Leeds United Part 3: The Fan Experience

Part three of a four-part series exploring the history of Leeds United, as told through books and other materials held at the Central Library. You can find all of the parts in our dedicated Sport page and all the books mentioned here can be accessed by contacting us on 0113 37 86982 or via localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk

The relationship between a football club and its supporters remains central to the modern game. Leeds United are backed by one of the most passionate fan bases in the country, a support reflected in the Central Library collections: the earliest example being a 1958 photograph of the Leeds United Supporter’s Club (Beeston Branch), part of our Leodis collection.

The fan experience is best expressed through two print sources, however – match-day programmes and fanzines, which can be thought of as two-sides of the same experience: one official and occasionally sanitised; the other revelling in a post-punk, DIY attitude and aesthetic.

The Central Library holds a good collection of match-day programmes, mainly from the 1990s and 2000s, but including a handful from the 1960s and 70s. The match-day experience is also thoroughly-explored in one of the best books ever written about the history of Leeds: Jon Howe’s The Only Place for Us: An A-Z History of Elland Road.

Fanzines, too, are well-represented at the Central Library, including occasional copies of 1980s publications The Peacock, The Hanging Sheep and Crossbar. The best-known Leeds United fanzine, however, is The Square Ball; the Central Library holds a small selection of issues, mainly from the 2012/2013 season, together with The Square Ball: The First Twenty Years of the Leeds United Fanzine, a book collecting highlights from 1989 to 2008.

While fanzines remain the primary vehicle for expressing fan emotions, some supporters have also written autobiographical books. Heidi Haigh’s Follow Me and Leeds United explores life as a female fan in the exciting, if occasionally dangerous, 1970s, while Gary Edwards’ Fanatical covers his attendance at every LUFC match from 1968 to 2014. Fanthology (2004) collects memories from a range of fans, including Leeds author Louise Rennison.

Leeds United fans have not always enjoyed the best reputation. Two publications tell part of that darker story: a 1986 report by the Home Office looks at the tragic events in May 1985, when Leeds’ match at Birmingham City was overshadowed by serious, fatal hooligan violence. Terror on Our Terraces, a joint 1988 publication from the Leeds Trades Union Council and Leeds Anti-Fascist Action, confronts the presence of the far-right at Elland Road and led to the launch of the Marching Altogether fanzine, which more broadly challenged racist behaviour at the ground.

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