While the National Library of Scotland has the privilege to collect material published in the UK free of charge, knowing of a publication’s existence is sometimes problematic. When it comes to collecting almost ephemeral material such as Scottish football fanzines the task becomes a major challenge.
In spite of this obstacle the Library has acquired significant quantities of fanzines representing virtually every SPFL club as well as the Scottish national team and sides in the junior, Highland and amateur leagues; and for fans of fanzines there are also fanzines about fanzines. Emerging from the music fanzine scene of the late 1970s most of the material (but by no means all) appeared in the mid 1980s and throughout the 1990s, before widespread use of the internet and social media, and reflects the availability of affordable word processors and office photocopying.
Fanzines are distinctly local and do-it-yourself. It is common for many of these photocopied titles to run to only a few issues before they lose momentum or commitment. Others have tens of issues appearing as low-budget productions, but there are those which have high production values, professional printing and run into hundreds of issues, such as The Hearts supporter [Heart of Midlothian] or Follow, follow [Rangers]. A title such as Not the view [Celtic] made the transition from photocopied booklet to professionally produced items resembling football programmes.
Of course the content, regardless of team affiliation, is not regulated and fanzines tend to mirror the footballing prejudices, rivalries and preoccupations of the fans in general, or contributors in particular. Still these are the genuine concerns and opinions of supporters at a specific time of change in Scottish football (the influence of satellite broadcasting, moves to all-seated stadia, and so on) – frequently they take an alternative view to official club publications, which might be construed as too positive and uncontroversial, confronting owners’, managers’ and players’ perceived (or real) shortcomings. The over-ripe, often puerile and sometimes downright rude is not everyone’s cup of Bovril and literary merit is not always advanced in these works; however, imaginative titles often are – what The gibbering clairvoyant [Dumbarton] means is anyone’s guess.
The nature of the material, independent production and low print runs, means that it has always been difficult to identify and source fanzines in order to make collections in any way comprehensive. With the passage of time accepting donations of individual collections has become the principle means of acquiring Scottish football fanzines – and the Library is always willing to look at collections of fanzines that, given donors’ generosity, enhance the national collections and provide meaningful representation of a particular moment in Scottish DIY publishing.