This Is Not Football has an unashamed admiration for any ‘normal’ people who have the talent and determination to get out there and create stuff. It’s for that reason we got in touch with Daniel Sandison, co-founder and editor of Halcyon Magazine and Stand Against Modern Football, who kindly took time away from his nascent media empire to talk to us about magazines, football and all the usual good stuff.
Check out both excellent publications if you are not familiar with them already.
You are only 23 but you have already established two magazines, how did you start?
I studied film at university but I found it too expensive to start making my own. I enjoy writing and I wanted to do something that appealed to people like me and my mates, basically, so initially two of us set up a website, which was Halcyon. It started off with just light-hearted fanzine-type stuff, top tens and things like that, but after a while we started to run low on stuff because we were doing it on our own. We got a few more lads involved to write style pieces until eventually there were five of us, all unemployed, because there’s really not that much work around in the field we want to be involved in.
We made a decision to put it into print, just for something to do at first, really, but also because we believed that there is a gap in the market for magazines for lads like us. We don’t buy Esquire and spend thousands of pounds on suits, but neither are we interested in reading Nuts to look at pictures of people falling off their motorbikes in ‘hilarious’ ways.
The production values of that first issue, with the iconic cover featuring Carl Froch, were really impressive. How did you manage that?
It was always important to make it look and feel good, because if you don’t then people won’t take it seriously. You can’t talk with any authority about a great sportsman, a great coat or pair of trainers if the magazine itself looks shit.
We were really happy with the final product, but the process behind it was really haphazard. A lot of it was very last-minute and we had to ask people for favours where normally they would have been paid, things like that.
It was a free mag, presumably funded by advertising, just going and getting the ads themselves must have taken some doing.
It is difficult, because it is a competitive market, especially if you are a new magazine. The five of us worked hard at it, because we basically didn’t have any money of our own to put into it, and it was a case of finding brands who were perhaps willing to take a risk because they really liked our brand. They are few and far between though, which makes the selling of the ads probably the toughest part of the process – and the reason why the issues are published so irregularly.
It’s a balancing act, because by the time you get the money in, the content you have been working on can end up out of date. We’ve got some great content already for a third issue but we just face that funding stumbling block at the moment.
How did you arrive at the idea of Stand Against Modern Football?
Through Twitter likeminded people often come together and that was the case here – I ended up in contact with the two other lads I now edit Stand with, Mark Smith who also edits Proper Magazine, and Seb White. It was Seb’s idea initially – Against Modern Football has been a movement on the Continent for years, in places like Italy and Sweden, and it’s just started to rear its head a little bit over here.
People have obviously been banging the drum in football fanzines over here long before we ever did, but it seems to be appearing more in mainstream media, so we thought that perhaps it was a good time to bring everyone’s opinions together in a neutral setting. Obviously football’s fundamentally tribal, so people aren’t seeing the great points other fans are making because they are in club-specific fanzines that they would never buy.
The idea was just to raise the issues – the same old ones, like ticket prices – but to make the point that whatever you are thinking, there are people in the same situation at other clubs, whether they are just down the road or on the other side of the world. You would never hear those stories without some sort of platform though. There’s no manifesto of ‘your club should be doing this’ because people who pay their money know what’s best for their club – the idea is to just let them tell their own story.
How’s it been received so far?
Really well to be honest. We did a thousand copies of the first issue and we don’t sell them at the match so one lad had to sort out an awful lot of postage. Maybe we should have expected the demand, because there did seem to be a sort of hunger for it on Twitter, where the idea snowballed, but we were still overwhelmed.
Given the way that football fans, and indeed people in general, can be excited about the idea of campaigns and movements initially and then sort of drift off, do you think you can maintain that momentum?
There definitely is always that danger, and that’s why it’s so important not to tell people what to do. I think the momentum will come from the fact that there are 166 clubs in the Football League and there are so many more around the world who are also involved. As I said, in Sweden and Italy they have had established movements for years so hopefully we can learn from them and the progress they have made. We can also learn from FC United and AFC Wimbledon – let’s look at the things that they are doing right.
What do you think are the main things that need changing and, perhaps more importantly, can be changed about modern football?
Obviously there are a lot of things that have improved. The safety is the biggest thing, and while some people miss the feeling of being threatened when they go at an away game, the vast majority don’t.
However, I think the biggest, most fundamental problem is that 99% of clubs simply don’t value their fans any more. They need to have a voice and to be listened to, whether it’s regarding ticket prices, players wages or television rights – whatever affects different clubs.
I don’t know whether that’s through establishing Trusts or exactly how they can have that input, but clubs are going to have to realise that they are alienating their supporters even though they keep marketing the game on the heritage of those original core supporters. The people who have created all that proud heritage, at Liverpool, Manchester United or wherever, are now being priced out.
So I think there are a lot of things wrong, but altogether they add up to that overall sense of alienation, and that’s what needs confronting.
To actually get things done together as supporters of different clubs I think we could do with a sort of temporary ceasefire in terms of, say, laughing at Wigan for only selling so many tickets and things like that. Banging on about things like that all the time eventually makes you part of the problem.
I don’t think everyone should all put their arms around each other and say ‘let’s take on the boards’ but we need to think about the positions that other clubs are in. In an ideal world we could all work together, sort things out and then all go back to hating each other again.
For the time being though, we know that we are still in the minority. There are a lot of people who don’t have any real problem paying £60 to watch the match – younger ones might not actually know any different. Unfortunately, at the moment at some clubs if you take the stance that you are going to stop attending the club are happy for someone else to come in your place who will probably spend more than you in the shop.
Showing people that there is another way is the thing at the moment though. Hopefully when enough people realise that there might be a consensus whereby supporters will come together and demand changes.
As I say, there have been improvements but there are still problems, and we’d like to see some sort of happy medium where the original fans along with the new supporters who have been attracted to the game can all benefit. It’s not a case of wanting things back the way they were; it’s about them evolving again for the better.
Finally, what would be your advice to anyone else setting out to start their own magazine?
Don’t do it on your own – there will be plenty of other likeminded people out there wanting to do the same thing. There’s a stigma about the internet, that it’s just full of weirdos – which is true to an extent – but there are also people from around the world with the exact same interests and tastes as you.
Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice either, no matter how out of your league they might seem. Again the internet has shortened those distances – send them an email and you might be surprised. And if they won’t help you then just don’t help them in the future!