Programme Watch: 1973/74

The 1973/74 season was something of a building block for Graham Taylor’s side. It came a year before missing out on promotion by the narrowest of margins, and two years before 1975/76, still one of the club’s finest hours.

It also marked a change in the programme, and as part of my drive to get more of my memorabilia onto the site, I thought I’d do another article featuring an old programme. You may notice I’ve got a section now dedicated to memorabilia, credit to the RICT for developing their museum and giving my impetus to do mine. There’s another classic piece of my own stuff going on their site later, so watch out for that.

The 1973/74 programme style would be used for a second year, but this was its first outing. We went with a much smaller design than the previous year, A5 sized with 16 pages. The pages were quite glossy too, and were probably quite welcomed as they were smaller and far more pocket friendly than the chunkier efforts from the previous season.

I’ve featured the clash from October 6th, 1973. There’s a reason for this – it was the oldest programme in my collection for many years, as it was passed down to me by my granddad. The likelihood is that both him and my Dad were at the game, and whilst I’m sure they went before this date (I know they did), I didn’t inherit any programmes that were older.

As with many programmes, even to this day, the early pages are dedicated to the game of the day. On the inside cover, Graham Taylor had his say, and the usual club details and records were featured. In 1973, our record fee paid was £14,000 for Alan Harding, and our record received was £29,500 for Andy Graver. With inflation, Alan Harding cost us the equivalent of £173,000, whilst Graver was sold in 1954 and that figure today would be worth £826,000.

It does seem as though the programmes were filled with generic articles too – page three has something by Ronald Crowther of the Daily Mail, and further on in the programme Anglia Television reporter Gerry Harrison has a double-paged spread. A cursory glance through away programmes that year show other national journalists penning stuff for Swansea, and Harrison writing for Scunthorpe.

One aspect of a club programme I always love is the local writers featured. I’ve been lucky enough to write for our programme for a few years now, and am honoured to feature amongst the likes of Gary Parle, Chris Ashton and Jon Battersby. Back in 73/74, the club were relying on external help, with Echo legend Maurice Burton writing the lowdown on the opposition teams, and ‘Junior Editor’ C.J Travers, a familiar face to many over the years, also having a column. Sandwiched in between was details of away travel, something that still features today despite the onset of technology meaning sat navs are far more useful than a paragraph in a match programme.

Photographs were used sparsely in older programmes, and it is great to see some of the earliest match action pictures in the 73/74 season edition. They are ruined a bit by having ‘Imps In Action’ printed across them, and there’s no captions, but even so, it’s still nice to see Sincil bank in all its old glory.

It is easy to forget that opinions from external sources used to be difficult to find. Few would be able to afford multiple papers, especially not with the situation in the UK (which we’re coming to in a bit), so there’s a whole page dedicated to the Imps’ previous outings later on in the programme. There’s also a section with the results and league tables in, something that always has been, and always will be a staple of the club programme.

On the back were the expected teams, details on the referee and linesman and a few other salient pieces of information. What I do find remarkable about this programme is the lack of adverts – in total, there is just one, for the Football Echo, doubtless part of the club’s wider relationship with them. It’s not even a time thing, as the programme of the late sixties had around two per page. Having looked at other club’s programmes from the same season, many are loaded with adverts, so I do wonder why the Imps chose not to go down that route.

Usually, that would be your lot, but the 1973/74 season was unique in that we had two programmes. I can only think of one other occasion when the programme style changed mid-season, 1987/88, and that was because of the situation at the club, not in the wider world. In 1973/74, we had the sort of political situation that you could only fully appreciate by living through it: industrial action and the three-day working week. As Malcolm Johnson wrote in his overview of the season:  “With coal stocks at power stations dwindling the 1st of January saw an escalation to the state of emergency in Britain. From this date, television companies were required to cease broadcasting at 10.30pm, a 50mph speed limit was introduced on the roads, there was a control on temperatures in offices and businesses were limited to the use of electricity for just three normal working days a week. This meant a three-day working week for most people, although exemptions were granted to services deemed essential such as hospitals, supermarkets and newspaper printing presses.”

The upshot for City was increased printing costs and, as a consequence, the club changed the programme style in mid-January to a simple one sheet of A4 design, folded in half. It was very basic, black and white with nothing more than the match on the cover, the latest results and tables in the middle and some opposition information on the back.

The cost went down from 10p to 3p, which would be similar to £1.20 going down to 37p in today’s money (according to my inflation calculator). I think that’s decent value for a programme, especially one that didn’t have any adverts in!

One imagines Graham Taylor quite enjoyed this programme, as he didn’t have to write anything in it!

Another nice little oddity for this season is the use of teamsheets. Because of the three day working week, power supplies were limited and it was suggested clubs moved games to a Sunday to guarantee a power supply and floodlight continuity. This was controversial at the time, given the religious standing of a Sunday, and as Malcolm explains, it caused problems in terms of admission.

“It was actually illegal under the Sunday Observances Act to charge admission to a match on that day of the week, but it was possible to specify ‘no admission without team sheet’. This meant in practice you paid the normal admission price at the turnstiles and picked one up as you went in. However, and again by law, every club had to have one turnstile for free admission to the ground. This was either the normally least-used turnstile or else it was varied without warning so that no-one would know in advance which it was to be. There was also something of an attitude among most supporters to shame those who used it.”


That meant that if you wanted to watch the Imps, you could do so for free and risk the wrath of your fellow supporters, or you could pay 60p for a team sheet like the one above. 60p in today’s money is worth around £7.50, showing how much football has increased in value over the years.

Eventually, I do aim to have all of the programmes on here from after the war, but it might take a few years. A bit like my analysis of the 1989/90 season….