Football programme dealer Steve Earl selling million programmes

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Image caption Football programme dealer wants to sell hoard of one million items

A football programme dealer known to generations of fans through his magazine adverts is looking for a buyer for his million-strong stock.

Steve Earl's hoard at the mail order business in Bungay, Suffolk, runs from Aberaman Athletic to York City.

His vast collection includes programmes from the 1950 and 1966 World Cup finals and the 1921 and 1923 FA Cup finals.

"Anyone that comes to see me their eyes pop out because they're not used to seeing so many [programmes]," he said.

The 67-year-old's name will be familiar to early readers of football magazines such as Shoot! and Match, in which he used to advertise.

Through that promotion he has built a customer base which stretches to Scandinavia and Germany and even as far as Australia.

Image caption The earliest programme he has in stock is the 1921 FA Cup final between Tottenham and Wolves (left), while he also has one from the famed "White Horse Final" two years later - the first football match to be played at Wembley

It all started as a teenager when he collected "the odd one here and there" before being given £500 by his parents to start a part-time business.

"Initially when my parents knew I was going to do it for a living they thought it was going to be a fad. But it's not of course," he said.

His parents refused when he offered to pay them back after just six months and he decided to go full-time in 1970.

His collection, across two floors, is ordered alphabetically when they come from clubs and in year order when related to specific competitions, to ensure nothing gets lost.

The Norwich City season ticket holder said the rarest programme he has in stock is from the 1973 European Cup final between Ajax and Juventus - as only 400 were ever made.

Meanwhile, a "concertina-style" programme from the very first World Cup final in 1930, which he recently sold, is one of his favourites.

Image caption Clockwise from top left: The 1950 World Cup final between Brazil and Uruguay; the cover of the 1966 World Cup final programme; and team photos from the final, which England won

"I've got friends who sometimes say to people 'you'll never guess what he does for a living?'," he said.

"[When they tell them], they either scratch their head and have no idea what they're talking about or say 'does he? I wish I did that'."

But Mr Earl, who likes to be known as a "football programme specialist" and says the sport is in his blood, admits there have been times when he's been left sick as a parrot rather than over the moon.

"There've been struggles. We've had three day weeks, postal strikes, storage problems, but you get over these hurdles one by one and it's all worthwhile when the customers come," he said.

"I do enjoy it when people say 'I've been looking for this programme for some time now, put it to one side for me'."

Image caption Steve Earl among his "surplus" on the ground floor of his warehouse
Image caption Steve Earl has run the business from his "chock-a-block" warehouse in Bungay since 1984 after needing larger premises to hold his stock

Now Mr Earl, who has been suffering from health problems, said he plans to retire as "it comes to a point where it doesn't get any easier; you need to be fit because there's weight in these boxes".

He added: "I'm 67 now, I've done a good stint so I think it's about time that somebody younger was to take over.

"There's stock here that would last anyone 20 years, but of course they need the space to store the stuff."