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Contact:

Stories for the newsletter: editor {at} mcivta.com
Subscribe to the newsletter: subscriptions {at} mcivta.city-fan.org
Questions: svenn {at} mcivta.com

MCIVTA (short for Man City Info Via The Alps) was started in 1994 as an Internet newsletter for followers of Manchester City. It is usually issued two or three times a week and covers match reports, news, questions and personal views. The raison d’être of MCIVTA was originally to keep subscribers around the world up to date with news and views from The Academy but with a strong contingent of local subscribers, there’s plenty for British readers too. You don’t have to be a City fan to join the list; there is at least one subscriber who is a United fan but prefers MCIVTA to the Man Utd mailing list!

The team

The current MCIVTA team consist of a few dedicated individuals who help the site and newsletter rolling, but we are always happy to get contribution or new members on board.

  • Philip Alcock
  • Phil Banerjee
  • Svenn A. Hanssen
  • Paul Howarth
  • Madeleine Hawkins
  • Peter Llewellyn
  • Richard Tucker

MCIVTA History

The newsletter was originally put together by Ashley Birch, resident at the University of Zürich in Switzerland, which inspired the name of the newsletter. Nowadays it’s looked after by Phil Alcock, and subscriptions are handled by Madeleine Hawkins; if you would like to receive Man City Info Via The Alps, send an e-mail to Madeleine. Please state your full name and location (e.g. Fred Bloggs, Manchester, England) when subscribing as this helps our overloaded administrators! If you’re using the mailto: link (above), please ensure that your e-mail address is set correctly or included in your message; otherwise Madeleine won’t know where to send the newsletter to! Upon subscribing, Madeleine will give you the address to send any contributions to, should you wish to do so.

mcivta2004
From left to right: Ashley Birch, Steve Bolton, Don Barrie, Svenn A. Hanssen, Heidi Pickup, Paul Howarth, and Bingning Dai celebrating the 1000th issue of MCIVTA with a 4-1 win over Manchester United in March 2004.

Man City Info Via The Alps, the electronic newsletter for fans of Manchester City, began life With the following post by Ashley Birch to rec.sport.soccer on Wednesday 7th September 1994:

Ashley’s post to RSS
Being an exiled Man City fan is no joke, especially as my team is sadly the only Premier league club without a mailing list let alone a WWW page. We are now four games into the season and no one has come forward to start a list so, with this in mind I would like to make a proposal:I can find the time to edit together reports of matches and snippets of information about the club and then mail them off to any interested fans. The major problem with volunteering for this task (from my point of view) is that I live in Switzerland and, as many of you know, Manchester is in England! This means that I don’t have easy access to newspapers or teletext so I will be TOTALLY RELIANT on fans in England mailing me match reports etc etc.I am not attempting to start a full-blown mailing list, but merely to help out fellow City fans abroad who have absolutely zero information. I hope this will be better than the current situation which is no list at all, of any description.So!

  1. I need contacts, the more the merrier and the less onerous the task for a single individual. If you are in the UK and have a few minutes to send me a newspaper report of a game or gossip about transfers etc then I and hopefully many others in my situation will be very grateful. Don’t forget that although it might seem to be common knowledge in England, there are many of us out here totally in the dark. So, please get in touch with me, if I don’t hear from people willing to mail me then the whole exercise will grind to a halt.
  2. Finally, if you are interested in receiving info then drop me an Email.
Ashley Birch

Considering the limited aims set out in the 3rd paragraph, it’s fair to say that MCIVTA has grown beyond the wildest dreams of its creator!

In mid-October 1994, the Manchester City FC Supporters’ Home Page was set up on the World Wide Web by Svenn Hanssen at the University of Tromsø in Norway, the northernmost university in the world. This service carried information on how to subscribe to MCIVTA as well as having all of the back issues available to read, as it does to this day.

The WWW was announced to the wwwfooty list (an internet mailing list for football WWW administrators) and included in the Rec.Sport.Soccer Pure Web page on 4th November 1994. The text of the announcement (by Paul Howarth) was:

 

Paul’s announcement of the WWW Page
ANNOUNCE: Manchester City Supporters’ Home Page:http://www.service.uit.no/mancity/homepage.htmlA Manchester City WWW service is now available at the above URL. Although it’s still under construction, the usual features of fixture list, match reports, squad information & FAQ are all there. Additionally, there are reviews of books and videos about the club (more of these to come), details of the recently formed mailing list (with all current back issues), some “why I support City” stories and one or two other miscellaneous items.Please feel free to add a link to this service wherever you see fit.Regards,

Svenn Hanssen
Paul Howarth
Ashley Birch                       

The match programme for City’s home game against Wimbledon on 26th November 1994 mentioned the MCFC WWW page; more on this in MCIVTA 25. The match programme for City’s home game against Arsenal on 12th December 1994 mentioned the mailing list directly, though not by name; more on this in MCIVTA 29.

James Nash wrote a letter (below) to the fanzines King of the Kippax and Electric Blue extolling the virtues of MCIVTA and the MCFC WWW; the letter was printed in part in KK42 (Dec/Jan ’95) and in full in EB29 (Limbo Special). The publication of these letters is thought to have been responsible for at least 40 new subscribers to MCIVTA.

James’ letter to the fanzines

Dear Noel at EB/Dave at KK,

We would like to inform your readers about an electronic mailing list for Manchester City fans. We’re already hoping for a mention in the Matchday programme and want to publicise the mailing list as much as possible so if there’s space for this letter, we would be very grateful if you could print it.

The “Internet” has attracted a lot of media attention lately and City fans may like to know that there is a forum for their news, views and reviews available on the Internet. It’s called ‘Manchester City Information Via The Alps’, or MCIVTA for short. This mailing list is run by Ashley Birch – an exiled Blue currently living and working in Switzerland, hence the alpine name.

Subscribing to the mailing list costs nothing. Once subscribed, you will receive via e-mail, roughly twice a week, a digest of news and views all about City – written by other subscribers to the list. We encourage all our readers to send in their own contributions although we’re just as happy if you only want to read the thoughts of others.

So, if you want to subscribe to MCIVTA, send electronic mail to Ashley at:

[email adress deleted]

[To be able to use electronic mail (e-mail), you must have access to a computer and mail program connected to the Internet. Large companies and educational establishments tend to be connected and many home computer users are now beginning to hook up. If you are unsure, find yourself a computer buff and ask them.]

The initial aim of the mailing list was to provide a news service for Blues living abroad who find it hard to keep in touch with events at the Academy; with most of the contributions coming from UK-based fans who are closer to the action, so to speak. The emphasis is placed on information and match reports but mixed in with comment and whatever else takes the fancy of our readers. We also try to swap match reports with other clubs after a game and so far feedback has been very positive, with the rags even praising our objectivity!

Like fanzines, we have no connection with the club and do not purport to represent them in any way. I suppose you could call us an electronic fanzine (or “netzine”) but we’re happier with the more prosaic “electronic mailing list” for the time being. Included are some printouts of recent digests so you can see what’s going on.

Anyone who is a City fan is welcome, wherever they live. After a couple of months in existence, we have over 70 subscribers spread across Manchester, Britain and the globe – with some living as far afield as Australia, Canada and Sweden. So if you’re a Blue on the Internet, send Ashley some e-mail and join today.

There is also a World Wide Web (WWW) site for Manchester City, set up and run by Svenn Hanssen in Norway. The WWW site is different from MCIVTA in that it is a reference site on the Internet for all things City. It was mentioned in the Wimbledon programme and in case you missed that, the address is:

http://www.service.uit.no/mancity/homepage.html

(Apologies if that looks like gobbledy-gook, hopefully it doesn’t! The site’s address is repeated in every edition of MCIVTA; it is also run independently of the club.)

James Nash on behalf of MCIVTA

P.S. The bits printed in bold must be reproduced exactly as shown above or they won’t work!

After the success of this letter, Ashley wrote another letter (below) to the fanzines as a thank-you and progress report. As an indication of how fast things were progressing, there were nearly 250 subscribers when the letter was printed in Electric Blue 31, although the letter mentions a total of only 173.

Ashley’s letter to the fanzines

MCIVTA: For City Fans Everywhere
Are you stranded on the hard shoulder of the information superhighway? Then help is at hand.

Greetings from the Alps! Firstly, I should explain that I’m the operator/editor of Manchester City Information Via The Alps (MCIVTA) which is an electronic-mail based newsletter for City fans everywhere. I’m writing this article on behalf of MCIVTA to thank you for publishing James Nash’s letter which described what we are about and how people could subscribe. At that time (end of ’94) we had already had a brief mention in the match programme as well as publicising ourselves via electronuc bulletin boards. To our surprise, it seems that many readers of fanzines have access to e-mail as I would estimate that the fanzine plug brought us approximately 40 subscribers.

We are now upto a total of 173 subscribers, about 100 in the UK with the rest spread around the world. The initial aim – and a selfish one from my point of view – was to keep overseas Blues in touch with the goings-on at Maine Road. I think many Mancunians are unaware of just how difficult it can be for fans outside the UK to even get the results, let alone anything else. Moreover, one thing that has become clear over the last few months is the dearth of information available to many Blues who do live in the UK but outside Manchester. Of course, it’s easy to obtain the score and a newspaper report but these are often infuriatingly superficial and the national dailies tend to focus on the big, successful teams.

MCIVTA takes the form of a newsletter which I assemble (edit is too grandiose) and which is almost wholly reliant on the contributions of subscribers. Luckily we have two stalwarts who write excellent match reports – one does the homes and one the aways. These make up the core of the newsletter, which is fleshed out with news and views as well as with articles such as ‘Why Blue?’ where subscribers tell us how they came to support the only football team in Manchester.

With the expansion in numbers, however, we are starting to get more and more discussion, and this is where e-mail can really work for the fans. As no overt costs are involved (to us or the subscribers), mailing the newsletter is only dependent on having enough material for inclusion and time. Hence we usually manage 2-3 editions a week which means questions/answers/opinions etc. can be exchanged without too long a lag between each other. To illustrate this, we had a good discussion on the origin of the word ‘Rags’ recently.

Keeping on the subject of the Rags, I’m happy to tell you that MCIVTA is in a different class to the MUFC mailing list, with us firmly on top! Theirs is run using an automatic mailing system where all incoming contributions are immediately redirected to all subscribers. There are now 700 on their list and each subscriber gets 50 mailings a day! Sounds OK but in reality, the vast majority are utter rubbish of the ‘Where can I get a Ryan Giggs duvet cover?’ variety. We even have a United subscriber who prefers to read MCIVTA because there’s some football content in it!

For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of putting MCIVTA together has been the almost tangible joy of many new subscribers, often from the other side of the globe, who have stumbled across us to their utter delight. One of my favourites in this respect was was a Blue exiled in the wilderness of Mid-Glamorgan!

Once again, thanks for your help in spreading the word.

Ashley Birch (On behalf of James Nash, Paul Howarth and all subscribers to MCIVTA).

It transpired that there was actually some Man City information available electronically long before MCIVTA appeared: back in the early 80’s, Mike and Dave Brierley ran some pages on Micronet. Mike takes up the story:

Micronet wasn’t part of the Internet, it was on British Telcom’s Prestel viewdata service. It was started in about 1983 for computer enthusiasts. Like many other users we soon realised that computers were quite boring and arguing about football was much more fun. We had about 15 teletext frames to go at, so it was much more limited than Internet. To put it mildly. Micronet closed about 5 years ago due to BT becoming worried about “Must We Fling This Filth At Our Computer Kids” type headlines in the tabloid press.

Sadly none of the material exits any more – it was composed on a Sinclair QL and the files went when we threw the computer out. Maybe another user saved them somewhere, but I doubt it.

With the sustained growth in the number of MCIVTA subscribers and Ashley’s move back to England (and a new job) at the start of the 1995/96 season, it became necessary to split the workload. Ashley continued as editor and Adam Houghton was appointed as Subscriptions Officer, handling all subscription-related activities (about 50% of the work!).

On 14th September 1995, MCIVTA 125 was the last edition to come “Via The Alps”; Ashley got a new job in Macclesfield and, with the help of some financial contributions from MCIVTA subscribers, set up his own internet account at home (mcivta@tollbar.u-net.com) and started running the newsletter from there. Meanwhile, Paul set up a distribution system for the newsletter which meant that subscriptions (Adam’s department) and the newsletter itself (Ashley’s department) could be run completely independently, distribution to the current list of subscribers being handled automatically. The first edition to be distributed in this way was MCIVTA 127, put together by Svenn, who was running the newsletter whilst Ashley settled into his new environment. It was decided to keep the name MCIVTA for reasons of tradition!

In an effort to secure closer links with the club, Paul and Ashley met with Colin Barlow (managing director), Geoff Durbin (commercial manager) and Pete Wild (IT manager) on 15th January 1996. In what was a most amicable meeting, it was agreed that the Web site could use the City logo provided it was clear that the site was unofficial. We were also free to contact the club to clear up any rumours and get news right from the horse’s mouth. A formal contact was arranged on 3rd April and announced inMCIVTA 182. Steve Bolton ran the mailing-list side of this link, calling the Club regularly to get answers to questions sent to him by MCIVTA subscribers.

Meanwhile, the size of the MCIVTA distribution list was steadily rising. By the end of January 1996 there were over 650 subscribers and the rate of increase showed no sign of slowing. People were noticing the Web site too; it was awarded Soccernet Site of the Week on 19th February. Despite the relatively low-tech appearance by comparison with some other sites, the depth of content and timely updating won consistently high scores in various football site rating tables around the Net.

In July 1996, Paul moved to a new job which meant that the MCIVTA Distribution System would also have to move. Several subscribers offered their services and eventually two new “distribution centres” were set up (providing some safeguard against network problems) courtesy of Jeremy Poynton and Phil Knight. The first edition to go out using these new machines was MCIVTA 199. By this time there were well over 800 subscribers.

July also saw the launch of a new City-related Web Site: Blue View. Set up by Doug Bennett (a.k.a.Wonderball), it set out to provide an interactive discussion area for City fans in view of the expected imminent demise of City’s page on CarlingNet.

At the end of July it was time for Ashley’s well-earned holiday and so a “guest editor” was required for a couple of weeks. Over the previous two years it had become “traditional” for there to be a different guest editor each time one was required, with Svenn, Paul, Steve and Linda (Ashley’s wife) all having done the job at various stages. This time there would be a difference, as Leo Fewtrell (a.k.a.Wythenshawe Exile) in Dubai got the job. The difference? Leo was one of our United-supporting subscribers! Being an MCIVTA subscriber for a while had obviously knocked some sense into him though, as he made a fine guest editor.

The October 1996 edition of CITY Magazine featured an article on City fans on the Internet penned by MCIVTA’s very own Ashley Birch. By the first day of October, the number of MCIVTA subscribers had risen above the 1,000 mark. By the end of the season this total had risen to over 1,400 and there were also several more City-related web sites to visit. Both the Official Supporters’ Club and the Centenary Supporters’ Association had their own sites, and during March 1997, CityNet, the club’s official site, was launched. Adam gave up his rôle as Subscriptions Officer due to a change of job (and a move to the States!), with Steve Bolton taking over the reins.

The end of the 1996/97 season brought renewed speculation about the future of City’s Georgian superstar Gio Kinkladze; there was a big campaign by the fans to persuade him to stay, initiated by fans on Blue View and through MCIVTA. The campaign included a petition with a letter written in Georgian; news of this made it onto the back page of the Manchester Evening News and the fans’ campaign is thought to have made a significant contribution to Kinkladze’s decision to stay at Maine Road.

Awards and accolades:

The Manchester City Supporters’ homepage has received honourable mentions in the following surveys:

SoccerNet Site of the Week 19/2 1996.
10 out of 10 points in the Villa-web survey.
9 out of 10 balls in the Sport Stat Soccer survey.
Nationwide fan site of the week.
The Express Sport site of the day 5/2 1999.
SportLive Champion Site 22/11 1999.
E-soccer Premier site award, September 2000.
ICFootball Selected site award, November 2000.

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