Football supporters of a certain age will recall a time that existed long before their fingertips became magic keys with the power of unlocking a world of instant information. A time when keeping up with the scores at the match meant listening out for Frank-with-the-transistor-radio’s regular updates and when news and stories came in tabloid form once a day.
Those of a particular vintage may also remember queueing outside the ground or at the corner newsagents after the match to pick up hot-off-the-press publications like The Green ‘Un and The Football Pink.
Such titles were a peculiarly heady mix of local sports news and reportage, much of which was prepared during the week. The main attraction, however, for the expectant lines of fans was the local match reports. In those days, the final moments of a match would unleash a publishing whirlwind.
In order to make the press in time for the first edition, reports were often filed before the game was over—a practice which left the prose entirely free of post-match manager or player sound-bites, and wholly reliant on the eyes and mind of your reporter.
A final flourish in some editions would be the “Stop Press” final scores/late scorers which were hastily printed in a corner of the back page—and which often told a different story to the early headlines on the front.
Technology and times have changed, of course. Football writing is produced and consumed in a variety of forms. The printed press of old is on its knees and the once-burgeoning fanzine scene has fizzled out in places, or has limped on defiantly or diversified (and diluted?) in others. However, much like music on vinyl, there are certain printed products which are seeing something of a renaissance—albeit with a heavy focus on design qualities, rather than a homemade punk ethos.
Today, search for The Football Pink and you will be directed towards the brainchild of Mark Godfrey. Named in deference to those post-match newspapers of his youth, his own magazine walks the tightrope between all the aforementioned forms of written media—at once a regularly updated website and a print magazine which owes much to fanzine traditions.
Mark curates, edits and contributes to The Football Pink. He spoke to IBWM recently to tell us more about his labour of love.
‘We are a website and quarterly fanzine that likes to touch on a many and varied list of football related topics, usually focussing on more in-depth and untold stories, we're not the place for transfer gossip or discussing the merits of Manchester United's midfield system.’
How did you start TFP and what was the inspiration behind doing so?
‘The Football Pink started out as a hobby, really—it still is! I was looking for a project to occupy my free time when I was away on business trips and had decided to take up writing about football whenever I got the opportunity.’
‘I was a huge admirer of sites like IBWM and wanted to set something similar up for myself, primarily. So, as well as contributing to other websites and publications, I was using the blog to practise writing and get a few things out there. Very quickly I began speaking to other likeminded writers and bloggers and they began guesting on the site. From there it's grown to become a very active blog and a print and digital quarterly fanzine.’
You certainly appear to have hit upon a perfect formula. TFP maintains the feel of a classic fanzine, while also allowing writers to submit longform essays and flights of fancy. Was such a mix important to you?
It was. I was a bit of a latecomer to the internet in the early 2000s and even later to the football blogging scene, although I was a reader of football fanzines as far back as the early 90s. Essentially, I wanted to produce the kind of publication that I would go out of my way to buy; something with an eclectic mix of stories—current and historical—and opinions on the key issues in football.
Many blogs come and go, dying through a lack of interest or impetus, or at the hands of a changing football public and the rapacious appetite for clicks.
TFP made the retrospective, although now somewhat en-vogue, leap from digital to physical back in 2013. This followed an initial two issue run as an e-magazine. Mark put together a strong team of writers which included some of the best football bloggers of the time and his journey began.
The Football Pink eschews tales of the latest transfer tittle-tattle and player haircuts yet it has survived and is now a stalwart of the football blogging scene.
‘I don't pretend we are original—indeed we have certainly been influenced by the likes of The Blizzard and When Saturday Comes—but I do believe, given the feedback we get, that The Pink is well-respected. In that regard I am chuffed that people keep returning to buy it.’
Most issues of The Football Pink take on a particular topic, or have a theme running through them, to provide inspiration for writers. Recent issues have seen contributors tackle subjects such as World Cup campaigns, The Ten Commandments, and War.
You’re now seventeen issues in, did you ever think you’d make it this far?
‘Probably not. The first two issues were only done as a download on Kindle and I never thought I would—or could—progress to a print fanzine that would be into its fifth year now.’
‘It's a hard, time-consuming pastime—and costly too. Nobody who does this is in it for the money, I can promise you that! As a self-funded operation, if I can justify to myself and the wife that the costs are worth it and that people continue to buy it, then I will still have the appetite to produce and grow the fanzine.’
And there have been awards along the way for The Football Pink - the Football Blogging Awards ‘Best Established Blog’ to name one. That must be rather gratifying?
‘Yes, 2015 was a memorable year. The website won an FBA when a panel of top writers judged ours to be the best out of a very stiff field of competition. The magazine was also shortlisted for the Football Supporters Association fanzine of the year award.’
‘I know it shouldn't really be about awards, but anyone who says that they don't enjoy receiving the plaudits is lying!’
Given the amount of competition and the lack of financial incentive, running TFP is a real labour of love. What does the future hold?
‘We'll keep producing it as long as there is a steady stream of people who want to read it. It's taken a long time but the sales are very gradually creeping up. We have one or two things in the pipeline for the next issue—it's all a bit hush-hush for now— and we are trying a few extras to accompany each release.’‘For our last issue—which had the theme of English football in the nineties—we put together a Spotify playlist to go with it with some cracking old school tunes on it. We've just released a podcast with Issue 17, let’s see how that fares. If the format works, that might become a regular feature.’
How do you find the balance between online blogging and print magazine - both logistically and personal preference? And which do you think is the most beneficial for TFP?
‘That's a tough question. I would say that I've got the balance just about right in terms of how much time and effort goes into both although, as a bit of an old-timer, I think I would say that I prefer the process and end result that publishing the fanzine gives me.’
‘There a few things more satisfying than opening the boxes of magazines when they come back from the printers and leafing through the pages to see the end result.’
The magazine’s many loyal subscribers will also testify that the sound of The Football Pink landing on their doormat is one of life’s pleasures.
Click here to read The Football Pink’s online edition.
Click here to find out more about The Football Pink in print.