Hall of Shame #9: Wiltshire Newspapers axe the ‘Football Pink’
For our next entry into the Hall of Shame we step outside of the club, as Mike Minihane inducts Wiltshire Newspapers for their decision to axe publication of the much loved ‘Football Pink’.
In the early 1970s Wilshire Newspapers, the publishers of the then ‘Evening Advertiser’ (aka the ‘Adver’) made the incomprehensible decision to cease publication of the local football paper, the ‘Football Pink’.
All footballing towns had an equivalent – the ‘Green Un’, the ‘Football Buff’ and so on, named for the colour of the newspaper – even when that colour became unavailable and white paper had to be substituted.
For those of us that supported STFC in the 1960s and early 1970s the Football Pink wasn’t just a critical lifeline into the fortunes of our beloved club, it was an important part of the Saturday ritual. Published every Saturday in the early evening, as soon as it could come off the presses after the end of the game, it was the end product of an incredibly efficient operation.
On a good day it would hit your local newsagent at 6pm. This was way before the era of the internet, mobile phones and other electronic ways of keeping in touch with football scores that we take for granted today. All you had then was either the teleprinter on BBC1 agonisingly tapping out the final scores on your 10” TV screen or some Oxbridge-voiced announcer droning out the scores on BBC radio’s Sports Report at 5pm.
The Pink gave you a full blow by blow account of the game, phoned in from the ground, home or away, by the reporter. The descriptions of the goals scored were emphasised in heavy type. The main match report was fittingly on the front page, there were round-ups of all the other Football League games that had been played and a report on the Reserves game.
Inside was fantastic detail about local games played that day…Swindon and District League, Wiltshire League, Hellenic League… together with all the league tables. An army of local enthusiasts would phone their reports into the Pink for publication. If you’d been playing in a local game and scored you had a good chance of seeing your name in capitals, particularly if you’d played a junior game in the morning.
It was incredible value at about six old pence and you could quite easily read it all week. It was nothing less than a work of art.
All you had to do to appreciate its popularity was to be in any newsagent in town or a nearby village on a Saturday evening at 6pm. A predominantly male crowd would wait patiently, a van would arrive, the driver would bring in a bundle of newspapers tied with string, the newsagent would cut the string, often with a flourish, and they would literally fly off the counter.
Most readers started to read the report as they got the paper in their hands, blundering into each other as they gave their full concentration to finding out who had scored in an away game. Occasionally a typo would cause amusement, as in the report of a game away at Plymouth Argyle where Bobby Woodruff had ‘hammered in a hard shit’ to put us 4-2 in front.
When in 1969 I left home to go off to Kingston Poly one of my big worries was how was I going to keep up without being able to read the Pink. I needn’t have worried, my ever-resourceful Dad found out that you could have it posted to you and bought me a subscription. It would arrive on a Tuesday and I would read it for the rest of the week during the many boring lectures that I had to suffer. After my ticket for the 1969 League Cup Final it was probably the best present I ever had.
Like all good things it couldn’t last. The following year the subscription couldn’t be renewed because Wiltshire Newspapers decided to cease its publication as an ‘economy measure’, citing some garbage about fans being able to keep up with local football by reading the Adver, on a Monday!
What were these people thinking about? Had they no idea how this decision was going to blight the lives of so many Swindon Town supporters at the time? There’s no way of knowing which hapless individual was responsible for this catastrophe so I suppose it has to be a case of corporate responsibility, so Wiltshire Newspapers take your place in the Hall of Shame…