With the immediacy of the news and gossip offered to us by social media, the fanzine may seem like an archaic format.
With Gary Firmager hanging up his step ladder and laying his DM's to rest after more than 25 years of O.L.A.S, there was a hole left in many peoples match day routines at a time when thousands of us were having to find our feet after the not so seamless move to the London Stadium.
Like many fanzines around the time, United We Stand’s origin story began in the 1980s, when football fans felt as though they were second-class citizens. “I was an angry 15-year-old United fan in Manchester who felt that that football fans didn’t have a voice,” Mitten says. “I was paying a fortune to stand on decaying terraces at places like the City Ground in Nottingham where you could hardly see the pitch for floodlights, pylons and fences.
“United fans who are only interested in transfers might be baffled by it all, but our readers get what we do and they’re very loyal” Andy Mitten “Decisions were being made on my behalf where we had no voice and were all considered hooligans. The government wanted to bring in an ID card for football fans, there was the disaster at Hillsborough and the Taylor report which followed.
“The demographics of football were changing by the year. I can vividly remember the summer of 1990 when millions of middle class people were seduced by football after the Italia’90 World Cup and Pavarotti singing. “I don’t blame them, it was brilliant.” Mitten calls the the early days of fanzine culture “vibrant”. Almost every club had one, and they would swap copies with everyone from Newport County to Manchester City. “I loved fanzines, loved the feel and authenticity of them. I’d cry with laughter at stories about Hull fans in ‘Hull, Hell and Happiness’ or a cartoon strip about Peter Reid being a monkey who kept climbing the floodlights during training in Newcastle’s ‘The Mag’. The actual games at these clubs were of no consequence to me. “I’d go to games as a kid and meet these fanzine people and found that we had much in common. Or I’d meet men three times my age who would moan and say they’d had enough of modern football and it was their last season. They said the same thing every year for 20 years.
. “There’s stuff in there that you can’t find anywhere else. Like Private Eye, we don’t give it away for free. So you can read genuine insight from people we’ve had contact at Manchester United with for 25 years. and speaking with guys who produce other teams’ fanzines, they also find they are filling a void left by online forums and bloggers. “Our sales gave increased year on year. Those extra sales mean we can make TSB bigger and better whilst keeping our cover price down.” TSB has embraced social media and the internet to complement their fanzine, reaching a wider audience. With an online presence they have been able to work in both worlds, promoting merchandise and attracting new contributors. “More and more fanzines are emerging as the printed option is now back in fashion,” says O’Dowd. “It may change again but fanzines will always adapt as the need for that independent view – and scrutiny of unscrupulous owners – becomes as important as ever.” The Square Ball is online at www.thesquareball.net and on Twitter @TheSquareBall Sandy Armour has been editor of the ‘Killie Hippo’ since 2000 (Photo: Killie Hippo/Sandy Armour) The wonderfully named Killie Hippo was late to the fanzine party, arriving in 2000. But it still remains to this day, one of very few regular Scottish football fanzines, with issue 171 released at the season’s end. It came into being to fill the void after two fanzines, Killie Ken and Paper Roses, ceased. “I do think that there is still a hardcore of fans who are ‘old school’ and they don’t like to see the game being sanitised too much” Sandy Armour “I had just bought my first computer and wanted to try and justify its purchase,” laughs Armour. “I remember Motherwell had something like four on the go at the same time and I thought that Killie needed to have one immediately. “It wasn’t easy for a thick Killie lad who had scraped a C in his English O Level to write a fanzine, but off we went and incredibly we are still here 17 years later.” Fanzines have often had brilliantly clever names. Some are straightforward, some are evocative, some have an interesting or complex back story. Others are self-deprecating. So why the Killie Hippo? “Simply because I’m a fat bastard with an uncanny resemblance to a water horse,” explains Armour drily.
Fanzines found their place when fans needed a voice, and with money and politics at play, the elite game is becoming further removed from communities than ever. So is the fanzine’s time returning? “I do think that there is still a hardcore of fans who are ‘old school’ and they don’t like to see the game being sanitised too much. “A fanzine is a throwback to the old terracing, tribal rivalry and hopefully we still give the fans a platform to air their views.”
was born out of frustration in 1998.
The fanzine gave a platform for us to tell it like it was, with no holds barred.” As editor, Wilson admits that they’ve not “adapted a great deal” but are “providing a platform for considered, thoughtful opinion on our club, written by fans, written well, and bookended by the sort of tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humour that is synonymous with watching our team”.
So much of football these days, particularly its coverage, is painfully corporate and staid,” says Wilson. “A fanzine isn’t constrained by this – it can say what it wants, question what it wants, ask what it wants – it’s the discussions you and your friends have as you watch the game, articulated on a page without agenda. For me, it’s a welcome gap in the noise.