Saturday, March 01, 2008

Roy of the Rovers Archive

Following on from the news that Titan Books are to begin publishing a line of Roy of the Rovers books, beginning with The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s in June, the second title has now been announced: Roy of the Rovers Archives: Volume 1 (ISBN 978-1845769499) covers Roy's debut in the pages of Tiger. The books will be in hardcover, 144 pages, priced £12.99. According to Titan: "Rarely seen, never collected, these are the original Roy of the Rovers tales, lovingly restored and presented in beautiful dustjacketed hardbacks. The first of a highly collectible library, this debut volume also sports fascinating features on the genesis and history of Roy, along with commentary, checklists and an exclusive introduction."

Roy debuted in the first issue of Tiger in September 1954, written by Frank S. Pepper & Joe Colquhoun under the pen-name Stewart Colwyn and drawn by Colquhoun. According to Titan the books will contain a year's worth of strips and there were natural annual breaks as new adventures began in the pages of Tiger to coincide with the new football season. For the 1954/55 season, we can expect to learn how Roy Race, centre-forward with the Milston Youth Club, is spotted by Melchester Rovers' Alf Leeds and offered a place with the popular league team. Roy and his school pal Blackie Gray are soon to be found playing in the Rovers' youth team, beginning a partnership on and off the pitch that was to last forty years.

Titan are planning a big launch for Roy's first collection, possibly to be held at a football ground, and a big promotion in the run up to Father's Day.

(Titan Books have also announced the next Charley's War book, for release on 28 October 2008. It's called Charley's War: Return to the Front (ISBN 978-1845767969).)

Roy of the Rovers' last magazine appearance was in the football magazine Match and footy mags seem set to be the next battlefield between publishers.

Back in the days of my youth, the football magazine everyone bought was Shoot. Launched on 16 August 1969, Shoot quickly picked up a circulation of around 300,000 and for the next few years its premier position seemed unshakable. It absorbed Goal (launched in 1968) in 1974 and during the 1970s maintained a circulation of around a quarter of a million copies a week. In 1979 it was challenged by Match Weekly, launched on 6 September; IPC tried to stifle the new magazine by launching another of their own, Top Soccer a week later (dated 15 September); it didn't work, and Top Soccer folded only a few months later, absorbed into Shoot on 12 January 1979.

Eventually, Match (as its name was shortened to in 1983) emerged victorious. Shoot became a monthly in May 2001 and Match (website here) has remained the strongest selling of the two titles. Recent circulation figures have pegged the ailing Shoot at 35,830 copies a month whilst Match has had a healthy weekly sale of 113,049 for publisher Bauer Consumer Media who took over the title from Emap.

It seems that's all about to change as Shoot, aimed at the under 12 football fan, is trying to reestablish itself. Its website (which you can find here) describes the magazine as "the loudest, brightest, funniest and naughtiest footy magazine on the market." It has activity features, jokes, funny pictures and posters... "but even though we are all about "the fun", the new Shoot remains first and foremost a football title, dedicated to bringing our readers into the world of their heroes. Whether it be through interviews (they can even ask questions themselves!), jaw-dropping facts or how-to pages, the new Shoot is the mag that gets readers closer to the stars"

Following the release of the March 2008 issue, Shoot has just been relaunched as a weekly on February 26th. Plans had been in the offing for some time but had to be brought forward with the announcement that BBC were to launch their own football magazine, Match of the Day. Not the first time the BBC have had a magazine of that title--they had one back in the 1990s which was aimed at the same adult audience who regularly watched the TV show. The magazine folded after a five-year run in May 2001, and the revamped weekly title, planned under the code name 'Project Robin', is now being aimed at 8-to-14-year-olds. Edited by ex-Match editor Ian Foster, the new mag. will go on sale on Tuesday, March 4th.

But that's not all. The market has also recently seen the launch of Kick!, launched by Attic Media Network in 2006 following the successful launch of a German magazine of the same title in 2005 which sold 80,000 copies. Kick's latest ABC figure is 62,290, up 24% year-on-year--at a cost to Match which was down 13% in the same period. (Shoot was up 7.1% following a relaunch in September 2007.)

There are at least four other general (not club specific) soccer magazines aimed at a more adult audience: Champions (24,775), Four Four Two (114,215), When Saturday Comes (18,800) and World Soccer (44,020).

If that's not enough to fill the battlefield, Interactive Publishing (who took over various adult titles formerly published by Richard Desmond) are to launch their own monthly magazine called The League which they appear to be hoping will make it easier to get financing for new titles if they are not so reliant on adult titles.

'BBC Magazine to launch weekly sports title' by Nickki Preston (, 14 Jan 2008)
'BBC launched MOTD magazine' by Lucy Tesseras (, 21 Feb 2008)
'Football magazine market heats up' by Chris Tryhorn (The Guardian, 21 Feb 2008)
'Who'll get the red card as BBC joins battle of the football mags?' by James Robinson, The Observer, 24 Feb 2008)
'Interactive launches football magazine' by John Reynolds (Media Week, 26 Feb 2008)

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