Culture

Farewell Albert Sewell, the man who invented the classic programme

HOW sad to hear of the passing of Albert Sewell, Chelsea fan, programme guru, statistician and, above all, a genuine football fan.

Albert Sewell, in the late 1940s, initiated a magazine-style programme at Chelsea, the first club to change the way football communicated with its fans. Sewell’s trail-blazing publication was soon copied by all and sundry and Chelsea had an incredible record for selling a programme to almost everyone in the crowd, in an age when gates were booming.

Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, Chelsea’s programme was among the very best, and it was the friendly, accessible style of Sewell that set the benchmark. Chelsea fans will remember the intro to many a season’s programme, “The Talk of Stamford Bridge”, a tag that was replicated by many clubs.

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He wrote an excellent book, Chelsea Champions, to mark the club’s 50th anniversary, which coincided with a first league title. He then repeated the trick in the early 1970s with the Chelsea Football Book.

Always magnanimous in victory or defeat, Sewell created a marvellous link between Chelsea and the fans. He truly cared and in 1974 when he urged the club to move forward once more after a grim couple of seasons, he was nudged aside by the board. Sewell, forever the optimist and standard-bearer, had seen what was happening at the club and was replaced. As a result, the Chelsea programme, for so long a market leader, declined, until in 1976-77 they brought him back. Chelsea readers rejoiced and his return to the editor’s desk was marked with a much-needed promotion. When things were bad, fans could, at least, console themselves with a first-class publication.

He later worked for Match of the Day and was often mentioned as the man behind the scenes who could come up with any fact or figure the TV programme desired.

Albert Sewell was a big influence on some people, myself included. As a young lad, his programme editorials were a catalyst and instilled in me a wish to become a writer. In some ways, Sewell was my first inspiration and my own career as a business and football scribe owes its source to reading those Chelsea programmes from the 1960s and 1970s. When I celebrated 25 years at Deutsche Bank as a business writer (and part-time football writer), I was asked who my writing influences were. I named Christopher Isherwood, Evelyn Waugh, JB Priestley, Patrick Leigh Fermor and…Albert Sewell. A few heads were scratched, but then I explained.

I truly owe Albert something. Thank you and RIP, Mr. Sewell.

Top picture, even players read Sewell’s programme notes. Roy Bentley and Ken Armstrong of Chelsea’s 1955 title-winners. Photo: PA

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