In the age of the internet, fanzines and football magazines have suffered or been forced online – so in some ways it’s surprising to see some new publications on the scene here in the UK. The likes of Spiel, The Blizzard and Green Soccer Journal have all arrived over the past year or so, all with a particular take on the beautiful game. But why now? We spoke to Dan, one half of the duo behind Spiel, about why they wanted to bring their ideas to print…
At a time when most people are online, why did you guys decide to stick to print?
‘We’ve always been fans of print and the different things you can do with it. You can read things online, but it’s different. There are benefits to online content in that it is so immediate, but maybe thats what puts me off. I want to make something that people will keep, not read and discard. In print you have the idea of a magazine as an artifact; something that you can hold, that feels nice, smells nice. It’s just a more rounded experience really.’
Were you inspired by any particular publications?
‘Probably culture magazines rather than football mags. Meat Magazine used to be fantastic. A Polish magazine called WAW is great too - definitely an influence when we thought about font usage. At the time we were starting Spiel we were both really into a German student mag called Komma and so I suppose that inspired us in terms of look and feel. There are so many fantastic magazines out there giving a really detailed idiosyncratic look at a subject they love and that is something we are keen on too.’
Looking at Spiel it’s similar in some ways to a fanzine, but much better quality. Were they an inspiration at all?
‘They were always a bit flimsy, they looked self-published, but that was part of the appeal of a fanzine. We definitely liked the look of them, a lot of them from the 1980s had a very distinct style, and that’s something we were trying to hint at but alongside the sort of content and design you might expect from an art booklet or magazine. We wanted a free football mag that had that thought-out look and feel to it.’
You seem to have more of a global view on the game as well, was that an important part of Spiel’s ideology?
‘Yeah certainly; there is a place for regional fanzines and they come up with some great team specific content but that isn't what we aiming for. We want to be able to feature the best and most interesting things we can find without limiting it geographically and avoid the sort of bias that sometimes goes with the territory of regional mags.’
With that in mind, how do you decide what goes in an issue of Spiel?
‘We tend to have an idea of what we want on the cover. The latest edition is inspired by early 1990s football shirts, and the patterns they all had on them. Shirts like the Arsenal away kit from that era, old Norwich home kits, we’ve just been inspired by that style of design. For other issues, it’s just been bits of art that we’ve liked and felt like it reflected the content.
In terms of what’s in the issue, we go off what we want to write about or interesting things that others want to write about, and we just try to find the best writers that we can. Not always football writers either, we like getting people who wouldn’t normally be talking about football because it can be quite culturally interesting to hear from them. We like people who are footy geeks like us, but are going to look at it in a strange way.’
A lot of the new football magazines avoid what you might think is ‘typical’ football fan culture. Would you agree?
‘I think with a lot of football fans they don’t actually do the macho football fan thing. We play football on a Thursday night in Liverpool, and amongst the group there’s artists and designers, none of them really fit into the stereotypical view of a football fan, but they are proper fans. Football’s such a massively inclusive world, not everyone likes a pie, a pint and a fight, there’s so much more out there, but we didn’t think that was catered for that much. We’re aiming to do a more creative take on football, including art and culture, because people are into football but they’re also into other things.’
Who would you love to see write something for Spiel?
‘Not sure on that one… there’s a couple of football journalists that we like, but just as much I’d love some great artists to come in and write something. We had Neil Fitzmaurice, who’s just won the Northern Art Prize, and he was really interesting, he makes these little football kits out of cigarette packets, and he has his own very niche take on football. So I suppose rather than a big name, we just want people who are that little bit different.’
Finally, the most important question – who’s better at football, you or Paul?
‘I hate to say it but maybe Paul. I play up front or on the right wing and am fatally flawed as a footballer by inconsistency with my final ball. If I have a good day then I am pretty good but on a bad day, well let's not talk about it.’
Thanks to Dan for taking the time to speak to us, and thanks to India Hobson for allowing us to use the fantastic photos that feature in the current issue – you can find out more about Spiel magazine here.