the great paper for the great game -every Wednesday 2d" was probably the best seller.This paper produced free gifts like the "1934 Football Weekly Book of 100 Famous Football Clubs

All these pre war periodicals were still missing the crucial element of full colour photography; in 1931 the first colour photo was printed in a British newspaper. (The Times).

In Charles Buchan's autobiography (which he worked on in the late 1940's) he said that there was still no "weekly bible of the game". Other sports related colour magazines were around such as Sporting World and World Sports but they were not 100% football specific and the ones that were did not have the colour that the mass selling women's magazines featured.

The "FA Bulletin" the "Voice of the Football Association" commenced on the 20th September 1946 and would run monthly for the period of the football season. It changed to the "FA News" in August 1951 until 1956.It changed again to "FA Today" and finally ceased in October 1979.It is hard to call this a generally available magazine as it was sold on a subscription basis.

The first British Football magazine that fits my magazine criteria of colour, football only content, quality paper and available at the newsagents was edited by that man Charles Buchan. An honary mention should go to the December 25th 1948 issue of "Sport Weekly" as it featured a full colour team picture of England on the front cover.
The first full colour British magazine cover.
It was a one off with usually single spot colour, CBFM would be the first to do it every issue.

Charles Buchan's launched Football Monthly in September 1951 and the world had its first modern style football magazine. Amazingly with so many major publishing houses around he launched independently as Charles Buchan's Publications Ltd based at 408 The Strand, London WC2.

"Raich Carter's Soccer Star" started a year later on the 20th September 1952. Raich Carter was adamant that his publication was a magazine not a newspaper, whereas we would say nowadays that they were single spot colour on newsprint. In the June 5th issue 1954 his editorial was why his magazine didn't carry up to date news. I was contacted by Ray Wellingson in early 2018 who now lives in Canada and is aged seventy. He remains in contact with David 'Diddy' Hamilton who used to contribute articles to the Soccer Star. He got to know him because was a freelance press photographer who began with Soccer Star when the Editor was Jack Rollin. He later went on to take photographs for World Soccer magazine. Jack Rollin would get him press passes to any game he wanted so he went to Highbury ,Spurs but also Millwall Charlton etc. He printed up his pictures and ran them over to Soccer Star in Argyle street and he usually had a few in each edition for which he paid '5 guineas a pop' and was given a free copy of the magazine! He did it for about two years and also sold stuff to the News of the World when Frank Butler was the Sports Editor and other places too. He gave it all up went into banking before emigrating to Canada.

"Soccer Star is printed by letterpress flat bed machines. Two sections of the magazine are machined separately; the red that appears on the front cover makes a third machine run and then copies are folded, stitched and trimmed - all by separate operation. Adhering to schedules laid down by our printers we go to press with the first of our eight page sections actually 9 days before the date of the issue. So it is impossible for us to be a news magazine."

In the summer of 1955 the Raich Carter logo was dropped and it ran as Soccer Star until 19th June 1970 when it merged into "World Soccer"".

"World Soccer" was the world's second oldest monthly football magazine when it started in October 1960 and is today the worlds longest running football magazine as it is still being published by IPC, with a monthly circulation today of around 52,000.

" Jimmy Hill's Football Weekly " launched in 1967 followed by "Goal" magazine edited by Alan Hughes on the 16th August 1968 and published by IPC.

The next British magazine to show it's face was the "Soccer Review", ultimately to become the Football League Review (The Official Journal of the Football League). If you went to football matches from the late sixties and through to the mid seventies you will remember the insert from the Football League that came inside your clubs match day programme. It started in August 1965 and only appeared in some clubs programmes, it was originally called the Soccer Review. It was printed by Sport and Screen Productions in Leicester and was edited by Harry Brown. It qualifies as a magazine in its own right as it was always available either by post or from your newsagent right from launch. The Football League Review went through various name changes from Soccer Review, to the Football League Review, and finally the League Football.

In late 1968 the International Football Illustrated"" launched which just printed full page player pictures and biographies and didn't try to be newsworthy.

IPC had also launched Shoot magazine, a football magazine for children in August 1969 and by 1971 both Shoot and Goal were the market leaders with 220,000 weekly sales each.

September 1969 saw the launch of "Monthly Soccer" that covered the non-league and amateur game.

On the 10th of January 1970 "Striker" was launched which ran for 113 issues from 10/1/70 to 4/3/72 inclusive. Also in 1970 Marshall and Cavendish came on the scene with the "Book of Football" magazine at the same time as Inside Football" , which ran from August 15th 1970 until the 26th February 1972 .It was newspaper more than a magazine which eventually joined forces with "Striker" to become the short lived "Inside Football and Striker".

Also in 1970 IPC launched the first exclusively football comic-"The Scorcher" .

In 1974 Charles Buchan's Football Monthly Digest closed and became " Football " and was maintained by IPC until 1995 when it was sold to Ken Bates at Chelsea. Goal failed at the same time and was officially incorporated into Shoot on June 15th 1974.

In 1979 "Match" was launched (now owned by Emap) as competition to Shoot which also continues to this date but is more a comic than a magazine for grown ups.

On the 22nd August 1979 the "Football Weekly News" started and stopped again quite quickly in June 1981.

No one really provided "World Soccer" with any monthly competition from 1974 until the "When Saturday Comes" launch in 1986. It first started life as a fans "zine" that evolved into Britain's only current independent football magazine with a monthly circulation nowadays of around 20,000.

"The Footballer" started in July 1989 and was sub titled the "Journal of Soccer History and Statistics" and ran until May/June 1996. It was published by the book company Sports Promotion International.

"90 minutes" arrived in October 1990 and stopped again on the 17th of May 1997.It was started by Crystal Palace fan Dan Goldstein and remained independent until IPC took it over.

"Goalmouth" -the monthly national football magazine launched in May 1992 and lasted one season. It was published by EPG Publishing and was edited by John Jackson.

Goal Monthly" was a relaunch of the Goal brand in October 1995 but now in monthly format instead of weekly. The first issue states that it comes from "The makers of 90 minutes" which as of the mid nineties was IPC again.

"Four Four Two" launched in September 1994 - a magazine surprisingly not owned by IPC but by Haymarket Publishing and still going strong today with the biggest circulation of the big 3 of around 112,000 every month.

"Total Football" tried to take on "WSC", World Soccer and "442" from August 1995 and also failed.

It has been quiet on the British Football magazine front since the mid 1990's, a monthly magazine called "Eleven" launched in September 2002 and was no more by July 2003.

In June 2008 Shoot magazine closed a year short of it's 40th birthday leaving " Match" (130,000 copies) on it's own in the football comic market.

For the grown up magazine readers we have still the big three of "World Soccer", "WSC" and "442" still slogging it out for world domination! Its amazing to look back now on the circulation figures of 250,000 a month back in the early 1960's achieved by Charles Buchan's Football Monthly, still more than the current big 3 football mags combined.

World Soccer magazine celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2020 at the same time as new owners, Kelsey Media took them over.