There’s something special about a football programme (or programs to everyone over here!). I’ve collected them from an early age and it’s still the first thing I look for when I arrive at a new ground, especially when I’m back home taking in some matches in the UK.
Football programs have been around for well over a century. Modern day football might want to call them Matchday Magazines, but we know the truth. It’s a mandated rule in England every club down to quite a low level in the non league pyramid that they have to produce one.
Programs are a great snapshot in time. Or at least the good ones are. They capture football history and in many cases, the time period as well. There’s the players, the stats, the hairstyles, the fashion, the adverts, and so much more. They’re also mementos. Memories of matches attended.
Some are a waste of money, hardly worth the paper they’re printed on. Some have little reading material in them and you feel you’ve just paid for ads and a few photos. But when a club does it right, it’s great to read before the match, at half time, and on the journey home.
Sadly the costs have shot up, both for fans to buy them and for clubs to produce them. Many clubs are looking at producing digital versions only and that breaks my nerdy heart.
The Whitecaps have produced programs of various size and quality over the years. There were the initially heavy tomes of the NASL days, where there was a league wide program adapted with some local content. This gradually changed and switched in the early 80’s, when BC Place became home, to a standalone affair. The 86ers had some colourful efforts and the ‘Caps USL days produced a mixture of season long programs (sometimes with a change or two as the year went on) to folded four page versions to simple teamsheets.
When the ‘Caps made the move to MLS, I loved the program they brought out that inaugural season. It was a proper program, full of info, articles, photos, and a great keepsake from the matches in a season to really forget. But then the change was made to the foldout poster version we get today. It’s not really a program to me, but beggars can’t be choosers and I have them all stored away in binders and I’m genuinely happy to have something instead of nothing.
Some other MLS clubs do produce proper efforts. Portland in particular. San Jose did, not sure if they still do with the stadium move. Seattle sadly went down the digital route.
But we want to share our love of programs with you dear AFTN readers, and so spawned this new semi-regular feature – Get With The Program – where we’ll look back at some old programs, primarily Whitecaps ones. Bringing you the best features, photos, ads, and more from them.
Since we’ve been in a Vegas mood this weekend with Saturday’s friendly, we thought we’d kick the feature off with a program from one of the games we talked about in yesterday’s Vegas history article, when the Whitecaps hosted the Las Vegas Quicksilvers at Empire Stadium on Sunday July 24th 1977.
Costing just one dollar, the 56 page program has a full colour front and back cover, with a mixture of colour and black and white content inside.
All the features you’d expect were in there, many of them regular staples that you’ll find in many a NASL program from before and after 1977: details of both squad, Whitecaps player profile pics, league stats for the season, all time NASL records, details of the 1977 playoff format, rules of the game, and other stuff of that ilk.
This was the days of the NASL producing a league wide program that was then tailored a little bit to the local market, mainly in the way of ads, but with the odd team specific article thrown in.
This issue has the Vancouver Sun’s Dan Stinson profiling the ‘Caps rookie of the year candidate, defender Garry Ayre. Know as “The Destroyer” to his teammates, we learn that the local lad nearly ended up heading to play for Tampa Bay Rowdies before the ‘Caps snapped him up. The article clearly had an inspiring effect on Ayre, who scored the ‘Caps first goal in their 2-1 win over the Quicksilvers that day.
There’s also a brief piece on the newest Whitecaps addition, John Waddington, who had arrived on loan from Blackburn Rovers.
Of the national articles that featured in every NASL program produced that week or so, there’s a two page interview with Pele as he plays his 22nd and last professional season. It’s a good chat, which we’ll bring you one day in full, where he talks about helping to grow the game in North America, the chance for more privacy here, and some of the high and low points of his lengthy career.
There’s also a profile of Connecticut Bicentennials player Santiago Formoso, a one page piece on St Louis Stars, a piece on the Minnesota Mayor talking about the difference that having the Kicks has made to his city, and one about the setting up of a Professional Soccer Reporters Association.
There’s also what now reads as an amusing half page article on the day’s visitors headlined “Quicksilvers are causing some surprises”.
The start of this piece is tremendous – “Just as they did with Hawaii, many soccer fans shook their heads when they learned a new NASL franchise was to be placed in Las Vegas this season. How would they lure people away from the gaming tables along The Strip, to a soccer game?”.
It then goes on to state it’s gone well and profile the players on the Vegas squad.
The reality was those fans shaking their heads were correct as both Las Vegas and Hawaii last one season in the NASL before folding.
Approaching 60% of the program is adverts. They all seem to be season long ads, both local and national, that feature in every program that year. There’s some crackers in there, showing top cars of the day, Pele with a Pepsi, and even one for Skoal smokeless edible tobacco.
There’s something about looking through old programs and magazines and seeing these ads that are kind of magical to me. I always find it fascinating to see how times have changed in various aspects.
Here’s two ads from this issue, one for the legendary store Woodwards, and one promoting Las Vegas as a tourist destination.
It’s interesting to see all the local media shows and stations taking ads to promote their Whitecaps. The back page of the 1977 programs featured a full colour ad for CJOR 60, the radio station home of “Whitecaps play-by-play, at home and away”. There’s also J. Paul McConnell’s Sports show on Super-Country CKWX 1130 and something which would be great to have nowadays, the Vancouver Whitecaps Highlight Show at 8.30pm on Wednesdays on CKVU-TV.
Changed days indeed.
We’ll be back with a look inside another program soon.
[If anyone has any old Whitecaps or 86ers programs in the attic of garage that you’d like to get rid of (pre MLS era), then we’ll gladly take them off your hands. Even if we already have them, we’ll give them away in competitions. Just get in touch! If you have ones you’d like to see, get in touch too and we’ll see if we can work something out.]