The Premier League has announced that it is going to launch a Hall of Fame. This begs the question – why? There is already a Hall of Fame for English football, the National Football Museum Hall of Fame. As the Director of the National Football Museum, I set this up in 2002, to honour the all-time greats in English football. The Museum’s Hall of Fame is for the greats of the game from the beginning of Association football in 1863, up to today. Many great players from the Premier League era have therefore been inducted into the Museum’s Hall of Fame. The Premier League’s Hall of Fame will of course only cover from 1992 to the present day. When Premier League era players are inducted into the Museum’s Hall of Fame, they are being considered against the very best, the all-time legends of English football. The Selection Panel for the Museum’s Hall of Fame is the Hall of Famers themselves, led by the Museum’s President, Sir Bobby Charlton. Only the very best therefore are inducted, chosen by the greatest. So, there is effectively already a Hall of Fame for the Premier League, with the best of the Premier League era being judged by the same criteria as the all-time legends, like Best, Charles and Dalglish.
How the Premier League Hall of Fame inductees will be chosen and who will choose them is not clear. It appears fans will have some involvement, being invited to vote to help select the additional former players to join the Hall of Fame in 2020, after the first two have been revealed on March 19th. The strength of the National Football Museum Hall of Fame, by comparison, is that it is chosen by the existing Hall of Famers, which gives it complete credibility. Who is going to disagree with the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Trevor Brooking? The great Bernhard ‘Bert’ Trautman, in receiving his award from Sir Bobby Charlton, said it was the “greatest moment of my life, to receive this accolade from my peers”. To be eligible for the Premier League Hall of Fame, players must be retired, and only a player’s Premier League career is considered in their candidacy. But what if they only played for one or two seasons in the Premier League?
Is the Premier League Hall of Fame just to be for players, or will it also, like the National Football Museum Hall of Fame, include managers? Sir Bobby Robson, when inducted into the Museum’s manager’s category, said “I’m overwhelmed. This is a huge honour. To join such an illustrious group is fabulous.” The Premier League Hall of Fame will also of course lack the diversity of the Museum’s Hall of Fame, which includes women players, players with disabilities, and has a special awards section for those who have made an outstanding contribution for the good of the game. Niall Quinn was inducted in this category, for donating the £1 million raised by his testimonial game to charity. He said he was delighted, but recognised that unfortunately he would never be good enough to make it into the Hall of Fame for his playing abilities! He was a very good player – but not a great one. Halls of Fame are much more complicated to set up and run than it appears, as I have written in my forthcoming academic book, Sport and Museums: Curious Connections? (Routledge, 2020).
I am fully in favour of the concept of a Premier League Hall of Fame. But we need clarity on key questions, such as who will choose and how, and above all, how it will relate to the National Football Museum Hall of Fame.