Monday, 26 May 2014

RAOTL at 200 - Why we need fazines

(First published in issue 200 of Red All Over The Land. - May 2014)

Without wanting to be too sycophantic, I wanted to mark RAOTL’s 200th issue by talking about the fanzine itself. Reaching the milestone of 200 issues is such a wonderful achievement and something to be really celebrated.

I can’t remember exactly how my relationship with RAOTL first began, but it was about 17 years ago that as a young (and for some reason besotted Liverpool fan) my Dad decided to take me to my first game all the way from our home in Wiltshire. He had no affinity with the club, and we had no ties with the area, but for some reason I had chosen Liverpool as my club. Being an out of towner has always played on my mind, but a lot of my future life choices were consciously or subconsciously driven by the men in red. I ended up attending Liverpool University, and living in the city for 10 years.

Anyway, in those early days I began to get involved in the fledgling online community of Liverpool fans, creating my own fan site ‘The Anfield Shrine’ and writing articles for other fan sites. I assume that one of my early games I must also have picked up a copy of this very fanzine. My enjoyment of that first copy is for me why fanzines are so important. As a young lad not local to the city, Red All Over The Land as a fanzine was one of the first ‘unofficial’ sources Liverpool content that I consumed.

I think I've always had a slightly subversive side with a love of all things underground and non-corporate and that is exactly what attracted me to the concept of a fanzine. I love the fact that fanzines aren’t necessarily glossy, well art worked, slick productions - that is the beauty of them. In the world of modern, corporate football, they are one of the last bastions of individuality, humour and independent thinking. These days of course, the development of the internet has meant that there are countless independent fan blogs, websites and forums… and as much as I can enjoy those too, for me they are not enough. I would never want to see the death of the physical fanzine. Fanzines, and specifically RAOTL, are part of the match day experience for me. I don’t buy programmes, but a physical copy of a fanzine is something ingrained in and older school match day experience that true football fans still crave. Match days are all about flat lager in packed pubs, weaving through the crowd as you walk up to the ground… dodging discarded chip trays to keep a new pair of Adidas pristine, hearing the shout of ‘hat, scarf or a badge.’ That is a real match day experience, not the Sky Sports Ford Focus experience that we are fed on TV. Fanzines are very much part of that real, grassroots, honest experience that we are coming closer and closer to losing.

So I raise a glass to RAOTL on its 200th birthday, and especially the long suffering but fantastic and eternally committed editor JJP (Who was on the front cover of issue 1 Ed? Billy Liddell?) Praise has to also go to the likes of Andy Knott, John Mackin, all the match day sellers and everyone else who has contributed along the way. I urge us all… don’t let the fanzine die. Here’s to the next 200 issues.

You can subscribe to Red All Over The Land for next season on the website.