History of the Charles Buchan's Football Monthly Magazine
By Martin Westby


Introduction

As a long time fan of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly I have always tried to discover some kind of history of the magazine. No official reference exists and so what follows is my attempt at research into the background of this wonderful publication. If by chance there is someone out there with more information please get in touch so that I can add more background.


Four Four Two (Haymarket) has a current monthly circulation of 100,000 .When Saturday Comes has sales are around 23,000 per month.Yet when Charles Buchan's Football Monthly was at its peak it boasted a circulation of 250,000. Nowadays the Internet, newspapers and sports only channels offer an overload of football information, which was not available in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Also players did not market themselves as a brand or have agents - if an article and photograph appeared in the "Worlds Best Soccer Magazine" you were flattered. It took until issue 216 in August 1969 for the first double colour spread advert featuring Denis Law advertising Mitre boots.
The Beginning

The first issue came out over 50 years ago in September 1951. The first words written were "Our object is to provide a publication that will be worthy of our National game and the grand sportsmen who play and watch it".

Charles Buchan was a seasoned journalist for the News Chronicle and the BBC and had spotted a gap in the market:

"For many years, after the old Athletic News closed down, there was no paper or magazine devoted exclusively to the game. It was in a bid to fill this gap that in 1951 I started the Charles Buchan's Football Monthly. It has caught on so well that it was obvious something of the kind was desperately needed. It is a new field for me and I am getting as much pleasure from it as I did from my playing days. One is never too old to learn."

Initial Success

The circulation started at a level modern magazines would kill for - 60,000 - by 1959 it was 120,000, in 1961 it was 130,000 and at its peak in 1967 it was at an astounding 250,000 per month. In 1968 the "Boys Club" had 100,000 registered members.

In the early sixties Charles Buchan's Publications Ltd was producing ten magazines in total, titles such as "Soccer Scrap Book", as well as branching out into music papers for those new fangled teenagers.

It was so successful that it did not increase its launch price of 1/6 for 11 years, when it increased to two shillings in August 1962, but did increase the pages to 64 at the same time.

It quietly went up to 2/6 in April 1966, presumably on the anticipation of World Cup fever, and up to 3 shillings on the 200th issue in April 1968. In January 1971 they took advantage of decimalisation and increased it to 17 and half new pence! (3/6) - 20p came in August 1972 and so it remained through till its demise as Football Monthly Digest in June 1974

Charles Buchan continued his column from launch until his death in the south of France in June1960. It must have been a sudden death as his previous column had appeared in August as usual. The September 1960 issue has 2 pages of tributes from the world of football.
The changing versions

CoversClick on the photo for a larger view. >>

They continued with the name Charles Buchan on the cover until August 1971. Even when the name was dropped off the cover and it became "Football Monthly" the issue numbers continued and the inside page masthead still said "Founded by Charles Buchan" up to the final issue in 1974 Indeed it was published by Charles Buchan's Publications Ltd until February 1964.

John Thompson had been Editor from the beginning and he continued until May 1970 when the Assistant Editor Pat Collins took over until the end in June 1974.

It took me a visit to the British Library until I finally realised the full run of the magazine was until June 1974 (World Cup guide). In September 1973 business must have been slowing and they relaunched in a pocket size format, renamed the "Football Monthly Digest." Inside the issues, numbers continued, as did the tribute to the founder.

As the first paragraph in the new format said: "Its exciting. It's new. It's different. And we've done it this way because Soccer in the Seventies needs an approach that's a bit special. And Football Monthly Digest IS something special."
Alas - not special enough

The last Football Monthly Digest was dated June 1974 and carried the following small notice:

"Dear Reader,
It is with regret that we have to announce that this is the last issue of FOOTBALL DIGEST. There are many factors which have forced this unhappy decision, not least of which has been the tremendous increase in the last few months of paper, printing and distribution costs. They have leapt to such a degree that it is not now possible to continue publication without increasing the price substantially. This, we feel, we cannot do. We thank our readers and our advertisers for the loyalty they have shown us during past years, and hope that they will miss us just as much as we will miss them."

  • Issues 1-240 Charles Buchan's Football Monthly
    (20 Years: September 1951 - August 1971)
  • Issues 241-264 Football Monthly
    (2 Years: September 1971 - August 1973)
  • Issues 265-274 Football Monthly Digest - New Pocket Size 20p
    (10 Months: September 1973 - June 1974)

Bryan Horsnell (Soccer historian and contributor to Football Monthly) kindly explained what happened to the magazine after 1974.

Following the dropping of the name Charles Buchan from the magazine title a hybrid of the magazine continued after the demise of the Football Digest. In June 1974 "Football" was produced as a result of a marriage between Football Pictorial, which ran from May 1970 until May 1974, and formerly as the Football Supporter from November 1967 to April 1970 - and the Football Digest.

It continued under the name of "Football" for 6 years and then changed to "Football Monthly" in November 1980 - echoing the Charles Buchan link.

This magazine continued until 1995 when it was sold off to Ken Bates at Chelsea.

Artwork

The artwork for the Charles Buchan's Football Monthly was constantly innovative for its era. When it commenced there was a full colour front cover and, more often than not, another on the reverse. These were hand tinted with colour onto original black and white photographs.

Right from the beginning the magazine was full of single page black and white photographs. It took until May 1953 before single page colour images would also appear occasionally within the magazine, usually of the current stars of the game.

Specially commissioned caricatures by Mickey Durling, Ron Bell and "Ross" also featured over the first 3 years with the most collectable being of Manchester United in 1954.

Six months after the launch we saw the first example, of what would become a regular feature, the double page centre spread black and white photograph of action from a football game. It would be November 1957 before these became colour photographs (original not hand tinted) and initially of team shots. The first full colour double page spread of a single player was of Dennis Law in October 1962
Football History in 274 issues

The process of working through all 247 issues page by page to type up the subjects covered and the players photographed to include on this website gave me a marvellous insight into how our national game has evolved over these important 23 years.
When the magazine starts you sense the overwhelming importance of the FA Cup, Internationals and the amateur ethic. Slowly the importance of the League appears at the same time as the growing awareness of European competitions.

The first issues are full of "grand " pictures, when men had "pals" and everyone played "soccer". Slowly the game became "football" (leaving soccer for the Americans) and the adverts changed from Rizlas, Brylcreem, dubbin and liniment to cigarettes, Adidas and Umbro.

Some highlights:

April 1952 - Death of the King
January - 1954 Hungary 7 England 1
August and September 1954 - World Cup reports and pictures
January 1955 - John Charles Special
July1955 - The Manfield-Hotspur Continental (First advert for a football "shoe" rather than a boot)
August 1957 - Stanley Matthews crowned king of soccer
October 1957 - Mass riot in Greece: Olympiakos v Panathinaikos
November 1957 - First Colour centre spread-Aston Villa
March 1958 - Duncan Edwards (pictured on front page even though the week before he had died at Munich, a loose insert was added as an apology)
September 1958 - Brazil-Kings of the Soccer World
October 1958 - England refuses to join European Nations Cup
August 1959 - "No money to be made in football"
September 1959 - Real Madrid wins the European Cup
October 1959 - The league and the FA should split
December 1959 - 100th Special birthday Issue
February 1960 - The first double colour picture of England
July1960 - Real Madrid 7 Eintract Frankfurt 3
September 1960 - Tributes to Charles Buchan on his death
March1961 - Announcement of the abolition of the maximum wage
April 1961 - Premier league is just a matter of time
September 1961 - 10th Birthday Issue
May 1962 - the death of Accrington Stanley
June 1962 - World Cup Special
September1962 - Alan Hardaker (Football League Secretary)-Says:" No more pitch invasions".
October 1962 - First ever double colour page of one footballer - Denis Law (Manchester United
May 1963 - Umbro and Adidas (First ever double page advert for any product),
September 1963 - First non-British player on the cover-Pele
March 1965 - First picture and article on George Best
June 1965 - Celtic wins European Cup and Stanley Matthews plays final testimonial game

1966:
All of the 1966 issues are interesting with people criticising team selection and arguing for the inclusion of Jimmy Greaves. The Football Monthly World Cup souvenir issued in June 1966 effectively replaced that month's normal issue and was a massive seller and today is an ebay regular.
Print and copy deadlines certainly caused some delays that, in this Internet age, seem interminable. Indeed it was September 1966 that the first reports and black and white pictures of the World Cup win appeared with another month before the colour photographs.

July1967 - Celtic wins the European Cup
April 1968 - 200th Issue
May 1968 - Matt Busby Tribute
July1968 - Man United European Cup Winners
March1970 - World Cup Special
October1972 - George Best cover
August 1973 - Last ever Football Monthly before Digest format
June 1974 - Football Monthly Digest-World Cup Special and last copy

All 274 issues are viewable at the British Library (shelf ref. pp 1832 mag ) with the exception of September 1972 and January 1973 which, for some reason, are missing.

In January 2008 I was telephoned by Mike Hayes who worked with Charles Buchan in the early days at the Strand in London. He explained he was besotted with the magazine as a boy and was known to the editors as the boy who phoned every month to find out which players would be in colour the following month! His loyalty later obtained him a job as office boy where he progressed for eleven years.

I asked Mike to put his recollections down so that I could include them on the website and within 3 hours the following arrived. I have not edited his thoughts as I think they are a marvellous insight into life at the Football Monthly, warts and all, from an employee's point of view.

"I used to work with Charles Buchan's publications. I started work as a 15 year old lad just left school, on Monday 31st December 1956 as a office boy, at 408 Strand, WC2, and left the firm in October 1967, then at No. 161/166 Fleet Street, EC4, I was then a Production advertisement manager on DISC a weekly musical paper.
I really started work part-time during school holidays in 1956, so I already knew my bosses quite well, as well as Mr. Buchan, my other two bosses were John Thompson and Joe Sarl, and all 3 were the best guvnors I ever had. Apart from those 3 directors, I shared an office with two other workers, David Stacey a Arsenal fan, and Graham Ireland who lived near the Fulham football club, I lived 3 streets from the Chelsea football ground, so I was and still am a Chelsea fanatic. I was the first Chelsea fan to work for Football Monthly, but not the last, as later when in Fleet Street, we had John Shrewsbury join us for a little while till he left and became a producer on BBC'S "Match of the day".

In our old office on 2nd floor of 408 Strand, WC2, we only had two rooms, our three directors Charlie Buchan, John K Thompson, and Joe M Sarl's main office used to overlook the Strand, a great view of the passing Strand traffic and Barclays Bank just opposite. No 408 was and still is between two famous Strand theatres. The second office where David Stacey, Graham Ireland, and Dave Hams worked overlooked Wards Irish House or Nell Gwynn's Inn, onto a small alleyway which leads up to Maiden Lane close to Bedford Street. In 1957 Sporting Cyclist moved in above us on 3rd floor, they to being part of Charles Buchan's Publications, when that name later changed in Fleet Street to Longacre Press, later still Go Magazine,.....We absolutely hated those last two names.

Mr Buchan was like a Grandad to me, as I was the youngest on the firm, and he was a dear man. Not many people knew that he even helped ex-convicts to jobs on release from prison, as he never saw wrong in anybody. I always called my 3 directors Mr, never Charlie, John, or Joe, and I often went to Mr Buchan's flat in Putney to get some cheques signed when he was ill, and couldn't get to work to"408". He had a heart problem for several years, and when died in June 1960, I heard the news on the BBC radio in my parents house, I just broke down and cried, I was just 18, but he was truly a wonderful man. I used to make the coffee at "408" and my 3 bosses just loved my coffee making. Our main job back then was dispatching pens all over the world, as we advertised all the football clubs in Football Monthly. The biggest mistake my 3 directors made was in 1957, publishing a book called "BUS STOP" featuring Marilyn Monroe, they thought it would sell millions, but it turned out to be a complete flop, because there were NO pictures of sexy Marilyn in the book, and it only sold a little more then 200 copies, which made us broke. So in desperation the distributors of Football Monthly bought us out, so in January 1958, us six, moved into a new building No. 161/166 Fleet Street EC4.

Straight away our firm grew from just six to almost 66, as we took on old and new publications, such as weekly papers Sporting Record, Melody Maker, plus a new weekly paper which I later worked on in advertising called DISC, plus another weekly paper Motor Cycling, and monthly magazines other then Football Monthly, Sporting Cyclist, Cine Camera, Rugby World, I was a office boy right up to the time I was 21, by which time John Thompson was our Managing director, he had known me since I was around 14, and I told him, I cannot continue as an office boy at 21, I want to move on, so he immediately had a meeting with two advertising guys and in January 1963, I started work in the advertising dept.
I was thrown in at the deep end and made Advertisement Production manager of DISC, my wage jumped from first starting work at £3.5s.0d, to a 1964 wage of a fabulous £18.19s.0d a week, believe me it was a colossal wage in those days. Some of the changes we didn't like, as some staff we got on with, others you would avoid if possible. Graham Ireland moved into advertising too. David Stacey from Southend Road Wickford is still around, he used to be Arsenal's mascot walking around the old Highbury pitch, I went with him once to Spurs ground where he got pelted with rubbish from the Spurs fans. I have followed Chelsea from 1957/8 all over the country for many years, now I am a season cardholder in the lower West Stand.

I know John Thompson and old Pat Collins, John Macadam, plus Clifford Webb all died several years ago, but not sure about Joe Sarl. Joe came from Feltham, and lived there for many years, he did have a son thought, cannot remember his name.
Back at "408", we did have one man who came in 3 times a week to sub edit Football Monthly a man named Malcolm Cumming, He loved his booze, and I hear he died in 1968.
I remember now Joe's full name was Joseph Maxwell Sarl, and apart from Football Monthly, he worked as the racing correspondent for the now defunct Reynolds News in Grays Inn Road, WC2 . Tom Dalton a Millwall fan also worked at "408" but was rude to a young fan, whose father wrote into Mr Buchan, and he was fired. Tom later appeared on TV and won the $64,000 question on football.

1957, was the best year of my life at "408", it was an old building which has since been rebuilt, it holds great memories, and I know David Stacey would testify to that too, if we ever meet up, the talk would be about "408".

When our bosses went to lunch at Mooneys Irish house, we would be playing football in the office on the 2nd floor, if we heard their voices on the stairs returning, we would suddenly return to our chairs breathless. They were no fools, as one day they came in, Mr Thompson looked at the three of us and said "WHO WON"?....Great guys.

Sporting Cyclist the monthly magazine was also started at "408" edited by Jock Wadley a lovely man from Colchester.

One final story on Mr Buchan is on 6th February 1958, the weekly paper DISC was launched, and all the top singers of the day were there at No. 161/166 Fleet Street. Charlie was due to make a speech in the evening, but just simply said, today has become the saddest day of my life, I cannot say any more, but you people just enjoy yourselves. Of course all the football people present already knew that evening followed the biggest disaster ever in football when that same afternoon, half the Man Utd team, and every journalist bar one were killed at Munich, ALL of whom were Charlie's friends. I remember days later crying when I heard Duncan Edwards had died, as I had met him and Matt Busby in 1955 at Old Trafford."

Sadly I recently learnt from Sean Hayes ( Mike's son ) that Mike passed away on the 3rd August 2008.
Publishers

  • September 1951- February 1964: Charles Buchan's Publications Ltd, 408 The Strand, London WC2
  • March 1964-March 1966: Go Magazine Ltd, 161-166 Fleet Street, London
  • April 1966- May 1969: Longacre Press, 161-166 Fleet Street, London
  • June 1969-June 1974: IPC Business Press
  • IPC owned the copyright to Charles Buchan's when they took over the Longacre Press in 1969 and published issues 214 through to the final issue 274.


The copyright was bought from IPC in 2005 and images and content are available at commercial rates from the owners.We do not own the copyright and only ever sell the original magazines and NEVER the reproductions. In our opinion the authentic original magazines are a better product than commercial reproductions and are investments in their own right.