Friday, Southsider and blogger Michael McColl takes ALL CAPS “Away From
The Numbers” for a fan’s perspective on the Vancouver Whitecaps

One of the Vancouver Whitecaps success stories that I’ve welcomed this year is the fantastic gameday program, which the Club have produced for every home game this season.

As a collector of football programs from many a year, it’s been great to see this year’s production.

It may be a technologically modern age, where everything is online or being sent to people’s phones, but for an old traditionalist like me, there’s nothing better than holding an actual printed program for that day’s match.

Reading the program whilst eating a pie and Bovril, has been my half time routine for years. There’s no pies or Bovril at Empire unfortunately, but at least I can still have my program.

At 32-40 informative and well written pages, you can clearly see that every issue of the Caps production is put together with care and attention and not just done as an afterthought. I only wish that other MLS clubs had this passion.

With most others, you’re lucky to get even a team sheet, never mind an actual program produced by the Club. You may get the “Free Kick” generic MLS magazine, with a club specific cover, but that’s it.

The Caps are way ahead of the field in MLS when it comes to this. At last, we’re number one!
Collecting programs (I’m finding it so hard not to spell it with two m’s and an e, like I’m used to!) isn’t exactly a huge pastime over here in North America compared to the UK.

It’s also a bit of a dying hobby there, particularly since Clubs seem keen to keep putting prices up every year and the programs are more high quality glossy advertisements than gameday fodder for half time perusal.

For the Whitecaps to then give away a free product to the fans has been very pleasing to see, particularly in a season where other pursuits give the appearance of them wanting to get as much money off fans as possible.

I grew up an avid collector. Most football loving kids my age did. We joined clubs, we did swaps, we eagerly sought out the program sellers on matchday to buy that week’s issue.

When I moved over to Canada from Scotland, I brought much of my program collection with me, much to my wife’s chagrin. She simply doesn’t understand that part of my male brain that makes me an anorak and a collector!

I got rid of some of my most valuable pieces of my prized collection though to raise some funds for the move, but none of them came from my East Fife collection.

Those I couldn’t part with and ended up bringing that collection over, which dates back to the 50’s and includes pretty much every home program, and many aways, since that time.

I still get the Fife homes sent over to me every game and even write for the program on a regular basis – which is surely why they won the “Scottish Programme of The Year” award for 2008/09 and have been runners up a couple of other times!

Every football program collector specialises in something, especially years ago when I first started. It could be your team, internationals, non league, one per club per season, foreign friendlies. There’s an endless list.

One such thing which I went for was friendlies involving teams from this mystical North American Soccer League, which seemed to comprise of teams with weird names. So I have a pile of friendlies from Scottish and English clubs playing the likes of Tamba Bay Roughnecks, LA Aztecs and, of course, our very own Vancouver Whitecaps.

Little did I know I’d been living over here one day supporting one of these clubs!

The NASL teams of the 70’s produced their own programs, entitled ‘Kick’. Mostly generic, but with a little slant to the home team in each city, these were weighty tomes, although a lot of the space was taken up with what now appears to be hilarious adverts, many of which featured NASL players.

The Caps produced their own programs in the 80’s and this was continued by the 86’ers.

I’ve been picking up a few of these from ebay recently and they’re an enjoyable blast from the past and certainly from a different footballing time. A period where players smoked, drank and were playboys in equal measure with being a footballer.

That’s the joy of programs though. It gives you a great insight into that footballing period and the history and growth of the game. Same with magazines.

They can also capture a moment in time, like the opening of BC Place by the Caps in 1983.

When I read some of my football magazines and programs from the 50’s it’s like a whole different world. Football has changed so much and not all of it for the better.

It does make you wonder what people reading the Whitecaps programs of today, will make of the content, players, fashions and adverts in thirty or forty years time.

There’s not a lot of things from this season that we hope the Caps will carry forward into next year. Hopefully continuing with such quality programs will be one of them.

Who knows, maybe a whole new breed of program collectors will spring up over here, looking to pick up past, present and future publications.  Just make sure you don’t outbid me on eBay for them!

About the author:

McColl began writing about football in 1989 and has freelanced for
various newspapers, magazines and websites in the UK. He moved to
Vancouver in 2007 and currently pens two “Away From the Numbers” blogs
one on everything football and the other specifically about the Whitecaps and North American “soccer”.

a proud member of the Vancouver Southsiders supporters club, though his
views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
Southsiders organization.

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