‘The Green Soccer Journal’ is a British football magazine that blends design, fashion and football. And now it has a real Dutch flavor too. Gregory van der Wiel is on the cover of the latest issue and is labeled ‘The Dutch Master for the 21st century’. Clarence Seedorf was on the first cover, back in 2009. One Saturday Afternoon had a chat with co-founder James Roper and talked about the maturation of one of the most beautiful and impressive football magazines out there.
“When we started, Adam Towle (c0-founder, osa.) and I, more than anything simply felt that there were a lot of great magazines that focused on art, fashion, music and business, however there wasn’t a go to publication that represented football in the way that we enjoyed editorial. Although we weren’t from publishing backgrounds, we have expertise in areas of fashion, design and communication and therefore attempted to create our own version of a football magazine . . . We were both working for different companies at the time and it all started out as a side project. Once we released the pilot issue it quickly gained momentum and we were working on the magazine full time within a matter of months.”
Tell us about the start… what obstacles were there to be over won?
“We went into the project with a lot of self belief and confidence, which I think helped convince brands, players, photographers and journalists to come on board and get behind the magazine. Our main obstacle was getting access to the players and personalities, as we were unheard of at the time. Saying that, this is an area that is still extremely difficult, I think it’s just the nature of football. And money was obviously an issue as we started the company from scratch with no investment. We quickly ran out of our personal finances and simply had to graft and pursue every opportunity that came our way. It has been a real struggle at times, however we learned a lot of valuable lessons by doing it all ourselves and are still learning them today.”
The look is ultra professional, from day one. How did you guys manage to do that?
“Adam and I are both from fashion and design backgrounds, something that we have studied and applied to our day to day life for quite a few years now. It felt natural for us to create a magazine to a high standard, this was very much the intention when we started the project. We had good contacts with some amazing contributors and it all came together the way any other respected magazine would.”
The online presence also looks very slick, in a good way… how important is your online identity, alongside the print?
“We had very little digital presence until 2015, this was down to concentrating on print and never being completely satisfied with the designs we had for online. After the World Cup in 2014 we invested a lot of time and money into the new website and worked with an impressive agency that helped us design and build a site that represented what we do in print. It has been a great experience and has allowed us to work on a daily basis on content as well as attracting attention from a much bigger audience. We are in the process of expanding this further and growing the business to accommodate our skills across print and online.”
Does high end print, like ‘The Green Soccer Journal’ is, have a future?
“There has been an influx of independent magazines over the past five years and we need to make sure that we stay ahead of the game when competing for sales. There will always be a future for print if you treat it in the right way and make sure your customers are receiving value for money, which I believe we offer in abundance.”
What was, or still is, the long term ambition? What can we expect?
“We never set out with a major goal (perhaps we should have) but now, more than ever, we are committed to making The Green Soccer Journal into a viable business venture. We have a number of ideas that expand outside of publishing and we are talking to potential partners that can provide the expertise in realizing these ambitions. You’ll have to wait and see . . .”
Clarence Seedorf was on the first ever cover. Why him?
“He was a player and personality that always seemed to have a more in depth appreciation of football and culture, and we believed he would understand what we were trying to achieve. It turns out we were right, he responded to our request and from that day onwards the bar was set.”
The magazine had en has some of the world biggest football stars co operating. How do you guys get them to cooperate?
“The footballers themselves are usually great to work with, when you actually get them in front of the camera. The problem is getting them there. Due to their schedules and contracts with clubs and brands you have to be very patient and build good relationships with their management teams.”
Gregory van der Wiel is on the latest cover. Why him?
“It’s important to work with players that have an interest in what we do. Gregory was keen to be involved as he enjoys being in front of the camera and understands the fashion element of the magazine. We also had a direct link to him through a friend of ours . . . Which always helps.”
Check out the behind the scenes of the Gregory van der Wiel shoot right here
Who did the shoot, can you tell us a little bit about it?
“We shot this feature in Paris with a photographer called Christophe Meimoon. It’s always easier to work with players as close as possible to their club, just in case Laurent Blanc decides to call a training session! My business partner Adam worked on this feature, so he has more insight on how the day went. From what I heard though, Gregory was great and the whole process was a lot more relaxed than some other shoots we have worked on. For example, the issue before, we flew to Madrid to shoot Iker Casillas and were supposed to have 2 hours with him . . . We ended up with 40 minutes to get all the shots, video and an interview.”
You guys gave up your jobs to make the magazine a success… was that a difficult choice to make?
“I was at Burberry for nearly three years, straight out of university and had already started to think I might want to try something more independent. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make as I had a great job there and made some amazing friends. Plus the money was good! Saying that though, I don’t believe either of us regret giving up our previous employment for a second. The struggle only makes it that much more worth while when you eventually make something successful of your own back.”
Is it, or was it, difficult to convince brands to cooperate? How does a partnership usually come about?
“Yes and no. It all depends on which brands they are and what they have going on at that moment in time. We never have a problem with the creative execution, as this is what we do best. You just have to be selective and work with brands that appreciate and understand the way you work.”
Editorial, what kind of growth has the magazine made, in between issue #1 and the latest issue?
“We have a much wider reach now and have developed a distribution method which is a lot more selective. Originally we had a really bad distribution deal as we were quite naive to how that world worked. We ended up losing a lot of copies and potential sales. After issue 2 we took all of this in house and now hand pick the best stores in the world to stock the magazine. This method, along with our new website where you can buy the magazine directly allows us a steady flow of sales throughout the year. We still get customers asking for all of our back issues, it has become a bit of a collectors item.”
Is the magazine already making a profit?
“Over the five year period we have always managed to make a small profit, which is pretty good going for a startup during a recession! We reinvested a lot of the money we made from The World Cup back into an extra member of staff and the new website. Now that we have all this in place, our aim this year is to expand further and start to bring in substantial profits and work on some new exciting plans for The Green Soccer Journal.”
What is makes you guys the most proud?
“The fact we are still here.”
And: please define your love for football… because, we agree… everything starts out with the love for the game!
“I am surrounded by football all day . . . So I like to step back and appreciate the simplicity of the game. That’s pretty much what we try and create with the magazine. There is so much noise and hype in the media, we want to strip this back and offer something that you can take time out of your day to enjoy. I love the opportunity to surround myself by people that all share the same interest. Whether it’s watching football at home, at the game or in the pub. There’s something comforting about it all.”
The Green Soccer Journal was founded in 2009, by James Roper (Derby, 1985) and Adam Towle (Derby, 1983). Click here to enter the website of The Green Soccer Journal.