Creating the National Football Museum Hall of Fame

Ian Wright is inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame by his childhood idol Alan Ball

George Best. Bobby Moore. John Charles. Bill Shankly. All-time greats of football at English clubs, legends of the game. When we opened the National Football Museum in 2001, they rightly featured strongly in our collections and displays. And yet as the CEO of the National Football Museum, I believed that these legends needed to be honoured in an even more special way, through the creation of a Hall of Fame. In 2002 I led the creation of the Hall of Fame for English football, the ‘National Football Museum Hall of Fame’.

The Museum’s Hall of Fame was for the greats of the game, from the beginning of Association football in 1863, up to today. When players were considered for induction into the Museum’s Hall of Fame, they were to be viewed against the very best, the all-time legends of English football. The Selection Panel we established for the Hall of Fame was the Hall of Famers themselves, led by the Museum’s President, Sir Bobby Charlton. Only the very best therefore were to be inducted, chosen by the greatest. In the first year Sir Bobby led a panel of all-time great players to choose the initial inductees, by secret ballot.

Annual Awards Ceremonies

At the first National Football Museum Hall of Fame Annual Awards Ceremony in December 2002, 22 players and 6 managers were honoured. As a first step in the recognition of the hidden history of women’s football, the Museum also inducted arguably the greatest player in the history of the women’s game in England, Lily Parr. In this first year, the Selection Panel had players and managers from over one hundred years of football history from which to make their selection In subsequent years, much smaller numbers were inducted, to ensure that only the greatest names in the history of the game were included the Hall of Fame. The Annual Awards Ceremonies were attended by an outstanding array of star guests and attracted substantial media coverage. The National Football Museum Hall of Fame soon became an outstanding awards event in the English football calendar. 

Sir Bobby Charlton, Lady Charlton and Mark Lawrenson at the National Football Museum Hall of Fame Annual Awards Ceremony

Selection Criteria

The selection criteria for inclusion in the National Football Museum Hall of Fame were set as follows. A player must have played in England for at least five seasons and have retired from playing. A manager must have managed in England for at least five seasons. The choice of who is then selected to be inducted, from a list of eligible nominations, is then down to the votes (by secret ballot) of the Selection Panel.

New Categories

Two other important categories were later added to each year’s inductions. First, players with disabilities. For example, in 2007, Stephen Daley, a footballer whose professional career was ended by loss of vision at 18, who later became the captain of the partially sighted England national team, was inducted. Second, a special awards section for those who 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.

All-time Greats

By 2017, when I left my role as CEO of the Museum for new ventures, 111 male players, 17 female players, 11 players with disabilities and 21 managers had been inducted. A highly successful book of the Hall of Fame was first published in 2005, with a new edition in 2011.[1]

Rachel Brown-Finnis is inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame

Halls of Fame

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). Yet they are in my view an essential part of any sports museum. Fans will always have heroes, whether they are players or managers. Those that excel in any sport deserve this special recognition.

[1] The Football Hall of Fame: The Ultimate Guide to the Greatest Footballing Legends of All Time

Creating the National Football Museum

1 August 1997. My first day as the Director of the project to establish the National Football Museum for England. I find that there is no collection as yet, no building, and no money to speak of. And one member of staff apart from me, a curator. It’s going to be a challenge.

31 January 2017. My last day as Director (CEO) of the National Football Museum. The Museum holds the world’s best collections on football, including the FIFA Collection. We have welcomed over 5 million highly satisfied visitors. We have raised over £55 million in capital and revenue to successfully develop and operate the Museum, first in Preston, then in Manchester.

National Football Museum opens to great acclaim, 2001

It wasn’t easy. But nobody said it would be! It was a no brainer that England, the birthplace of modern football, Association football, should have a museum dedicated to its cultural significance. However, several previous efforts to set up the National Football Museum had failed, including that by the English FA in 1953.

The National Football Museum for England opened in the city of Preston in February 2001 to outstanding media and public acclaim. The £15 million Museum had been made possible by a £9.3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (now the National Lottery Heritage Fund). The Museum  housed in the oldest football league ground in the world, where Preston North End had played football since 1878, attracted over 100,000 visitors a year – pretty good  in a city of just 120,00 people.

Yet we always wanted to take the Museum’s collections to an even greater audience. Even before the Museum opened, we started to loan objects to displays and to create exhibitions elsewhere in the UK and around the world. This successfully continued during my 20 years as CEO, in over 30 countries. We also first attracted interest from Wembley Stadium about the possibility of a second site of the Museum in 1998, even before we opened in Preston.

The new National Football Museum in Manchester, 2012

In 2010 we secured a £28.5 million deal to create a new National Football Museum in Manchester. Manchester City Council had the vision to underwrite £8.5 million in capital to convert the Urbis building into the National Football Museum, and to provide to the Museum the £2 million of revenue funding that was already given to the Urbis building.

The new National Football Museum opened to great acclaim from the media, football, and above all, the public, in July 2012. The visitor projection was for 350,000 p.a. The Museum soon attracted over 500,000 visitors a year. 

The National Football Museum, Manchester

The world’s leading football museum

In Manchester the National Football Museum went from success to success. The Museum was invited to join the UK’s Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) in 2014, becoming the 58th member – and was the UK’s highest rated attraction by visitors in the 2014 ALVA survey! In 2015 we welcomed President Xi Jinping of China, which led to an important cultural exchange through football. In 2016 we were delighted to host a visit by HRH Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. One of my proudest achievements was that, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2015, we were able to secure the greatest collection in the world on the history of women’s football, the ‘Chris Unger History of Women’s Football Collection’. This was just before Chris Unger very sadly passed away. His wonderful collection is part of his legacy to us all.

Sharing my 20 years of expertise

I left the National Football Museum in 2017 for new challenges, but remain very much involved in football history, sports history, sports museums and the museum and attractions sector more widely. I am now sharing all that I learned in my 20 years as the leader of the National Football Museum for England to museums and attractions all around the world[i].

Doctor Kevin Moore

[i] This includes in academic publications. In 2008 I published an academic paper on the development of the Museum to 2008 :‘Sports Heritage and the re-imaged city: The National Football Museum, Preston’, International Journal of Cultural Policy, Vol. 14, No. 4, November 2008: 445-461. I will be updating this to 2017 in a forthcoming paper in the academic journal Soccer and Society. My latest book, Sport and Museums: Curious Connections? will be published shortly. My latest book is What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths, published by Bloomsbury, London, UK, 2019.

Football in India is not new – and has a greater tradition than cricket

Historically, India had many of its own sports, one of which, kabaddi, is having a major resurgence through national and international TV coverage. The first Western sport that India excelled at was hockey (in some countries termed field hockey). It’s still very popular among Indian men and women. The Indian men’s team first competed in the 1928 Olympics, long before independence from the British, winning gold, won gold at the next five Olympics, and eight golds in total up to 1980.

Mohan Bagan Athletic Club 1911. Winners of the Indian Football Association Shield

When those outside India think about sport in that country, we automatically think of cricket. But this is an outsider’s perspective, and from the present day. Football in India is not new, and has a greater tradition than cricket.

Cricket, by comparison, was historically a smaller sport in terms of the number of players, and didn’t gain mass popularity until after the Indian cricket team started to perform well. India made its Test Cricket debut in 1932, but didn’t win a test until 1952. Decades of steady improvement followed, but the game only really took off in the national public imagination when India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983, defeating the favourites and two-time defending champions the West Indies in the final. Sachin Tendulkar joined the test team in 1989 and became India’s first cricket superstar. India’s international results have continued to improve. In 2008, the launch of the Twenty20 cricket league, the Indian Premier League, drawing star players from around the world, took cricket in India to a new level, both in terms of attendances at games and mass TV audiences. Cricket is now huge in India, but it is relatively recent, since the 1990s.

So what of football? The British brought the game as the imperial rulers of India and spread it principally through the British Army stationed in the country. The Durand Cup, first held in Shimla in 1888, was the first Indian competition and is the third oldest surviving football competition in the world, after the English and Scottish FA Cups. The Indians soon took up the game and in 1892 the Sovabazar Club, in beating the East Surrey Regiment, became the first Indian team to beat a British side. The first of India’s major clubs, which is still going today, was Mohun Bagan. They made history in 1911 by becoming the first Indian team to win a major trophy, the Indian Football Association Shield, beating the East Yorkshire Regiment in the final, in front of 60,000 fans. This became part of the narrative of the independence movement. If they could even beat the British at their own game – football – why shouldn’t they run their own country?

Football drew huge crowds and had mass popularity in some parts of India, especially in Bengal. Indian teams started to play overseas from the 1930s, including internationals. The All India Football Federation was founded in 1937. After independence, a barefooted Indian team played at the 1948 Olympics, losing only 2-1 to France, after missing two penalties. India did not refuse to go to the World Cup in Brazil in 1950 because FIFA had banned them from playing barefoot – this is a myth. They would have played in boots, but chose not to go in part because of the cost of travel, and also because at the time they favoured the Olympics over the World Cup. In the 1950s India became the best team in Asia, performed well at Olympic football tournaments and won the Asian Games. The game also remained very popular in many regions of the country.

India is a vast country, and there was no national league until 1996. Football was regionalised, very popular in some places, largely unknown in others. But the same, to some extent, can also be said of cricket in India. Football in India has a long and strong history, but it’s been relatively weak in performance, especially in international terms. This doesn’t inspire the next generation, when the cricket team is often ranked number one, and there is big money to be made in cricket, but not football. But this is changing. TV has brought the football leagues of Europe to India, and the English Premier League and La Liga have proved immensely popular, and professional football in India is developing. Football has not come from nowhere in India, whereas arguably cricket did. Football in India has long, deep roots. Football in the past was more popular than cricket in India – and today, it is slowly beginning to rival cricket once more.

For my full argument that football in India is not new – and has a greater tradition than cricket, please see my new book, ‘What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths’, published by Bloomsbury, London, UK.

Most football managers make no difference at all

Football managers, as at no point in the game’s history, are now celebrities that transcend the sport, such as Sir Alex Ferguson, José Mourinho and ‘Pep’ Guardiola. There were managers in English football before this who were famous – think of Sir Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Brian Clough – but not at the level of global fame of today’s managers. Today, football managers have cult-like status. We think these great names, these great characters, make the difference between success and failure. In the past, when clubs were fairly equal in financial resources, they may have done. But now it’s largely a myth. Most football managers make no difference at all.

There are notable exceptions!

The simple fact is that in modern football it’s all about the money. The richer the club, the more it has to spend on buying the best players and paying the top wages to attract these players. Statistically, the more a club spends on wages, the more successful it will be. The correlation between wages and league position in the Premier League and the Championship is as high as 87 per cent in one study, 92 per cent in another, leading to a conclusion that it’s around 90 per cent. It’s as simple as that. That leaves the manager’s role as able to explain only up to a 10 per cent difference – better or worse – to this. Of course, there will be variations from season to season, there is no guarantee each season that wages will dictate league position. Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City have had relatively bad seasons. This is down to luck, good or bad, with the likes of injuries and refereeing decisions. But over a few seasons, the higher the wages, the greater the success will be, as long as the manager is basically competent.

While the ability to pay higher wages will always have been a factor, it was much less so in the past, which means the manager previously had more impact. There was a maximum wage for footballers in England until 1961, and though some clubs got around this with ‘extra’ payments to players, broadly this meant there was a level playing field among the top 30 or so clubs in England. Managers then could make a real difference. Even after the maximum wage was abolished, the top 20 or so clubs could still compete fairly equally for the top players from the 1960s to the 1980s, which meant the manager still made a significant difference. This is the era of the likes of Bill Shankly at Liverpool, Don Revie at Leeds and Brian Clough at Derby County and Nottingham Forest. But since the English  Premier League began in 1992, the gulf between the top six clubs and the others in terms of their financial resources has grown exponentially, and so even the best manager at a poorer club struggles to succeed. Ranieri at Leicester City was a one-season exception.

            So where does this leave the cult of the manager? Yes, some are better than others. But the best managers, who also tend to be at the best clubs as these can pay the highest manager’s wages too, can only add a few percentage points in the modern game. Sir Alex Ferguson would not have succeeded at Manchester United if it did not have the money to pay such high wages to players. Let’s remember, he was nearly sacked after his first few seasons with the club. His success there is in large part down to his ability to attract the best players by being able to pay top wages, something that was challenged towards the end of his time at United, by Chelsea and then Manchester City.

So it’s largely about the money. Most managers, assuming basic competence, do not now make much, if any, difference. A few, like Sir Alex Ferguson, do add something special, but there are very few of his calibre, to make a real difference.

For my full argument that most football managers make no difference at all, please see my new book, What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK.

It’s science, not artistry, that made the Brazilians the best at football

There is a widespread belief that Brazil has been so good at football, because their players are somehow more naturally gifted. Which is, of course, complete nonsense. From time to time Brazil has produced some exceptionally talented players, such as Pelé. But so have other countries. Brazil hasn’t won five FIFA World Cups just through natural talent, but by hard work, practice, and, crucially, the appliance of science – before most of the Europeans.

The great Brazil side of 1970

The man behind Brazil’s greatest successes was Joao Havelange, who was President of FIFA from 1974 to 1998. Havelange was the eldest son of wealthy Belgian immigrants that settled in Rio de Janeiro early in the 20th century. Havelange wanted to become a professional footballer but for someone from his social background this was not acceptable – sport should be amateur. Havelange pursued swimming and competed for Brazil in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and at the next Olympics in Helsinki in 1952 he was in Brazil’s water polo team. He then went into sports administration and by 1958 he was president of Brazil’s sports federation, which at the time included Brazilian football and its national team. He held this post until 1973, during which time Brazil won the World Cup three times.

Brazil had failed in the first five World Cups, most notably in 1950. Deep still today in the Brazilian football psyche – despite five World Cup wins since! – is the scar of Brazil’s highly unexpected (by Brazilians) defeat in the deciding match in the 1950 World Cup against Uruguay in the Maracana Stadium, in Rio, Brazil, in front of 200,000 fans, known as the ‘Maracanazo’, the ‘Maracana blow’.  At the 1954 World Cup an ill-disciplined Brazil lost 4-2 to the great Hungarian team in the quarter-finals, with two Brazilians sent off. Brazil did not expect to win in Switzerland in 1954 – no team had won on another continent in the first five World Cups – but Brazil’s failure in 1950 had to be expunged.

Havelange didn’t know much about football tactics, but his organizational skills were supreme. While preparations for earlier World Cups had been amateurish, the Brazil squad that travelled to Sweden for the 1958 World Cup was perhaps the best prepared national team in history until then. Nothing was left to chance. Brazil had a thorough training schedule before the tournament. With the players and manager in Sweden was a backroom team which included coaching staff, a doctor, a dentist and a psychologist. Brazil asked that at their team hotel female staff were replaced with men, so that the players would not be distracted. Before the final against hosts Sweden Brazil even complained about the Swedish cheerleaders, and these were banned from the game. Brazil, inspired by a hat-trick by a 17-year-old Pelé, won 5-2, and became the first team to win the World Cup on another continent.

The same scientific approach, together with talented players, ensured Brazil’s victory in 1962.  By comparison, England’s approach at this time was amateurish. The team was chosen by a selection panel rather than the coach Walter Winterbottom. An English woman was found in Chile to cook English food for the players.

In 1966 in England referees failed to protect Pelé, who was kicked out of the tournament. Havelange made sure that Brazil’s preparation for the World Cup in Mexico in 1970 was even more meticulous. The team was together for three months before the tournament. The training programme using techniques developed by NASA, including altitude training. Brazil triumphed in 1970 not because they had the best eleven players, but because they had the best preparation.

Having been instrumental in leading Brazil to three World Cup triumphs, Havelange challenged the Englishman Sir Stanley Rous to be elected President of FIFA in 1974 – and won. He prepared brilliantly for this election. Again, Brazilian planning had defeated English ‘amateurism’. Havelange’s meticulous planning and scientific approach ensured Brazil won three World Cups – and effectively took control of FIFA for the next three decades.  

For my full argument that it’s science, not artistry, that made the Brazilians the best at football, please see my new book, What You Think You Know About Football is Wrong: The Global Game’s Greatest Myths and Untruths, published by Bloomsbury, London, UK.