Prior to 1927 it is believed that Horsham Football Club only produced matchday programmes on an ad hoc basis, primarily for prestige games. However all that changed at the start of the 1927/8 campaign when programmes were issued consistently throughout the season and have continued to be so ever since.
Those early publications, though not without their charm, were relatively modest with usually just an introductory page and the day’s respective line-ups providing the editorial content. Players were never referred to by their first name, recorded simply as A.Smith for example, while the remainder of the programme was filled with advertisements for now long forgotten local businesses for which the front cover offered the buyer the chance to win a voucher worth the equivalent of 50p, redeemable through any of the supporting tradesmen provided the winner paid one old penny towards club funds!
As printing techniques developed, so did the appearance of the programme although, for the most part, little additional content was included apart from the occasional reproduction of the league table. Post-war rationing meant that the programme was generally printed on one sheet of paper, folded in the middle, with information – and advertisers – kept to a minimum, until the number of pages was doubled towards the end of the 1940s and included a message from the Supporters’ Club. Yet for the last few years in which the club competed in the Sussex County League and, indeed, throughout the six seasons in which it was members of the Metropolitan League, it reverted back to a four page issue albeit printed on rather thicker, coloured, paper. It was, if nothing else, consistent!
A new cover design was settled upon for our admittance into the Corinthian League, that of a depiction of the Queen Street pitch ‘encased’ inside the outline of a football, and that was carried through into the Athenian League until a welcome change in 1967. Whether acting on supporters’ demands, or simply a realisation that their ‘customers’ merited more for their sixpenny outlay, the new programme listed names of club officials, honours, the statutory ‘welcome’ page, teams and league tables, a brief introduction to the day’s opponents, player stats and even biopics of Horsham players!
A similar theme was maintained into the early part of the 1970s when, under a now glossy cover, full line-ups were reproduced of previous matches, something that has proven invaluable when maintaining the club’s archives. Over the course of the next decade and a half, the programme tended to reflect on-the-field performances with those of the early eighties; fairly plain in their appearance, devoid of colour yet with steadily growing content. As with so many publications that are produced by volunteers, its content and design depends entirely upon the commitment and passion of the programme editor and things improved through the input of people like Steve Moore, Jeff Barrett and the late Ian Hands. Reviews of seasons and matches from our past, as well as details of away travel and full fixture lists were included and those issues of the late 1980s gave fans plenty to read with their half-time cuppa.
The end of the decade saw the introduction of the fanzine, a booklet produced by supporters of the professional sides who wanted to put a more earthy and, dare we say, honest viewpoint than those found in official club programmes. Inevitably this concept eventually found its way in to the non-league game and when a pair of long-suffering Hornets fans aired their opinions in their own version, early in the 1993/4 campaign, it was not without controversy. The then programme editor, Maurice Shevlin, stood down in the face of what he viewed was criticism of his own efforts and, for a while, a rift developed between club officials and sections of the supporters. Lifelong fan, Adam Hammond, stepped forward to take over the production of the programme and the transformation was remarkable. With his own irreverent style, he initially encapsulated the humour of the fanzine with the professionalism of an official matchday programme and sales immediately began to increase. His passion for the club, allied with his knowledge of its history, his penchant for stats and obvious design skills soon saw the Horsham FC matchday programme winning awards in the annual National Programme Surveys.
Adam remained editor and producer of the programme for some sixteen years before stepping aside but the standard had been set and, although today’s version is a slightly more modest production in terms of quality and also battles to compete with the internet and social media, the same passion and drive remains with the current editorial team who strive to provide a programme of which the football club can be proud.
A pictorial review of the Horsham matchday programme from 1927 to the modern day can be found here