Memorabilia mission – let’s save our football “stuff”
Posted on 28th December 2019
Decades of treasured football memorabilia is in danger of being lost when collectors pass away, says Supporters’ Trust At Reading’s Roger Titford, and he thinks that legacy needs extra protection…
In an increasingly fragmented society our professional football clubs, the great majority of which are more than 100 years old, stand out as beacons of identity and community, reaching beyond their obvious function as sporting businesses, to have family, social and outreach roles. They are institutions in our national life.
During that century football has generated immense amounts of “stuff” – programmes, fanzines, trophies and medals – that are in real danger of being lost as there is no greater enemy of the football historian than the recently bereaved family member who is tasked with clearing out a house full of stuff!
And what is the stuff?
Deep breath… match programmes and team sheets, handbooks, celebratory brochures and club-specific books, shirts, scarves and other apparel, match tickets and season tickets, player passes, club accounts, AGM reports, pennants, badges, mugs, trophies, medals, programmes, dinner menus, scrapbooks and news cuttings, fanzines and podcasts, videos, off-air recordings, banners, scarves, books and oral history, badges, newspaper supplements, broadcast material, cigarette cards, coins, stickers, magazines, books.
But where can relatives go with their loved one’s old artefacts?
A minority of clubs have effective and well-curated displays but even the material is not necessarily usable by external parties.
The National Football Museum in Manchester has a national remit and acts both as a tourist attraction and as a curator of this kind of material – when it has a national interest aspect. But its capacity to store, curate and display is limited.
Speaking from the perspective of Reading FC – a not untypical professional club – the club has a minimal amount of material (mainly photographs and trophies) but the great bulk of the material is held by about 20 private collectors – all male, all 50 plus with some over 70. This is a pattern likely reflected at many other clubs.
The club itself, as it approaches its 150th year, shows a growing interest in the material of the past but has no public space for it and is only now beginning a strategy for curation.
A national plan for the stuff? This is where the co-operative supporters’ trust model may have a role to play in two ways. Firstly, by helping publicise the issue and encouraging the setting up of networks and trust-like bodies that can safeguard our football heritage. Secondly, through helping to create and circulate a template set of documents and training sessions on how to run such a body. Sporting Heritage also recognises the urgency of the imminent destruction of many personal collections and is currently undertaking a project that will provide a toolkit for support and hands-on advice.
How to acquire the stuff? In our experience people are motivated by not wanting to put football stuff on the tip and are happy with an informal approach when donating programme collections, scrapbooks, fanzines and newspaper cuttings. There will be cases where collectors or their families will want to sell the artefacts and it’s possible that either the club or the charitable trust could buy as necessary.
Who is the stuff for? It’s about preserving and enhancing institutional memory and could be considered as a parallel to the way in which regiments, cathedrals, or stately homes go about the same task. It’s useful for the club itself as well as supporters, ex-players, writers and historians, or even documentary makers and schools.
What’s the next step? We’ve created a short online questionnaire to test the water on this subject and we’d be grateful if supporters who’ve got their own treasure (or burden) of stuff could give us their feedback via our link at When Saturday Comes magazine.
Roger Titford is a founding member of the Supporters’ Trust At Reading and takes a special interest in all things related to Reading FC’s heritage and history.