The rules and regulations of online comment, if indeed they exist at all, have been subject to much scrutiny in recent months. Legally, boundaries are not so much grey as pitch black and there has been a sense of finding one’s way through a minefield of potential problems. This site has been prominent in recounting the issues that have faced two Yorkshire based websites, Viva Rovers and Boy from Brazil after both bit the dust, and the closure of a cluster of other sources has left the footballing blogosphere in a state of flux.
One response has been to return to basics. Although the demise of Wolves fanzine A Load of Bull perhaps signifies a deeper trend, some print publications continue to thrive, taking advantage as they do of the simple distribution channels of match day circulation, a regular publication schedule, word limits that force contributors to be concise and the still large population of fans for whom twitter might as well be a new brand of orbital sander.
The other major plus point of fanzines is the ability to charge – not always a King’s Ransom of course – but the means to make a little bit of money out of one’s writing or at least cover one’s costs. While the slightest hint of a Tesco ad on a blog or writing for free for a profit-making concern can bring down opprobrium on the head of the average blogger, nobody calls into question the right of a fanzine editor to do business with Khan Tandoori or to request a quid for his or her efforts.
Which brings us to the Popular Stand fanzine, a long running voice for Doncaster Rovers fans and an organ that has found a new lease of life in the shabby aftermath of Viva Rovers’ shutdown. A disclaimer in the most recent issue apologises for ‘this awkward papery form that doesn’t quite fit in any of your pockets’ while pointing readers in the direction of the zine’s online presence.
Nonetheless, the print version is a breeze to read and having devoured Issue 56 on a snowbound escape from South Yorkshire in January, I turned my attention to Issue 57 – available for just a single English pound.
The success of the Popular Stand lies in its very high standard of writing – much of which is assured by Viva’s Glen Wilson – a man whom regular readers of this site will know has a splendid turn of phrase.
Glen has managed to persuade a number of previous contributors to come out of retirement to join him and the likes of John Coyle, Matt Clift and Jack the Miner have emerged from the wilderness to pen a range of informative articles. The result is everything a fanzine should be – open minded, funny, responsible on key issues and critical of the club hierarchy where opinions need to be voiced. That said, the likelihood, post Sportspages bookshops, that 99% of readers will be Donny Rovers fans does see a mood of partisanship prevail (thankfully minus idiocy).
Indeed, despite Glen’s oft spoken doubts about the Willie McKay project at the Keepmoat, a whole article by Coyle is devoted to defending El Hadji Diouf, lavishly praised for a dervish’s performance against West Ham and even the editor finds time to praise the self-styled serial killer for his talent as a footballer (while underlining his unsuitability for Doncaster).
Ditto Habib Beye – a good footballer for sure – but one rumoured to rival Peter Mayle in the amount of time he spends in Provence and the recent recipient of an unnecessarily lengthy contract extension. But don’t worry, there hasn’t been a softening towards the new regime – McKay himself has admitted that the plan to recruit players for their sell on value hasn’t particularly worked; Marc-Antoine Fortuné finding himself back at West Bromwich Albion and Herold Goulon’s ‘shop window’ placement being likened to that of a sign bearing the legend ‘Closed’.
But it’s an altogether breezy, fatalistic take on things – there is underlying concern of course, but Rovers will be a League 1 club next season and one frustratingly short article rightly welcomes the chance to revisit grounds with better food and more character such as Griffin Park and Plainmoor. Doncaster supporters know their place and acknowledge that the past decade has been an unrepresentative one in their history while bemoaning the avoidable circumstances that have led to their current demise and bristling at the BBC’s description of them as ‘lowly’.
That history is well catered for – with wonderfully detailed look backs to the 1972-3 and 1997-8 seasons – and another facet I enjoyed was some good old fashioned baiting of rivals – that nice fellow Ken Bates is shown waving his fist in one photograph and a feature labelled ‘Spotted’ provokes a smile – a sighting of James Hayter is to be expected but Barry Fry in the Frenchgate shopping centre clutching a bevy of House of Fraser bags?
In all, it’s a super read and a reminder of the varying platforms football writing can be discovered at. It’s also 100% unnecessary to be a Doncaster Rovers fan to enjoy it – the issues are those facing a whole host of clubs and the way the whole DRFC plan really doesn’t seem to be adding up – financially nor ethically – is laid bare. Find out more about it here.