“Lockdown, on Monday, March 30, 2020 was the day the phones stopped ringing and the printers came to a virtual standstill”

The start of Lockdown due to the Covid Pandemic came as a huge shock to everyone across the country.

Welshpool Printing Group (WPG) Ltd are the official printers for Shrewsbury Town FC  when the football games stopped, so did the printing of their official matchday programmes and other events-based jobs.

Now that the season is back on track and business is expanding, the matchday programmes are flying off the presses once again. We love them more than ever before and they are an integral part of the matchday experience, especially for long-term fans and collectors who read them before, during and after the games.

Impact of the pandemic on football programmes

BBC Radio Shropshire broadcaster, Clare Ashford, interviewed WPG Ltd’s Sales Director Andy Bebb and Sales and Marketing Manager, Sally Williams about the impact of the pandemic on football programmes.

Clare Ashford said: “If you are a footy fan, you will probably know that football grounds across the country are back up to full capacity.

“A big part of the match day tradition for fans will of course be getting their hands on that programme!

“It is something that came to a halt last season because fans were not allowed in to buy them, so you have got to ask yourself, what happened?

“Did the printers just end up coming to a standstill?”

We kept the business going and moved on

Andy Bebb, Sales Director at Welshpool Printing Group (WPG Ltd), who has been with the company for 22 years, said: “Pretty much everything came to a standstill on that Monday. We came in, work had got a bit quieter on the Friday and on Monday, the phones stopped ringing. It pretty much finished all in one day.

“We furloughed most of the staff. But we’ve got a good, young management team here at WPG. We kept the business going throughout. We picked up new customers, different industries, and looked at different methods of printing, to go along with the traditional print on paper.

“So yes, we’ve moved it on, it’s a different company to back then.”

Clare said: “Was there ever a crisis point?

“No,” said Andy. “We’ve got a good management team here and we adapted and we changed the business to make sure that there was no crisis. We picked up new customers, we looked at what we were doing and we moved on. We now do an awful lot more; we do signage, clothing, we moved into facemasks and did supporter cut-outs for Brighton and Hove Albion FC.

Moving the company forward

Clare asked: “Do you think this has accidentally reinvigorated your company into a new way of thinking?”

“Oh it absolutely has, yes. This company is now so much better than it was 18 months ago because we’ve had to look at every aspect of what we were doing. We now know exactly where we need to be to move the company forward. We’ve looked at all aspects and made them better and we are in a far better position to move on in the future.”

Renewed vigour for the programmes

Clare asked: “Is the demand still there for the match-day programmes?”

Sally Williams, Sales and Marketing Manager for WPG Ltd, said: “Hi Clare, yes it is actually busier than it has been before. There’s a renewed vigour for the programmes and there’s more anticipation than ever.

“As awful as it was, for so many, for so long, there have been some good things to come out of the pandemic. One of them is that we know what we value in life.

“Football was changed overnight, like everything else, and the pandemic had terrible consequences for so many people. We are not going to forget the terrible things that happened. For football to suddenly have no crowds, took a lot of pleasure away from a lot of people across the country and now things are getting back to normal.

A mood-lifting special edition

“The programmes are flying off the shelves again. Shrewsbury Town’s one game of the season against Oxford United on May 1, 2021, was turned into a mood lifting special edition, with all proceeds going to Shrewsbury Town In the Community (STITC). Jamie Edwards and Steve Burnside from STITC wanted to boost the club’s spirits and to help the most vulnerable families in the town, who faced isolation and those with cancer, who faced fear and heightened anxiety during the pandemic.

“And the result was one of the most impressive sporting special editions that Welshpool Printing Group has ever had the pleasure to print. Beautifully finished, with an exclusive cover, foiled in gold and silver and signed by the chairman, Roland Wycherley.”

Clare said, “It sounds doubtful after what you just said, but is there ever a danger in a post-Covid world that the programme could go online?”

People love print more than ever

Sally said: “I think after the pandemic, a lot of people just love print more than ever. I think they’ve fallen back in love with print again.

“To see the programmes and the crowds back in the stadium is a massive thing for people. We all went without live crowds and contact for so long, that our return to printing the official matchday programme for Shrewsbury Town FC is even more anticipated than ever before.”

Clare asked, “With a busy run of home games and week games, how does that work printing the programmes, it must be a really busy week?”

Andy said: “I’ve got tonight’s programme in front of me, hot off the presses, it came into us at 2pm yesterday afternoon, we printed through the night, and we will finish it this morning and deliver into Shrewsbury Town at about 1pm this afternoon.

“Saturday’s programme comes in at 2pm on the Thursday and we deliver it at around about 3pm on the Friday. The print runs are slightly up. The pagination is slightly down. But Shrewsbury use their programme to keep in touch with their fans.”

If you would like to listen to the Radio Shropshire broadcast go to 1hr 37 seconds into https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p09rj7p5


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