The rise and fall of English football magazines

As a child getting into watching football in the mid-1980’s, along with collecting Panini football stickers, one of the things that I really enjoyed doing was reading the 2 popular weekly football magazines at the time Shoot! and Match. Back then, there was no internet for football news or forums, chatrooms or Twitter. There was also no Sky Sports at the time and any football news in the newspapers was mostly limited to just the back few pages of the papers. Football fanzines were only just starting to appear at the time as well, being sold outside the grounds, as an alternative to the club produced matchday programmes. So, reading Shoot! and Match magazines most definitely enhanced my interest in football.

The first real football magazine in England that appeared was Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, in 1954 and this ran until 1974. there was also another publication that ran from 1969 to 1974 called Goal which was sold in this country. However it was Shoot!, which was launched in 1969 and Match, launched in 1979 which really dominated the English football magazine market by the 1980s. As well as offering things like team and player posters, at the start of every season, both publications offered ‘League Ladders’. These ladders were made up of a large cardboard poster with blank league tables for each division of teams and a slit in the card alongside each position on the tables. To go with this were T-shaped tabs for each team in the league which would be in that club’s appropriate colours. As the season went on, the teams would be moved up and down these tables according to their progress in the league.

As well as this, the articles written in both magazines were of a decent quality and made good reading at that time. The magazines used to have some good interviews with players and also had footballers as guest writers too. I particularly liked it when two of my favourite players, Brian McClair and Bryan Robson had guest columns for them. In Shoot! former Spurs and England player Jimmy Greaves had a letters page and once I wrote a letter to him, which won letter of the week. I wrote in about players giving referees too much back chat, so as a punishment they should be moved back 10 yards for a free kick, like they did in rugby. This was later introduced as a rule in football too.

The 1990s marked a big change in the popularity of football in England. This was as a result of England’s strong campaign at the Italia 90 World Cup and also the role that Paul Gascoigne played in this. This popularity further increased with the introduction of The FA Premier League in 1992 and Sky’s large scale and unrivalled TV coverage of this. Prior to that – only one top flight football match was shown per week on ITV, for example, plus some FA Cup and League Cup games and England Internationals. In addition from 1990, after a 5 year ban, English football teams were once again allowed to compete in Europe again which created increased interest, especially as Manchester United won the European Cup Winner’s Cup in that first season back in Europe. In 1990, on the back of this growing interest, a 3rd weekly football magazine was launched – 90 Minutes Magazine, which worked along the same lines of Shoot! and Match, but with slightly more football writing and less posters in it.  As football continued to grow in popularity and attendances at matches grew, another magazine was launched in 1994. This was a high quality monthly football magazine called Four Four Two, which still remains popular to this day. During the 1992-93 Season, along with other Premier League clubs, Manchester United launched their own official monthly magazine. This magazine, which later became known as ‘Inside United’ became very popular and is still sold around the world today. Alongside the club magazine, there was also another, more basic official poster magazine, called Glory Glory Man United. There were also various unofficial Manchester United publications – some of a decent quality and others of a very basic quality, which appeared in the shops, but then disappeared almost as quickly.

The peak of English football magazines though, would centre around England hosting the Euro 96 football tournament. Capitalising on the further increase in popularity – more magazines were launched. Monthly football magazines  – Goal, Total Football and Match of the Day all appeared around this time, whilst Shoot! and Match magazines enjoyed record sales figures at the same time. The majority of these magazines only enjoyed a brief popularity and by the time the France 98 World Cup had finished, Total Football and Goal magazines had gone, whilst 90 Minutes magazine finished in 1997. By then, the growth of football magazines had turned into a decline, as demand for so many different magazines fell.

By 2000 demand for magazines continued to fall, with Match of the Day magazine, as a monthly publication finishing in 2001. By now Match was strongly outselling Shoot!, whilst Four Four Two remained as the main monthly football magazine. Although football became more popular in England – seen especially at Manchester United with the huge expansion of Old Trafford, the way people read about and discussed football was changing. This was largely down to the huge growth of the internet, along with Sky TV and also the newspapers too. Football players, led by David Beckham were also now being seen so much more as celebrities, not just sports stars. This was seen in gossip magazines and publications like Hello! and OK too. Football also occupied more of the front and centre pages of the newspapers, especially the tabloid newspapers, where lots of stories about footballers’ private lives were written.  As a child, this was something I saw far less. The only real stories I really remember reading as a child would be for things like footballers caught for drink driving – Paul McGrath, Bryan Robson, Tony Adams and Jan Molby for example. Very different to how things are today.

In 2007 Shoot! reverted to a monthly publication and then the following year it ceased to be as a magazine. It has since been revived as an online magazine though. Although I had long since stopped buying it, when I heard about it’s demise I did feel a bit sad about that, as it had been a part of my childhood as a football supporter. Match of the Day magazine did re-appear again as a weekly magazine, seeing itself as the rival weekly publication to Match. This is still the situation 3 years later, as both are seen on newstands across the country. Occasionally I’ll have a look at these in the shops, especially if there is something to do with Manchester United on the cover of them. What stands out now is the lack of actual reading material – it would probably take me less than 10 minutes to read either publication. Both magazines are strongly focused on a much younger market now, which accounts for the reduction in reading material. For football news now, the majority of football fans refer to Sky Sports News and the internet with news breaking as soon as it happens now, rather than printed material.

Reading football magazines when I was a child gave me great enjoyment and helped provide me with a greater knowledge and understanding of the game of football. For that, I’ll always be grateful to those publications.

About Steve Ferguson 886 Articles
Steve Ferguson had taken over & re-branded The Faithful MUFC website back in the summer of 2014 and is now the owner and editor of the site. Steve, from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, is a 35-year-old life long Manchester United fan, travelling over the globe to see the Reds play. Steve has been lucky enough to be at both the 1999 and 2008 Champions League finals, seeing Manchester United lift the biggest trophy in the World, none more exciting than that faithful night in Barcelona in 99. The website is a blog, but also hopes to deliver the latest Manchester United news from around the internet too, linked up with our growing twitter account which is @TheFaithfulMUFC, give it a follow as we will follow you back as soon as we can.


  1. I could have written this myself, pretty much, with the addition of being in Iceland, I had even less news of English football from local news. Starte buying Shoot! in ’82 and have copies of more or less every title mentioned.
    Oh, and I’d give World Soccer a mention too.
    Great article.

  2. Good memories for me too. Living in South Africa, Match & Shoot magazines were our direct link to English football and I still collect the hard cover Annuals of most of the old titles (Charles Buchan, Goal, Kenneth Wolstenholme!)
    I publish the supporters magazine for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa – we have 1.5 million readers a month! But internet penetration is still small in South Africa, so print can still survive!
    Good post.

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