What is the first thing we all do when we enter a sports stadium? We probably head for the person selling the match programmes.
In every sport we have those who purchase a match programme to find out a little bit more about the team lineouts and other information which is now the norm in most publications. Then there are the programme collectors who want the same information but who also see the publication as an investment, not in the short term but some years ahead.
I know many people who have a passion for collecting GAA match programmes. Some will do it as a hobby but for others it presents a commercial opportunity along with the sale of other GAA memorabilia from time to time.
The quality of match programmes in every sport has steadily improved with the emergence of colour photographs adding greatly to the quality of the presentations.
Supporters attending senior and intermediate club games in Kilkenny are now accustomed to getting a match programme which lists all the teams for the upcoming weekend’s games. This is a fine publication which takes a lot of effort on the part of a number of dedicated officials who must assemble the relevant information in the week leading up to the games.
But whether it is Kilkenny club games or an inter-county game the one piece of information we want to see in all match programmes is the correct team layouts. Regrettably, that does not always happen
There can sometimes be valid reasons for inaccurate teams but more often than not it is a classic case of
gamesmanship by a manager. Such a practice shows contempt for the supporter who buys the programme.
There is little excuse for inter-county teams not supplying an accurate line out. Players will, of course, get injured or ill close to game time but this falls into the exceptional circumstances category.
What we have seen, admittedly not too often, is silly carry-on from some team manager or others which appears to be aimed at unsettling their opponents. No consideration is given to the supporter.
The problem with inaccurate team selections is more prevalent in club games. I appreciate it can be much more difficult to predict club selections especially if games are played on consecutive weeks.
However, there is nothing more frustrating for a supporter than to see a team line out which bears no resemblance to what is shown in the match programme.
Statistics are also an important feature in any match programme particularly in relation to league tables and key results. Thankfully the GAA has some great statisticians and whether it is provincial or national competitions we attend there is usually plenty to read before the game and at the interval.
The opportunity to include statistics in programmes for club games is usually confined to the latter stages of the championship. That is understandable but most of all supporters want accurate teams and player profiles.
There is a procedure to reprimand counties if they fail to submit teams on time plus the accuracy of the line-out. Such sanctions, though, are rare. It is more difficult to police the process for club games but an improvement is required in 2014.
I just wonder have we got to the stage where listing the panel of players is all that should appear in the match programme rather giving a team line-out which bears no resemblance to what takes to the pitch.
It would certainly make life easier for the dedicated officials who assemble the match programmes in Kilkenny during the playing season. At least then they would not be fobbed off by clubs telling them to use the same line-out as played in the last game.