Rise Of The Independent Football Mag

Despite the proliferation of football websites and blogs over the past decade or two, there are still many who believe there is a place for the good old football magazine. We take a look at some of the independent British publications to have sprung up in recent times and ask what makes them special

Mag covers

It wasn’t long ago that magazines seemed a thing of the past, or at least the idea of a newly launched one did. Football sections on newspaper websites had been beefed up and another football blog seemed to start up every day. You couldn’t escape the endless links to football writing.

Now, a large number of those blogs have disappeared – some because the writers have gone on to bigger and better things; others because they just couldn’t sustain the enthusiasm anymore – but the energy to produce original and exciting football features is still very apparent.

Increasingly, that energy is being redirected into print media or online magazines, many of them new independent publications.

TheInsideLeft is all for that, so we decided to ask some of our favourite emerging British football magazines why they formed, what they offer and how sustainable they believe their publications can be. Take a look, you might just find your next subscription below.

Pickles cover

PICKLES

Ned Read (Founder/Editor/Art Director)

Back in 2011, I’d been working in the design industry for a few years and I was keen to produce my own publication. I’m a football fan, a designer and I love illustration, it seemed obvious to combine my passions.

Initially I was working with a couple of friends, producing the written content. It was always going to be slightly left field, sometimes irreverent, sometimes poignant, sometimes sincere, but we always had respect for our readers. We didn’t ever want to patronise, but offer considered and challenging pieces that you might not get elsewhere.

Unique selling point

It’s newsprint, which makes it more accessible. There is a real mix of features. I think more of a range than other magazines, whether it’s Greg Lea recounting Ago Di Bartolomei’s tragic life or Luke Constable’s (clearly fictionalised) portrait of Ferenc Puskás. And then you have the accompanying artwork, created by some of the most talented illustrators and designers around. That makes it pretty unique.

Most proud of…

Issue 10 (the latest edition) seemed to be a significant landmark. It was well received and I was Pickles spread 2really happy with how the covers turned out. We had a split-run, with four cover variations, each one inspired by Maradona and teams he played for…Boca, Napoli, Barca, and Argentina. Brendan Higgins’ abstract painting to accompany Greg Lea’s piece on Di Bartolomei (right) stands out.

Business model

Honestly, to begin with, not so much. Maybe if I approached it in a more ‘professional’ way, considered the target audience, put the magazine to focus groups and considered the potential profitability of the project, I would have done things differently.

Print vs Digital? It’s tough, clearly people engage differently with written content now, whether it’s news, opinion pieces or social commentary… I still think it’s a personal choice though. You might go to the BBC website for certain things, or check out TheInsideLeft during your lunch break, or read The Blizzard on your iPad on your commute. I think each one has their own place.

You can follow Pickles on Twitter here and visit their website here.

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Covers-2[1]MUNDIAL

Seb White (Co-editor)

Our initial aim back in March 2104 was just to put together a one-off magazine that celebrated what we thought were all the good things about the World Cup. The mainstream magazines did previews about who should make the squad and who is playing left-back but all that stuff is now available at the click of a button anyway. We wanted to celebrate the culture of the World Cup, how it’s a big party every four years with a bit of football in between. People seemed to get it straightaway and we sold 2,014 limited edition copies pretty much before the tournament kicked off. That made us think it was probably worth doing something more regularly.

Unique selling point

I’d be tempted to say its smell, people are always mentioning that. The other week, Iain Macintosh tweeted “In other news, nothing tastes as good as @MundialMag smells” and Iain Macintosh is always right isn’t he?

GerryIntro[1]I believe visually MUNDIAL is different to anything else out there – we have access to the amazing welloffside photography archive and a supremely talented graphic designer in Adam Gill and we like to think that makes us different enough to get people to read another football magazine.

Most proud of…

The Gerry Cranham piece in Issue 1 (right) is my personal favourite. It combines the brilliant photography and design that I mentioned with anecdotes from one of the best photographers of his generation.

Business model

We have a business model, we’ve got to do it properly. Myself and the other editor Dan have a background in fanzines and in that medium you can wing it, but this is something different altogether. Are they sustainable? If you do something that’s a bit different and looks good then we reckon you stand a chance, otherwise we’d have stopped at the World Cup issue, but I guess only time will tell.

You can follow Mundial on Twitter here and visit their website here.

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01_ELEVEN_Cover_768ELEVEN

Jim Ladbury  (Co-founder)

The name Eleven reflects the players on the pitch and also our team of writers who deliver eleven different global features. In Issue 01 they focus on subjects varying from the rise of the professional game in China, an historical look at the most powerful Argentine in world football, and grassroots football at Hackney Marshes.

We then commissioned the best writers in their respected fields. It was important for us to identity people who have a niche knowledge of different countries and subjects.

From researching existing publications, we saw that there were normally two sets of categories that magazines would fall into: beautifully-put-together publications centred around features, great illustration and design, then magazines which had a diverse world appeal and content. We wanted to present intelligent, interesting world articles but package them up in a beautiful design.

Unique selling point

The writing is the main selling point. The nature of a digital magazine means our writers can submit longer-form pieces, which allows them to go into more detail and delve deeper into issues that excite them. We love print, but we knew a digital product (tablet publication) was the future. It allows us to invest in better content rather than in shipping and paper costs, offering the reader better value for money, along with additional interactive content. We’re not ruling out a print product in the future, but we can offer a lot more digitally now.

Eleven01_Grondono_Flat_WMost proud of…

I think the original feature idea we came up with, New York Cosmos: Then and Now, was really strong, it is a well-rounded story. We’re also happy with the exclusive Platini feature, while the illustration by Evgeny Parfenov of Julio Grondona (pictured right in mobile phone format) looks fantastic.

Business model

The original business model was to grow readers and subscribers, mostly through social media and existing databases, by producing engaging content which has intrinsic value. Interestingly, we’ve already identified that a lot of people have been trying to download the app to their mobiles phones. So we are looking to adapt the magazine for mobile devices so that people can access it immediately.

Sustainability is a question that we come across all the time. Brands live on and find different ways to reach their audience. Publications (print/web/blog) are one way to communicate, so events, TV and radio could be the next step.

You can follow Eleven on Twitter here and visit their website here.

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ISSUE_8_COVERTHE GREEN SOCCER JOURNAL

Josh Wilson (Managing Editor)

James Roper and Adam Towle released the pilot issue of the magazine in 2009, primarily as a way of combining their own personal love of football with their backgrounds in fashion and design. At its inception, GSJ was intended to provide an antidote to the one-dimensional, black-and-white approach that characterises so much coverage of the game, and this is an ethos that we maintain to this day. It was, and is, about exploring the game as a whole, and recognising that football can sit comfortably alongside music, design and fashion in a fan’s list of interests.

Unique selling point

The magazine has always taken a highly visual approach to its exploration of the game. There is so much great football writing out there that it seems unfair to neglect that visual angle, but by working with respected photographers and stylists we’ve looked to restore the balance.

Most proud of…

For me, the Liverpool compendium which appeared in issue five takes some beating – the level of research and attention to detail that Alex Screenshot 2015-05-01 22.14.47Moshakis put into writing it is just amazing. It did a brilliant job of contrasting the tragedy of Heysel with the unbridled joy of Istanbul. Visually, I think the cover shoot we did with Gregory van der Wiel (pictured) for the most recent issue is really strong, and comes closest to embodying the magazine’s aesthetic approach as a whole.

Business model

The magazine has been run as a self-sustaining business for five years and though, like any company, there are the inevitable ups and downs, I think it serves as proof that publications can remain sustainable, even in the digital age.

The last few years have seen a resurgence in the number of printed magazines available at the newsstand, which obviously translates into greater competition for sales and advertising revenue. The challenge is, therefore, to think creatively about new approaches to these traditional revenue streams, and have faith that what goes into the magazine speaks for itself.

You can follow GSJ on Twitter here and visit their website here.

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TFP 7 front cover smallTHE FOOTBALL PINK

Mark Godfrey (Founder/Editor)

I’ve been reading fanzines for the best part of 20 years, so when I decided to start writing/blogging as a hobby I came across some excellent work from very talented amateurs and thought that I could have a go at putting together the type of magazine I’d like to read. What I wanted was not to try and conquer the magazine world – because that’s not possible – but to produce something about which people would say, “You know what? That’s actually pretty good”.

Unique selling point

They say that nothing is original, and although the pink design theme is ‘borrowed’ from the Italian sports papers and the old Pink football newspapers people used to buy before the internet and even teletext existed, I feel it makes us memorable.

Most proud of…

front coverSounds like a blatant plug I know, but the new issue 8 (right). It’s the 25th anniversary of the Italia ‘90 world cup so I decided to dedicate the theme of this edition to that. 1990 was a great time personally and that summer was amazing. I love the front cover and the illustrations inside this issue, and the articles of course. My own contribution is the story of how Nessun Dorma came to be chosen as the BBC’s TV coverage signature tune and this ties in nicely with the front cover image of Luciano Pavarotti.

Business model

I have absolutely no business model! I fund all of this out of my own pocket. How sustainable is it? Well, as long as a ‘reasonable’ amount of people are still interested enough to pay £3 for it I’m more than happy to keep it going and as long as my wife doesn’t mind me losing money in the name of my ‘hobby’ then The Football Pink will be around for a while longer yet.

You can follow The Football Pink on Twitter here and visit their website here.

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cover-01RABONA

Michael Da Silva (Founder/Editor) 

I’ve long been an enthusiast of football magazines and, when I was young, used to collect as many as I could afford with my pocket money. But despite my love for them, I always thought that the quality could be better.

Cycling magazines underwent a revolution a few years ago when the likes of Rouleur and The Ride Journal came along and shook up the whole industry. I put the idea for Rabona on the back burner for a while as I went to university, gained my journalism qualifications and started working as a freelance football writer and editor. But when the time came in late 2013, I wanted to go for it and assembled a team that I thought could create the football magazine many football fans have wanted.

Unique selling point

People tell us that Rabona is super clean, minimally designed and has some of the best football photography they’ve seen, so I guess that’s our USP. We also like to give space to long feature articles because, in an era of immediacy and instant gratification, the art of feature writing is an endangered species.

Most proud of…

N3_8Our best features were probably in our last issue, a USA special which we released off the back of the World Cup. We managed to sit down with Tim Howard after his record-breaking performance against Belgium and had a great chat about the flood of memes that followed, receiving a call from President Obama and how he’s dealt with Tourettes Syndrome during his life, alongside some great photography by Fred MacGregor.

Our forthcoming issue has an interview with Bayern Munich’s Philipp Lahm, which we think is just as good.

Business model

Our business model relies on advertising, sponsored content and, of course, our subscribers. Print has always had its place. It’s interesting that since the rise of the internet and social media in particular, people have rejected the traditional cheap magazines that are full of rubbish and printed cheaply and sold cheaply. That’s understandable, because the internet is full of rubbish too but at least we’re not cutting down trees for it. Instead, we’ve seen a rise in the demand for high quality magazines that achieve things that websites can’t.

You can follow Rabona on Twitter here and visit their website here.
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One thought on “Rise Of The Independent Football Mag

  1. You guys totally got to check out El Escorpión: http://www.elescorpion.co

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