Programme Corner: 2022/23

There’s no sugar-coating this; it could be the final season we see an official club programme at Lincoln City.

I love a programme, I find them fascinating, but there’s no doubt they’re also being phased out. The EFL removed the necessity for clubs to produce a programme, and already, many have ceased. Last season, the club lost money on the official programme, and this season it is do-or-die. There have been some subtle changes aimed at making the overall product more attractive to you, but are they going to be enough? I hope so, obviously, but only time will tell.

So, how does this season’s programme look? I would have done this immediately after the Exeter game, but I don’t buy my programme at the game. I find it cumbersome to carry when I don’t have a coat and feel the price of postage is a small one to pay for a pristine copy to arrive on my doorstep. Therefore, I got my copy in the week. The other reason I’m doing the article now is that we have a home game coming up, and it keeps it in your mind’s eye!

The obvious change is the cover, with Chris Wray, aka Imptoons, joining the club to produce the cover. It’s not the first drawn cover the club has had; Kev Barwise sketched the cover for the 1991/92 season, whilst in 1993/94, we had a sketched cover every week featuring the two teams. It is the first time we have cartoons on the cover every week, but Chris has previously guested on at least two other covers.

The hope is the covers become collectable, featuring special Imptoons drawings, which will make younger fans want one. It’s also nice to get a programme featuring a certain player signed by that player, and there’s a poster in the middle of the programme with an autograph spot as well. I recall the 1991/92 programme (I think) had a poster in the middle, and I plastered those on my bedroom wall. It’s nice; a certain age group (18 to maybe 45) are not expected to buy programmes; they’re either into digital media or not at the game to collect stuff. This is general, but over that age, features and having something to read is an attraction, and under that age taking anything from a game is part of the experience.

Inside the programme, there’s a notable lack of adverts; the only ones you’ll find are those the EFL say you have to have. I find it baffling, they tell you you don’t have to have a programme, but if you do have one, they want you to put certain adverts in it. it’s a shame the local businesses are not the ones who stayed, as they provide a snapshot in time, but their absence does make the programme feel lighter, with more features and less filler.

There’s the usual stuff in here, the player interview (which I think I’ll do a couple of times this season), a look at the opposition, that sort of thing. There are the manager’s notes, but notably, the stuff from people above the gaffer has been dropped. I think having too much communication in the programme is a fallacy; we get all our news from other outlets, so what the programme should be is something to mark the game. After chatting to a load of you over email that came through and I think the club have taken some of those suggestions on board.

I’m delighted to see Gary Parle is penning stuff once again; Imps historians should be given a space in a programme to talk about players and matches of the past. As I recall, John Vickers used to go down to the local library every so often and trawl the old Lincolnshire Echo records for match reports, which he’d then write about. That sort of thing is priceless, and it helps a future generation understand more about the club and heroes. This week, Steve Holmes was featured, a player who, in my mind, played for us recently but who actually finished his career before a large portion of the 617 was out of the womb. That makes me feel old!

I think there’s enough stuff in here to cover the opposition, but at the same time not drowning you in stuff about who we’re playing. There’s some cool stuff around five-a-side teams who played for both clubs (good luck if we draw a Bowers and Pitsea in the cup again), and I think those features blend to appeal to older readers and the desire for kids to learn more. I might be an anomaly, but I got much of my early Imps passion from the club programme, and it’s why I still think the 86/87 offering was one of best programmes.

There is a focus on stuff for younger readers, which I’d expect, and there are pages dedicated to the Foundation and Lincoln City Women. Those are two areas of the club that digital media fans perhaps chose not to click on, in the main, and so having a space in the programme is important. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, especially not given the Lionesses’ recent performance, but with digital media, you find what you want, read it, and close the screen. With a programme, there’s more chance of reading something you may not previously looked at, and perhaps even following what it says; going to a game, using the Foundation, or whatever.

I’m quite interested in this feature, showing a day or week in the life of a certain staff member, Luke Thornhill, the mind behind the programme, features in the first week, but it might help us get more of an insight into the club. For instance, do you know what Joe Hutchinson does? What his England connections are? Would you be interested to know how Ross Burbeary does daily or how the EPC staff manage the location? I would, and I look forward to seeing who else features in this now bit.

There’s more in here, as you’d expect, and I can see where the club have made changes to appeal to different sectors. Personally, I’d still like to see it made a bit smaller to fit in the pocket, but that’s personal preference and who knows, if we do save the programme this season, there might be scope for further input. I’m proud to say that the feedback many of you gave me over email last season did go to the club, and we had a meeting where I was invited to have some input, which makes me proud.

It is still £3, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t a huge amount. It does feel like more when ordering online; I order two or three at a time, which with postage feels like an outlay, and I think grabbing one for pocket change at the ground will be a better way to obtain a programme. However, if you want to get a copy and don’t want to carry it about or can’t get to the ground, you can do so by visiting Ignition Sports Media here.

The harsh truth is that the humble programme is not seen as part of the modern-day football experience by many. There is a generation of fans who have grown up with social media and see no need for printed materials. It’s a short-sighted view of the programme and one I think hugely understates its place as a method of tracking club culture for future generations, but maybe I’m in a minority. If I’m not if you feel the same as me, there’s only one way to make your voice heard now; by spending £3 per game on an exclusive Imptoons cartoon-fronted programme.