Paper and print has long been part of the average matchday experience, whether in an official club programme, fanzine or the mythical late edition of the newspaper that appeared on a Saturday night. Many of these have now evolved into new online editions or disappeared completely, but this weekend there’ll be a new publication appearing at Premier League games.
Field, which will be handed out for free at every home game in the top division, comes from the same team behind the celebrated Spiel magazine, which presented an interesting take on football, art and culture in a beautiful package. Field will have the same attention to looks, but will be focusing on the weekend’s action, with match previews for every game in the Premier League and features on players and tactics. Is it madness to be launching a new print publication in the age of the internet? Or is Field filling a gap for football fans? We spoke to Paul Gleeson, one of the key men behind the new project, to see what he had to say….
Where did the idea for Field come from?
‘It came off the back of Spiel really. When we spoke to people, they loved the idea of a well-designed football magazine, which also looks at culture, music and art. But then speaking to readers and people in the industry, the magazine maybe wasn’t quite right for them, because of the distribution being quite niche. So we took that on board and thought, if we can make something that’s as nicely designed as Spiel, but a bit more football-orientated, and if we could get it to people at the game, then it’d be more appealing to more people and reach a much bigger audience.’
Is it not daunting to be launching a print publication when so much is online today?
‘I wouldn’t say daunting but it’s certainly a challenge. I think it’s important to acknowledge the importance of online media when you’re looking at producing a new magazine but print is equally important. If you look at a lot of magazines, the print remains integral to them but they’re supporting that with online content, which is what we’re looking to achieve.’
It’s quite a big scale to start off with, did you always plan to start with?
‘Yeah, we’ve gone right for the jugular! We looked at the amount of people that go to a Premier League game every weekend, and it comes out around 350,000. We toyed with the idea of just doing a few grounds to start with, but we didn’t really want to miss out any grounds or have people not being able to get hold of it. So we worked out that we wanted around one in seven people at the game to get a copy so that comes out at around 55,000. We felt that was a good number, it means we can give it away free which is important to us, especially as everything else at the game can be so expensive. It’s nice to get something on a match day that doesn’t cost you anything but will hopefully grab your attention before and after the match.’
How do you think you’ll get fans of clubs to pick up a copy if a rival team’s player is on the cover?
‘One thing about football is that it can become quite tribal, and you do worry that people won’t pick up a copy because it’s got a certain player on the cover. But then, you go back and look at the England team and things like that, people are able to put that aside then and get behind the players regardless of whether they’re Liverpool or United or whoever. Also, a lot of other magazines do it, they’ll feature players from whatever club on the front, but it’s about the way you present it to make it appealing to everyone.
It’s also about selecting the right players, make sure you’re not purposefully looking to ostracize readers. For instance, in our first issue we’ve got Danny Welbeck on the cover, partly because it’s the Manchester derby at Old Trafford this weekend, but he’s more than just a United player, he’s an England player as well. And he’s also quite well liked, even amongst opposition fans. I think it’s up to us to find those players that transcend those clubs divides, but also to create really interesting content alongside that, so for instance in the first issue there’s a great piece on the evolution of the striker which anyone can read and enjoy. ‘
Do you think that most fans are interested in other teams and their players?
‘Yeah, I think the majority of football fans are well informed and are interested in everything that’s going on – who’s going to stay up, who’s doing well at this club or not doing so well here. When you’ve got things like Twitter and all the other digital media, people can consume a lot of football, probably spend too much time thinking about football, throughout the day. They have their allegiance to their team, but it doesn’t stop them from being interested in the whole of the sport.’
Alongside the magazine there’s an app as well, what’s different about that?
‘It’s all linked together really, we want the app to be a reflection of the magazine. The magazine is there for the fans that are at the game, and that’s where we really put our efforts towards the feel and the artwork, but we didn’t want to ignore people who can’t get to the game. So, you’ll be able to read the articles through the app, there’s a digital version of the magazine on there, but it’ll also have exclusive content, competitions and stuff like that on there.’
You’ve started out covering the whole of the Premier League, but what’s the long term plan for Field?
‘We’re definitely looking at the rest of this season as a bit of a trial period, we can see what works and doesn’t, how is it received, and take all of that on board. Long term, we’d love to get established with fans in the Premier League and also move into lower divisions and reflect all the interesting stuff that goes on there. It’d also be brilliant to have an overseas edition over in Spain or Germany, somewhere like that, go up to Scotland as well. I think we’re a little bit away from all that at the moment, but long term it would be great to offer something to everyone wherever they’re watching football.’
Finally, ideally what would you want someone who picks up Field this weekend to take away from it?
‘I guess we’d just like them to enjoy the magazine, to come away thinking ‘that’s a good read, I’ll look out for that next time’ or to tell their friends to look out for it. The best thing will be for people to just read it.’