As announced earlier this week, EFL clubs will vote on a proposal that will determine whether or not it is an absolute requirement to produce a match programme from the start of season 2018/19 onwards at their summer meeting in June.
A number of clubs have asked the EFL if the mandatory publication of a match programme can be addressed as a result of an overall decline in sales and the proliferation of digital and social media, which has the ability to deliver the same content in a more cost-effective manner.
United’s media officer Andy Hall said: “As a club we will be voting to remove the mandatory requirement to produce a match programme but, going forward, our intention at this stage is still to produce a printed match day publication of some kind.
“If the central requirement is removed that will, in turn, take away the need for what has been anything from six to ten compulsory advertising pages for title sponsors and EFL driven campaigns.
“That will obviously allow clubs to look at how they structure any publication they produce going forward.”
Speaking about the climate which has brought about the current discussion on the viability of printed match programmes, he said: “When I started as editor of the programme in 2004, we were in the Conference, but we still had a sales average of 1,250. For the bigger games that year – Barnet for example – we sold up to 2,500 copies.
“The sales level meant the programme was making money season-on-season, and it won awards for content, design and, for that season and the one that followed, it also won the industry Programme of the Year award.
“Despite those awards, the speed and volume at which information started to become available for consumption on the internet saw programme sales begin to decline quite dramatically, and this was at a time when the club was still rising through the divisions.
“We’re at a point now where sales are at approximately 400 per home game, sometimes as low as 350. Some clubs in Leagues One and Two are much worse than that, some higher, and the knock-on from that is that it stops being economically viable, particularly when you factor in the working hours it needs to put the publication together.”
“Here at Carlisle United we’ve tried everything over the past few years,” he explained. “We had a 16-page publication at £1, a 48-page publication at £2 which was complemented by a non-time sensitive glossy monthly magazine, a 72-page bumper programme at £3, and the current 64-page offering, which is also £3.
“We had two seasons where we ran a fully interactive digital version, which was accessed by mobile devices and tablets, or fully downloadable, but, along with the other clubs who took part in that trial, we found that it had absolutely no impact on sales at all. The same people purchased it, they just bought it in a different way.
“The feedback we get is that those who collect programmes want them to continue, but others feel they can get the content free and quickly online, either via the official website or local media channels. Even if we make the programme content exclusive, the appetite to purchase it is still no longer there.
“This is definitely the right time to have this discussion and it will be interesting to see which way the vote goes. If the vote does lead to the removal of the mandatory requirement, it will then be interesting to see which clubs continue to produce them anyway.”