A full and regular account of the Football Association’s activities and policy – A brief guide to the official magazines of the F.A.
Posted: 23rd April 2015
‘A full and regular account of the Football Association’s activities and policy’.
Sounds a bit formal, doesn’t it? Then again, these are the words of a national sporting association, the F.A., football’s governing body.
I spotted the phrase in one of the later incarnations of the Football Association’s journal, F.A. Today and thought immediately how this positioning from that late 1970’s publication, might well have been applied to all the versions of the various publications which the F.A. used as their official mouthpiece from the early 1950’s.
Stiff and stilted though the F.A.s positioning may have been, when looking back at all its’ magazines, this was a phrase which was nontheless, quite accurate.
This post is about those magazine titles which took on the role of the official publication of the Football Association between the early 1950’s and the early 1980’s.
During these decades, there were 5 different magazines with 6 names.
Starting with the F.A. Bulletin, the magazine changed name to the F.A. News, then to the Football Association News, then Football News and then finally, after a short break, came the F.A. Today which changed again to Football Today to finish things off.
These titles were published on behalf of the F.A. by different companies in different sizes, with different graphics and branding, with different editors and staff.
Despite these differences, all the publications were the voice of the Football Association and sought to educate, explain and promote the initiatives, and philosophies of the organisation through all the changes that took place in the game domestically and internationally including the fluctuating fortunes of the England national team through humiliating defeats, World Cup success and periods of mediocrity despite squads of very good players and leadership from well respected managers.
While the post 1992 era of escalating money entering the game was a thing of the future through the 3 decades covered by the publications, considerable change still took place in many areas of the game. By the 1980’s, football looked very different to how it was in the immediate post-war years when the F.A. Bulletin was conceived and the magazines reflect this shift.
Things began in August 1951 at the start of the 1951/52 season with the official launch of a small magazine called the F.A. Bulletin.
Like their sister publications of the early 1950’s, the F.A. Yearbook and the F.A. Book for Boys (see blog archive for March 2015 for a brief guide to this annual), the F.A. Bulletin (and all the titles which followed it), were a platform for the messages of the organisation whose role was the growth and the welfare of the football in England.
Also, guarding their image seemed at the forefront of the F.A.’s mind when producing these publications.
In an early edition of the F.A. Bulletin, the editorial was at pains to point out to readers that it was the responsibility of the magazine to promote the F.A.‘s official opinions but nonetheless, felt it important to let readers know alternative views, even if the F.A. could not claim them as their own.
However, this willingness to publish unofficial views did not seem to be perceived by the F.A. as one covering their own behinds, if we might put it that way. Far from it, the publication of alternative controversial, if unofficial views was actually positioned as if it were a service to readers.
It looks like the F.A. just wanted to make it clear where they stood in the big picture on the topics covered in the magazine and presumably what they felt happy being made accountable for.
Looking back across the decades, this positioning looks a bit pedantic although not inconsistent with some approaches to controlling corporate image amongst some companies in an increasingly media dominated and litigious age in more modern times.
Gradually, over the years, the close protection of the F.A.’s position on the issues involved in the game was relaxed.
By the launch of Football News in 1975, a positioning of ‘Always interesting, often controversial’ was being used.
The content of the magazines covered the England teams at all levels, the F.A.’s major competitions, the F.A. Cup and the F.A. Amateur Cup, followed by the F.A. Trophy and F.A. Vase as well as football at all levels throughout the nation.
Underneath this umbrella, a vast number of topics were covered and certainly at the start of the 1954/55 season, a 4 page Index was published providing a guide for readers on where they could find subjects of interest for the 1953/54 season.
The design and layout of this content was more words than photographs, initially at least.
The magazines were targeted at the people within the football family (administrators, coaches and players) who would focus on a detailed read.
The tone of voice coming from the articles was consistent with other official publications and as noted above, was quite conservative and careful not to expose the F.A. and it’s image to any perceived negativity. This was unlike the style of the main magazines published in the 1950’s, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly and Soccer Star. In fact, Charles Buchan himself was never afraid to target the F.A. in order to voice his suggestions for improvement.
Like the tone of voice of the copy, the graphics were simple, even austere, initially. From the early 1970’s, it looks like a greater effort was being made to use imagery which would appeal to a broader market and to compete with other football publications available to football enthusiasts.
In simple terms, the magazine went from being small black and white affairs to larger, colourful offerings.
This more expansive approach may well have been linked to distribution.
I have seen one reference to the first 2 versions of the magazine, the F.A. Bulletin and the F.A. News stating that it was not made available to the public but distributed only through the family of the Football Association; a bit like an internal newsletter.
Certainly, by the time that the Football Association News was being published in the early 1970’s, there are distribution details for the magazine emphasising its’ availability through W.H. Smiths newsagent chain.
The 1970’s versions of the magazine were certainly more lavish and colourful than their predecessors both literally and figuratively.
But even after the re-launched F.A. Today and Football Today had been running for a while into the early 1980’s, the magazine was shut down as we shall see.
The key target audiences of administrators, coaches and players had not been reached or responded in sufficient numbers to make continued publication economically viable.
So the run of publications came to a close.
Let’s look at the life of these titles dividing things up into one section for each title.
1. 1951-1956 – F.A. Bulletin
The first of our publications, the F.A. Bulletin, was published in smaller, C5 size, like many football programmes of the time.
Starting in August 1951, the magazine was published monthly in 10 editions taking readers through to the end of the football season just after the F.A. Cup Final with a May edition.
The publishing frequency continued for 5 seasons until the end of 1955/56.
The content of the magazine covered everything which the F.A. were responsible for especially the England teams, the F.A.’s major competitions and a vast array of topics about football at all levels.
At the start of the 1954/55 season, a 4 page Index was published providing a guide for readers on where they could find subjects of interest for the 1953/54 season.
I believe that such an an Index was produced each season. I’ve only seen this one and one other so far but the Index was a loose leaf insert and such things have a way of falling out of magazines and getting thrown away or lost;
Topics covered in the editions I have in my collection included reports on the World Cup, England tours and matches played by the Amateur, Youth and Schools teams.
This centre pages spread featured an amateur international between England and Ireland at Crystal Palace;
Training methods and coaching were often featured including a feature on the role of coaches abroad.
Support for players was also covered with articles on the role of the club physiotherapist and on diet and nutrition.
Referees and the subject of player conduct, a review of boots and equipment, a review of football finances, the structure of the league system and football in literature were good examples of an eclectic range of subjects featured.
Football in Russia, Canada and after their World Cup victory in 1954, Germany were featured, including a centre pages photographic spread on the top German players of the time;
Floodlighting was in it’s early days back in the 1950’s and one club who showed the lead installing impressive lights were Hibernian;
There were the days just prior to the start of competitive European competitions and English sides only played foreign opponents in what were usually prestigious friendly matches.
Arsenal’s visit to play Moscow Dynamo was shown on the front cover of the November 1954 edition with Jack Kelsey doing his best to keep out an attack in front of a packed house and under floodlights (see above).
The business of administration was never far away when the F.A. was involved. The front cover of the March 1955 edition showed the Rules revision committee and inside, the Challenge Cup committee was shown, lead by Secretary, Stanley Rous, (before his knighthood and move to work at F.I.F.A.), with everyone looking very serious;
As it is today, youth football was often in the spotlight and the April 1955 edition includes this photograph of the Blackburn Olympic team playing against a striking Lancastrian industrial backdrop;
The magazine was also used as a vehicle to sell the F.A.’s products although these were a bit limited by today’s standard concentrating on badges and ties as shown by this leaflet insert included in one edition;
The F.A. were not averse to expanding readership and used this leaflet to try and get readers to buy a year’s subscription to the magazine;
2. 1956-1970 – F.A. News
At the start of the 1956/57 season, the publication’s name was changed to the F.A. News.
As well as a name change, the size of the magazine was increased (see image at the top of the post where an edition of the F.A. News sits behind an F.A. Bulletin).
The front cover design changed a few times through the 1960’s.
As well as the design shown above for the November 1958 edition above (with Wolves and England‘s Billy Wright at a reception), there was this one from early 1960;
By 1961, the front cover changed to this design;
By December 1962, the design had changed again to this one, shown on the December 1962 edition where Alf Ramsay, the new England manager was featured;
1963 was the centenary of the F.A. and the front cover’s central image reflected this landmark while inside the journal, there were various articles about the history of the F.A.;
By 1965, another new design was being used, shown here for the February 1965 edition which reported on Stoke City’s Stanley Matthews who had finally retired at the end of the preceding 1963/64 season;
The content of the journal was similar to that included in the F.A. Bulletin before.
Referee training was featured again and in some editions, there was an advertisement for the magazine designed for referees;
A strong aspect of the F.A.’s ethos during these times was youth football and getting kids to play the game.
In the November 1955 edition, there was a feature on a training course for School teachers and the participants can be seen here in a group photograph with a wide range of clothing being worn from suits to blazers to a few track suits and plenty of thick cricket sweaters;
There was an increasing focus in these 1960’s issues on the tactics of the game and there were articles on aspects of the game and on the role of the manager and the coach at clubs.
In Collectors Corner, well known football writer and enthusiast, Basil Easterbrook wrote about his habit of collecting grounds. Basil would be called a Groundhopper today but back in the 1960’s, this term had not yet been coined.
The magazine also included some good photographs which did not necessarily relate to articles but nontheless summed up an aspect of the game well, like this photograph of a police horse resting while a match between Chelsea and Bolton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge was going on with fans straining to see the action, hands in pockets and standing on the old-style terracing which dominated three sides of the ground before improvements began in the late 1960’s;
Homes of Soccer was a feature of these 1960’s editions of the F.A. News.
Derby County‘s Baseball ground was featured in the January 1960 edition;
Non league amateurs Marlow, then in the Spartan League, were featured in the February 1960 edition;
West Ham United‘s Boleyn Ground was featured in the March 1960 edition;
Sunderland‘s Roker Park was featured in the April 1960 edition;
Norwich City‘s Carrow Road was featured in December 1962 edition;
Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road featured in the November 1963 edition;
Crystal Palace‘s Selhurst Park was featured in the February 1965 edition;
The magazine changed very little through the decade, other than on the front cover designs, as we’ve seen above.
But the late 1960’s saw many changes in how football magazines were published, especially the more expansive use of colour printing and a number of new titles in the mainstream market like Jimmy Hill’s Football Weekly, Goal and Shoot.
The early 1970’s would see the F.A. again revamp it’s official publication to try and fit in better in this brave new football magazine world, as we shall now see.
3. 1970-1974 – Football Association News
In 1970, the F.A. re-branded the magazine again.
Football Association News was larger, more colourful and looked much more like a magazine for football fans as opposed to the simple but somewhat austere design of its’ predecessor with the shortened version of the name.
This title lasted for just over 4 years from October 1970 until December 1974.
The content of the magazine was similar to both the F.A. Bulletin and F.A. News but with a greater focus on the top players and clubs of the time with some striking full page colour photographs.
There were team photographs like the one of Middlesbrough above and also this rather striking one of Derek Dougan at one of his later clubs, Shamrock Rovers;
The F.A. seemed a bit more comfortable to promote its’ opinions in a slightly less guarded way than before and a feature The Football Association View appeared in each edition.
Despite the fact that the 1974/75 season would see both the F.A. Trophy and the F.A. Vase catering for clubs at various levels of the fledgling non league pyramid, nontheless, the April 1974 edition lamented the end of the F.A. Amateur Cup.
Bishop’s Stortford would be the winners of this last running of the competition;
Non league football featured strongly throughout the 1974 editions of the magazine.
There was a feature on Maidstone United with this team photograph;
There was also a feature on Southern League Kettering Town, showing their new stand and their 1st team in an interesting standing / sitting configuration.
Ironically, at the time of writing, after falling on hard times, the Cherries have had to leave Rockingham Road but are making efforts to return to Kettering, if not to the site of their old ground;
A feature called Crowd Pullers focused on top players including Manchester United’s Lou Macari;
The history of the game was covered with a feature looking at clubs across the divisions including Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday, West Bromwich Abion and Arsenal in which there was a good team photo of the 1926/27 side including Charles Buchan (front row, 3rd left) who would have such an impact on the world of football memorabilia in later life with his magazine, Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly which ran from 1951 to 1974 and its’ sister annual, Charles Buchan’s Soccer Gift Book which began in 1953/54 and also ran until 1974;
As usual, the F.A’s flagship team, the England national side was featured heavily.
But following the success of 1966 and the 1970 World Cup tournament in Mexico, although many fine players represented their country, the 1970’s were barren times for the team, despite the efforts of managers of the calibre of Ron Greenwood and Don Revie seen here with Liverpool’s Emlyn Hughes injured in a game against Argentina;
The 74 World Cup was previewed including this team photograph of Zaire;
When the tournament was complete, various action photographs had been shown including this one of Sandro Mazzola attempting to help Italy through the group stages in a match also against Argentina;
Continuing the habit of including a wide range of topics, there were articles on football programme collecting with one which stood out for me, featuring Tottenham Hotspur fan, Len Mancini, who had just short of 50,000 programmes in his collection (or 48,563 as he points out in a letter to the magazine).
This collection included a vast number of season sets and complete collections from the 1946/47 season onwards for a number of clubs’ home programmes.
This small photograph of Len with his collection on shelves from floor to ceiling gives an idea of the size of his programme haul.
Without the help of computers with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, every single programme was documented and cross referenced;
These were the times of Brian Clough and Bill Shankly shown here just before the infamous 1974 Charity Shield match in which Billy Bremner (also in the photograph) and Kevin Keegan were both sent off. Not long afterwards, Clough’s short 44 day reign at Elland Road would come to an end;
One of the last players to perform in both professional footballer and cricket, Carlisle United’s Chris Balderstone was featured.
Famously, Balderstone once started an innings for Leicestershire at Grace Road and on completion of the day’s play, drove to turn out in a League Cup match for Doncaster Rovers to return the following morning to complete his century.
Balderstone was a respected umpire on the First Class list after his playing days were over in both sports;
In the March 1974 edition, there was another example of this theme with photographs of Essex and England Test cricketer Trevor Bailey who also played for the strong Walthamstow Avenue side of the early 1950’s including an appearance in the 1952 F.A. Amateur Cup Final.
In these photographs, Bailey is playing for the Avenue against Manchester United in an F.A. Cup 4th Round replay at Highbury while he strikes to the offside in the lower picture;
All levels of league club were featured and in the October 1974 edition, there was a team photograph of York City;
The magazine had a variety of different advertisements which now give a good snapshot of the times, including one promoting end of season tours.
Queens Park Rangers, kitted out in bell bottom trousers, blazers and thick ties can be seen suntanned and enjoying the local Jamaican hospitality after their tour.
Along with their team mates, I picked out John Beck, Martyn Busby, Phil Parkes and Terry Venables chatting to a female member of the party;
A brand of football boot which Manchester United’s George Best brought to everyone’s attention by his endorsement of them, was Stylo Matchmakers.
This advertisement for the boots on the back cover of the August 1974 edition no longer features Best but does includes 3 nice team photographs of Celtic, Leeds United and Liverpool;
This was also a time when Subbuteo was at it’s height and the advertisements also included this one for various box sets of the popular table football game;
The Rothmans Football Yearbook was in its’ 5th year and an advertisement was placed to help promote the new edition for the 1974/75 season;
Finally, in the December 1974 edition, there was an advertisement for a new magazine, Football News which would take over from the Football Association News the following month as the official journal of the F.A.;
4. 1975-1976 – Football News
At the start of 1975, it was time for more change again and Football News was launched.
This version was similar to its’ predecessor in size, although the look of the magazine went through a slight re-branding.
The magazine was published by a company called Soccer File Ltd. The editor was Don Aldridge and the photographer was Peter Robinson who had moved across to the new magazine after the demise of the League Football magazine (i.e. the Football League Review) which stopped the previous month after 10 years and 366 editions.
By now, this version of the F.A.’s magazine was operating under a positioning headline of ‘Always interesting, often controversial’.
The design and image depicted on the covers was varied.
On the one hand, we had the cover above with black and white photographs and a colour title and trim to the borders.
But we also saw the use of interesting drawings like this one of Derby County’s Colin Todd on the front of Volume 1, Number 3;
Then there were covers with colour photographs of grounds and players like this one from Volume 2, Number 4 showing Manchester City’s Rodney Marsh;
Again, the content covered the usual topics concerned with the F.A.’s competitions, activities and the fortunes of all the England national teams at the various levels.
There were features on the all time greats of the game, lots on coaching, the issue of referees and an article on penalty shoot-outs, so integral to many of our Cup football now but back then a subject very much under discussion.
Mud is something we rarely see anymore, at least at the higher levels of the game but back in the 1970’s, clubs did not have the sort of pitch and drainage technology of today and the middle part of the season was one where muddy pitches were the norm.
The magazine features an article on waterlogged pitches posing the question as to when a pitch was too poor to play on.
Here we see Leyton Orient‘s goalkeeper, John Jackson squatting carefully in the middle of the Brisbane Road pitch which looks like a quagmire, even by the standards back then;
The design and layout of the inside pages was quite austere but with lots to read in the articles.
There were some excellent photographs at the front and back of the magazine on the covers and inside covers.
On the inside front cover of Volume 1, Number 2, Liverpool’s Ian Callaghan was shown with his family at Buckingham Palace after Cally had received an M.B.E. for services to football;
With sports science dominating the fitness and conditioning of players today with every possible type of modern method used to treat and rehabilitate players back to match fitness, back in 1975, all that Stoke City‘s striker, John Ritchie needed was his push bike as he cycled 10 miles to and from the training ground every day in order to strengthen his left leg after it had been broken (from Volume 1, Number 4);
In April 1975, Arsenal’s Alan Ball was controversially made captain of England against West Germany, in place of the deposed skipper, Liverpool’s Emlyn Hughes.
Here is World Cup winner Bally before the match, also from Volume 1, Number 4;
With Aston Villa about to go to Wembley for the 2015 F.A. Cup Final, the magazine recorded their League Cup victory over Norwich City in 1975.
Their tough talking manager, Ron Saunders can be seen here after the game at Wembley with the trophy;
Another good back cover photograph is also a sad one.
Peter Houseman had made his name for Chelsea a decade of service for the Blue. In 1977, tragically, he would be killed in a car crash. 2 years before his early death, the magazine showed him in his Oxford United colours at the Manor Ground;
In Volume 2 of the magazine, a short series of colour photographs was included under the title, Past Masters which included this excellent photograph of Manchester United’s Tommy Taylor who, like Peter Houseman, met an untimely, sad and early demise, in his case, of course, as a result of the Munich air disaster in February 1958;
Peter Houseman and Tommy Taylor brought much joy to their fans and a player who did this for me when I was in my teenage years and watching Queens Park Rangers through the early 1970’s, was Gerry Francis.
Highly talented, Francis did much to help Rangers in their rise back into the First Division and a runners-up spot to Liverpool in the 1975/76 season. A flair player who Michel Platini once claimed was one of the few English midfield players he had seen who could change his pace at will, Francis scored many spectacular goals as well as making many others for team mates.
Injury restricted Francis’ career both for club and country but Gerry was captain in 8 out of the 12 internationals he played for his country. His highlight performance was probably in the 5-1 defeat of Scotland at Wembley in 1975;
The magazine was published for at least 2 volumes with the last one in my collection being Volume 2, Number 6 for June 1976.
5. 1979 -1982 – F.A. Today / Football Today
In 1979, a new title was published, F.A. Today.
In the first issue, Volume 1, Number 1 in October 1979, there was a letter from the F.A.’s President, H.R.H. the Duke of Kent voicing his pleasure that the F.A. had decided to start a relationship with its’ public again through a magazine format;
The magazine was published quarterly.
The content covered the usual topics including features on the workings of the F.A., the structure of the League, the England teams, the F.A.’s Cup competitions, grounds and pitches, Womens’ football and the game at Youth and School levels too.
There were a few full page advertisements for an F.A. Scheme, Superskills designed to motivate youngsters to develop their skills involving rewards with badges and certificates;
On the subject of general coaching and especially tactics and play patterns, there was a section in each edition called Soccer Insights, where well known names would take a page each to give their views on various issues;
The magazine also promoted other F.A. publications, including this review of the previous season’s F.A. Cup;
As one of the top sides in England and Europe at this time, the magazine featured Liverpool and its’ players including midfield player Sammy Lee.
It was only 5 years before that when a young junior, Lee had lead me and my team mates a merry dance in my first match for Liverpool University (see blog archive -May 2012).
Here, Lee celebrates the Reds’ 1979/80 League Championship success;
In the following edition for Winter 1981 (Volume 2, Number 2), there was a feature by Brian Moore, a commentator for ITV who many regard as one of the best of his craft during the 1970’s;
By Volume 2, Number 3, the edition for the Summer 1981, the title of the magazine had changed to Football Today.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Steve Perryman lifts the 1981 F.A. Cup on the front cover;
The name may have changed but the format, design, size and content had not.
Also, beware, as just to confuse us, the Volume 3, Number 1 edition was also titled Winter 1981 (as was Volume 2, Number 2 above)
Unfortunately, the Autumn 1982 edition, Volume 3, Number 4, included another letter, this one informing readers of the magazine’s closure.
In the letter, General Secretary Ted Croker lamented the fact that circulation has not been sufficiently high to continue publication of the magazine;
With Bobby Robson, England’s manager, smiling at us from what looks like one of Amsterdam’s canals, a flash on the bottom right corner of the magazines front cover also informs us that this edition will be the final one.
Just over 30 years of football and 3 decades of change had been covered by all the above titles.
The magazines provide a great window into the world of the F.A. and a view of the changing face of the game from the 1950’s to the start of the 1980’s.
Collecting and values
The earlier of the above titles are quite rare; the later ones even more so, although it’s the early titles which are sought after, especially the editions of the F.A. Bulletin and the F.A. News.
I first came across a small collection of the F.A. Bulletin in a large job lot of football memorabilia I bought right at the start when I had decided to get involved with memorabilia back in 2007.
Since then, I’ve seen editions of the earlier magazines on Ebay and occasionally at auctions. In one case, there was a complete run of F.A. Bulletins and F. A. News issues up to 1970 and these fetched around £150.
My collection of the later titles, from the Football Association News onwards was also acquired in a huge job lot of football magazines I bought at an auction, a lot I probably won because of the huge weight that the 8 boxes of magazines represented. Many collectors and dealers were probably put off, I imagine, as they contemplated the transportation and sorting of such a large quantity of magazines.
I wasn’t put off and in the lot, I found quite a few editions of the post 1970 versions of the above titles.
Like most football magazines, the more recent editions cost a few pounds and as we go back in time, the pre 1970’s editions can cost a bit more per issue, as always, depending on condition. It seems that the spines of the F.A. Bulletin and F.A. News editions have a tendency to split and buyers should be aware of this fault.
Whilst the titles of the F.A.s official journals are not as well known as many other more popular football magazines of the period, certainly for football historians, those interested in the F. A. and any fans of England teams, they provide a nice record of the F.A.’s history or as the title of our post again lays out, a full and regular account of the Football Association’s activities across the period.
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