A football fan’s paradise: Dealer selling business storing a million programmes
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Ever dreamed of owning a collection of more than a million football programmes, including some of the rarest ever produced?
That fantasy could soon become a reality as one of the country’s best-known dealers looks to find a buyer for his seemingly never-ending stock of the endearing matchday souvenirs.
Steve Earl, owner of Steve Earl Football Programmes, is selling the mail order business after 48 years of trading which has seen copies worth thousands of pounds pass in and out of his Bungay base.
As the 67-year-old grows older and the collection continues to expand, the time has come to hand over the baton to another football fanatic - providing they have enough space.
“There is definitely more than a million programmes,” said the Norwich City season ticket holder. “Beyond that I have no idea how many there are!
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“I’ve been thinking of moving on for a while, mainly due to age and because it’s so time-consuming. What the business needs now is someone younger to dedicate more time to the website because I’ve only really dabbled with the online side of things.
“People have been asking about the size and value of the stock, but I say the same thing to everyone - you need to come and see it first to understand the scale.”
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One of Mr Earl’s rarest programmes is from the 1973 European Cup Final contested between Ajax and Juventus, thought to fetch about £4,000 with just 400 copies in existence.
His oldest copy is from the 1921 FA Cup final, while the charming programme for the 1950 World Cup final is among his favourites.
But the true test for a programme dealer is spotting the originals from the replicas, and Mr Earl says there is one programme in particular that presents problems.
“You have to be very careful of reprints, especially with the 1966 World Cup final,” added Mr Earl, who started the business part-time after receiving a loan from his parents, before going full-time in 1970. “With a trained eye, 99 times out of a hundred I can spot the reprints because you come to learn the subtle differences.
“These days programmes are almost too slick, too much of a muchness, but you have to keep getting new stuff in. I don’t know of anyone with a bigger stock and the key is keeping it refreshed.”