Team Tabs

These are certainly far older than I had ever imagined! Previously, I had na​​ïvely believed that SHOOT! produced the first of these in the 1969-70 season, but research has revealed that in fact they go all the way back into the 1920s!

The major producers of these little items were ROVER, CHAMPION, TIGER, LION and VALIANT comics, all published by Amalgamated Press / Fleetway / IPC from the early 1920s and into the 1970s. It seems that they employed a system for categorising each division of the Football League, at least until 1963 when it appears that team ‘colours’ took over.

c1934-35 to 1959-60
1st Division = white lettering on blue background and red edges
​2nd Division = red lettering on white background and blue edges
3rd Division = blue lettering on white background and red edges*
​4th Division = white lettering on red background and blue edges*
​​*There is evidence that the colours were alternated for these last two divisions; I have seen 3rd Division tabs with white lettering, red background and blue edges and, similarly, 4th Division tabs with blue lettering, white backgrounds and red edges.

1923 Rover tab     1934 Champion tab     1938 Champion tab     1955 TIGER tab     1958 TIGER tab     1959 LION tab

1960 – 1968
I suspect – but cannot yet prove – that from 1960-61 the colours changed for the first time; certainly in 1962-63 the 2nd Division teams were represented by red letters on a yellow background with black edges. Also, up until 1962-63 tabs were not perforated for easy ‘push-out’ use; instead they had to be cut from the sheet by excited young schoolboys wielding scissors or in some cases, it would appear, garden shears, hence the rather haphazard shape of some tabs that I have seen!

1962 VALIANT tab     1963 LION tab     1964 VALIANT tab     1965 LION tab

The LION issue of 1963-64 marked the year that they shifted to team colours and another innovation for this season was the printing of the previous season’s finishing position – a boon to all collectors trying to date individual tabs. It also seems as though between 1955 and 1965 the League Ladders published were alternated between LION and one of TIGER and VALIANT comics.

By the late 1960s EVERYBODY wanted to get in on the act and all sorts of commodities were issuing their own ‘League Ladders’ in a variety of shapes and sizes. The VICTOR tab was a peelable sticker and note the different backgrounds to the two SUN tabs which helps to differentiate them.

1969 VICTOR tab     1970 SCORE'N'ROAR tab     1970 LYONS MAID tab

1972 NABISCO tab     1973 SUN tab     1978 SMITHS CRISPS tab     1988 LINEKER tab     1990 ROY ROVERS tab     1990 DAILY EXPRESS tab     1996 NOTW tab     2000 SUN tab     2001 SUN tab     2001 BBC KICKOFF tab     2001 CROWTHER tab     2017 RETROCRAFTS tab

SHOOT! (1969-70 to 1999-2000)
Perhaps the most fondly remembered and most widely known team tabs were those produced by IPC’s SHOOT! magazine from 1969 until 2000, although not 1970-71 when they were issued with SCORE’N’ROAR’ instead, as confirmed HERE.
As you can see, they underwent quite a change in presentation although they certainly stuck to using team colours for each of the clubs. One problem for the collector came with the decision in 1970 to drop the previous season’s finishing position (thankfully re-instated by 1990) in favour of information about where the club played, which makes dating these items all the more difficult. The ones shown here I am almost 100% certain of. Note that in 1992-93 and 1993-94 the design changed to peelable vinyl ‘stickers’ which could be endlessly applied and removed.

1969 SHOOT tab     1970 SHOOT tab     1971 SHOOT tab     1972 SHOOT tab     1973 SHOOT tab     1974 SHOOT tab     1975 SHOOT tab     1976 SHOOT tab     1977 SHOOT tab     1978 SHOOT tab     1979 SHOOT tab     1980 SHOOT tab     1981 SHOOT tab     1982 SHOOT tab     1983 SHOOT tab     1984 SHOOT tab     1985 SHOOT tab     1986 SHOOT tab    1987 SHOOT tab     1988 SHOOT tab     1989 SHOOT tab     1990 SHOOT tab     1991 SHOOT tab     1992 SHOOT tab     1993 SHOOT tab     1994 SHOOT tab     1995 SHOOT tab     1996 SHOOT tab     1997 SHOOT tab     1998 SHOOT tab     1999 SHOOT tab

In August 1999 SHOOT! printed their final set of League Ladders, leaving MATCH WEEKLY to carry the torch single-handedly for the next ten years.

‘MATCH!’ ​(1990-91 to date)
This magazine appeared as a serious rival to SHOOT! in 1979 and there is a school of thought suggesting that it began producing League Ladders of its own in 1988, but our research has not found any proof to back this up, including checking the covers of MATCH! magazines for July, August and September of both 1988 and 1989, none of which suggest that League Ladders were issued. I am, therefore, electing to begin their ‘history’ in 1990. Similar research also suggests that there were no Ladders or tabs for the 1991-92 season either, so it looks like – perhaps initially – the 1990-91 issue was just an experiment and they only took up the challenge in earnest in 1992-93.
Like those of SHOOT! these tabs underwent varying changes in design although they did stick pretty much to using a ‘shirt’ design and the colours of the club. By 2005-06 they had also adopted the same design as the shirts of the team i.e. stripes, chevrons, hoops, etc., not just their colours.
Once again there was a hiatus for seasons 2011-12 and 2012-13 and also for the season 2016-17.

1990 MATCH tab     1991 MATCH tab     1992 MATCH tab     1993 MATCH tab     1994 MATCH tab     1995 MATCH tab     1996 MATCH tab     1997 MATCH tab     1998 MATCH tab     1999 MATCH tab     2000 MATCH tab     2001 MATCH tab     2002 MATCH tab     2003 MATCH tab     2004 MATCH tab     2005 MATCH tab     2006 MATCH tab     2007 MATCH tab     2008 MATCH tab     2009 MATCH tab     2010 MATCH tab     2011 MATCH tab     2012 MATCH tab     2013 MATCH tab     2014 MATCH tab     2015 MATCH tab     2016 MATCH tab     2017 MATCH tab     MATCH Team Tab 2018-19

BBC ‘MATCH OF THE DAY: Club Scarves & Shirts’ (issued 2009-10 to date)
Then, in 2009, along came the BBC publication MATCH OF THE DAY with their own brand of very large league ladders on an immense wallchart which dwarfed those of SHOOT!​ The offering from MOTD included large scarves for the Premier League teams with a small strip of Velcro attached to the back to move them up and down the ladder, whilst the rest of the football pyramid makes do with standard shirts and slots in their ladders. ​As can be seen here, I am still missing just a couple.

2009 MOTD tab     2010 MOTD tab     2011 MOTD tab     2012 MOTD tab     2013 MOTD tab     2014 MOTD tab     2015 MOTD tab     2016 MOTD tab     2107 MotD scarf tab     MOTD Team Tab 2018-19

2013 FOOTBALL ATTIC tabAnd this one is just a bit bizarre! In August 2013, to celebrate their popularity and place in football fan folklore, THE FOOTBALL ATTIC website produced their own ‘fantasy’ set of League Ladders for 1913-14.
​ You will find a link to their website and a fully printable set of both ladders and tabs in the links below.

This publication focuses exclusively on the Premier League; what a surprise! They only produce a ‘League Ladder’ and team tabs for that league and as a result, Town have only featured twice.

2017 KICK tab     KICK Team Tab 2018-19


I’ve saved this one until last although, chronologically, it should really come first. In July 2016 I was offered – and bought! – what is believed to be the ‘Holy Grail’ of League Ladder/Team Tab collecting; this, the earliest known example, dates to 1923 (the featured teams correspond to those of the First Division in season 1923-24) and was issued with D.C. Thomson’s ‘ROVER’ comic. I will be keeping it intact and not cutting out the flags, but if collectors would like good quality scans of their team’s flag I will oblige.
This very item was also featured on Alan Jenkins’ great site HERE.

ROVER League Ladder

TABS neededHere are a few examples of those tabs that I am missing; as you can see, there is hardly any way to tell them apart. The typeface is pretty much the same until 1991-92 and the text is the same until 1983-84 and then continues the same right up until 1990-91 when it changes again, thankfully bringing back the appropriate divisional information.


If for no other reason than to preserve my own sanity, here are sources which PROVE that many of the above team tabs belong in their respective seasons; clicking on each one should take you to the indisputable (!) evidence. As you will note, there are some that I simply cannot prove and conversely I also provide proof for several tabs that I do not (yet) possess.

My grateful thanks go to Alan Jenkins, Paul Chauveau, Richard Small and Bob Thomas for their invaluable help, knowledge and research in this field which has made my task that little bit easier!