China and the UK: the Homes of Football, Ancient and Modern

23 October 2015. The National Football Museum for England, in Manchester, is to be greatly honoured by the visit of the President of the People’s Republic of China. I will be greeting him, as the Chief Executive of the Museum. Nervously but excitedly waiting for the President and the British Prime Minister to arrive, with just 5 minutes to go, I was given some new instructions. I was told the President did not wish the meeting to be too formal, that I should engage with the President as one football fan to another. I was of course aware that the President is a big fan of football!

Left to right: The President’s translator, Sheikh Khaldoon Al Mubarak Chairman of City Football Group, President of China Xi Jinping, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Dr Kevin Moore, CEO of the National Football Museum

When the President arrived the first thing I said to him was that the English had invented the modern game of football, Association football, or soccer, in 1863. However, I knew that the Chinese had invented the first game of football, Cuju, over 2,000 years ago! I was told afterwards that the President was very pleased to hear these words from me, as I was the first person during his State Visit to the UK to recognise this unique historic significance of football in China.

I showed the President three outstanding items from the collections of the National Football Museum. First, the original Minute Book of the English Football Association, with the first hand written laws of Association football, from 1863. Second, a ball from the very first FIFA World Cup final in 1930, when Uruguay beat Argentina 4 goals to 2.  I explained that the two teams could not agree which ball to use, as each country used a ball with a different design. The FIFA officials set a compromise, and an Argentinian ball was used in the first half. This ended  Uruguay 1 Argentina 2. When a Uruguayan ball was used in the second half, Uruguay scored 3 goals to win 4-2.  Third, I showed to the President the perfect replica of the Jules Rimet trophy made in secret by the English FA in 1966, when the original trophy was stolen, during the build up to the FIFA World Cup in England in 1966.

The President then presented to me a gift for the National Football Museum, a replica of a ball used in the ancient Chinese football game of Cuju. I now realised that it had been highly appropriate for me to recognise the importance of Cuju in my very first words to the President!  I presented to the President a gift from the Museum, a replica of the FA’s first Minute Book from 1863, which is the DNA of modern football.

The President moved on to meet Paul Dermody OBE, the Chairman of the National Football Museum, and former Manchester United player Gary Neville.  The President then gave a special National Football Museum Hall of Fame award to Sun Jihai, in recognition of the fact that he had been, to date, the most outstanding Chinese player in the English Premier League, at Manchester City.  But maybe there will be a new Chinese star in the Premier League soon. The President then had a tour of Manchester City and famously agreed to a ‘selfie’ with leading City player Sergio Aguero!

At the end of the visit I said to the President that our two countries had unique roles in the history of football, as China was the birthplace of the first game of football, Cuju, and the UK was the birthplace of the modern game of football. The President said that he would very much like to see a cultural exchange between our two countries develop through football. As a result, the National Football Museum has developed a partnership with the Linzi Football Museum, Zibo, China, which is the excellent Chinese Football Museum, with displays on the ancient game of Cuju and modern football in China.

Cultural exchange through football

23rd October 2016. Exactly one year after the President’s visit. I and a number of UK professors, who are experts on the history of football, have been invited to take part in the prestigious First World Football Culture Summit at the Linzi Football Museum in Zibo. This was the next major step in our cultural exchange through football.

The Chinese developed the first major game of football over 2,000 years ago and the English invented the modern game 150 years ago. But now football belongs to the whole world …

International Museum Day 2020. Celebrating Our Museums: National Football Museum for England

National Football Museum for England

On International Museum Day 2020, in these challenging global times, we need to celebrate what is wonderful about our museums like never before, and the ways in which they encourage and enable equality, diversity and inclusion. Let’s just take one museum to celebrate, that is close to my heart, and was a very powerful exemplar and advocate in these terms, under my leadership. The National Football Museum for England used the power of football to reach diverse and inclusive audiences that other museums found difficult to reach, particularly in terms of social class and ethnicity.

I was the CEO of the National Football Museum from 1997 to 2017, leading its opening to the public, first in Preston in 2001, and then in Manchester in 2012. The Museum attracted millions of highly satisfied, very diverse visitors – over a half a million a year in Manchester. The National Football Museum was a highly international museum at this time, with visitors coming from over 150 countries.

The reaction of the public to the National Football Museum was extraordinary. The Museum was invited to join the UK’s Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) in 2013, and in 2014 was the UK’s highest rated attraction by visitors in the annual ALVA survey!

The national and international media wrote glowing reviews of the Museum, first in Preston, and then again in its new form in Manchester. As a celebration of the Museum, here is a sample of the national press reviews from the UK and overseas:

“It is a fantastic place. Yes, fantastic”.

The Times

‘The place is truly captivating… should become a place of pilgrimage for anyone with even the remotest interest in football … It is though you’d died and woken up in football heaven.’

The Daily Telegraph

‘The most extraordinary collection of memorabilia I have ever seen … Even those who profess to hate the sport will be captivated.’

 Independent on Sunday

‘If you think museums are musty, dusty old places, forget it. This one is a sheer delight, for fans of every age and persuasion… A football shrine to gladden the heart.’

Sunday Express

‘Sumptuously designed pictorial evidence …. The public will be hammering on the doors.’

The Independent

“I spent five hours, dazed by all the wonders, and can’t wait to go again.  It’s brilliant”.

The Mail on Sunday


The Times

… the marvellous National Football Museum … On one level, this is simply an unparalleled collection of football memorabilia. … But you really don’t have to know anything about football to enjoy the museum, since ‘the true story of the world’s greatest game’ is backed by fascinating print, film and sound material on football’s origins, its social importance, the experience of fans through the ages, and other relevant themes. Plus, there are some great interactive exhibits.

The Rough Guide to England


Daily Mirror.

‘The New National Football Museum hits the target’

Daily Express

‘The New National Football Museum in Manchester is World Class’

The Guardian

‘The People’s Game exhibits its heart’

The Independent

‘A new sports shrine in soccer’s birth country’

Washington Post

‘National Football Museum another triumphant display for Manchester.’

The Telegraph

 ‘You walk out into the triumphant Manchester spring feeling warmth, love even, towards football and its history, and convinced of Germaine Greer’s words, emblazoned on the wall, “Football counts as culture just as much as opera does.” ’

Tanya Aldred, The Telegraph

‘The best museum about the best game. Intriguing, captivating and a whole lot of fun, the Football Museum perfectly captures our shared sense of obsession. It is not just the game itself that is so celebrated here, it is our involvement in it: the spirit of the fan informs every inch of the place. Going to the museum is – almost – like seeing your team win the local derby in the last minute of added time. There is no greater compliment than that.”

Jim White, The Telegraph

But I leave the last words to three members of the public, out of millions of visitors to the Museum:

“The best time I have ever had in my life.” (Lewis, aged 11).

“Hate football. Love the Museum.”

“I would live here if I could!”

National Football Museum: 7 key measures of success

How do we measure success in a museum? This has long been a conundrum for museums, with shifting views through time, reflecting wider social and political agendas. I first grappled with this issue in the 1990s when I was a Lecturer in Museum Management and Marketing in the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. Measures, both quantitative and qualitative, have become increasingly complex, leading museums to spend too much time measuring what they do, rather than simply doing it.

There is no question that the National Football Museum for England during my time as CEO, from 1997 to 2017, was an outstanding success. Let’s look at this through what I regard as the 7 key measures for any museum: collections; research; exhibitions; events; learning; inclusion; and impact.


Collections are the basis of any museum. When I joined the project to create the National Football Museum in 1997 there was almost no collection. When I left in 2017 the Museum held the greatest collections on football in the world, including the FIFA Collection. Acquisition of the FIFA Collection, in itself the greatest single historic football collection in the world, was the basis of the grant award of £9.3 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund (now the National Lottery Heritage Fund) to create the Museum in 2001. The collections grew greatly in size and quality in the following years. The outstanding national and international significance of the collections was recognised in 2013, when the collections were awarded Designation Status by Arts Council England. The National Football Museum was the youngest Museum to have its collections Designated. In 2016 we acquired the best collection in the world on the history of women’s football, the Chris Unger History of Women’s Football Collection, thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and lottery players.

The Jules Rimet trophy replica, made in secret in 1966…


The National Football Museum had a comparatively small curatorial team. Yet by working with a range of universities and academics, and securing funding from a wide range of sources, a great deal of high-quality research on the collections was undertaken. This included 17 fully funded PhD studentships. The Museum’s research partnership with the University of Central Lancashire, the International Football Institute (IFI), headed by Professor John Hughson, developed into a major international centre, with a very extensive range of publications.


The public face of the Museum, its exhibitions, received an outstanding reaction from the public, from academic reviews, and from the media. For its displays at both its original site in Preston and then at its new site in Manchester, the Museum reached the final shortlist for European Museum of the Year. The projected visitor target for the Museum in Manchester was 350,000 each year, but the Museum soon attracted over 500,000. We were invited to join the UK’s Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) in 2014, and became the UK’s highest rated attraction by visitors in the 2014 ALVA survey! The Museum also created and contributed to over thirty exhibitions in fifteen countries around the world, attracting an audience of over two million people.


The Museum developed a very exciting and inclusive programme of public events, working with a wide range of partners, ensuring that there was an event almost every day. Examples included: hosting the major Football v Homophobia conference in 2015; BBC Two’s Match of the Day: The Premier League Show filmed live; an evening with David Beckham;and Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.  

Gabby Logan presented the BBC TV Premier League Show from the National Football Museum


A bold and highly successful learning and community strategy used the power of football to reach audiences that most museums struggle to reach. From over 100 babies setting a world record for a football physical activity together, to a group of Asian heritage young women creating a film about the hidden history of women’s football, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to using football memories to help people with dementia, we sought to reach and engage with the widest possible audience, in new and imaginative ways.

The One Aim One Game project film premier


Under my leadership, the National Football Museum attracted a highly diverse audience. The percentage of working class visitors was higher than at any major museum in the country.  The Museum attracted all ages, including relatively hard to reach age groups, such as teenagers. The focus on the issues of racism, sexism and homophobia in the game in exhibitions, events and learning programmes, challenged stereotypes and brought new and diverse audiences. For example, the Museum held the world’s first exhibitions on BAME footballers in 2003 and women’s football in 2005. The Museum attracted visitors from over 150 countries.


In attracting over 500,000 visitors each year, the museum made a substantial contribution to the economy of Manchester. The was calculated at over £26 million each year, indirectly also creating hundreds of jobs. The Museum also made a considerable social impact, through, for example, the learning, health and wellbeing agendas.

Above all …

Above all, in my time as CEO the Museum attracted over 5 million highly satisfied visitors.

Their experience was not just in a celebration of the game, but from a critical standpoint, challenging visitors to consider what they thought and felt about the game, past and present, and how they could help to shape the game in the future.

The Man who Changed Football

The Leppings Lane terrace after the Hillsborough Stadium disaster, 1989. Lest we ever forget …

Few people have changed an entire sport for the better. Peter Murray Taylor, Baron Taylor of Gosforth Kt PC QC, did this – for British football.

Peter Taylor was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1930. He came from a Jewish family which had emigrated from Lithuania to the UK – the original family name was Teiger or Teicher. His father Louis, a doctor, was born in Leeds, to where the family had emigrated. Peter Taylor passed the 11-plus and attended the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle. During the Second War, the city was subject to bombing raids and Taylor was evacuated to Penrith. In 1951 Taylor won an exhibition to Pembroke College, Cambridge, to study law. He graduated in 1953 with an upper second class degree and then read for the Bar, being called in 1954. He chose to practise on the north-eastern circuit around Newcastle. A highly successful career followed. He became a High Court Judge in 1980 and in 1988 was promoted to the Court of Appeal. Became Lord Chief Justice in 1992, at the same time being created a life peer as Baron Taylor of Gosforth. He died in 1997 at the age of 66.

Taylor has a very distinguished career of public service. But perhaps his greatest service was the way in which his work led to the complete transformation of British football for the better, in terms of crowd safety and stadia. In the 1980s football was in decline, with falling gates and crumbling stadia. As a direct consequence of the ‘Taylor Report’ of 1990, the game has been rescued and transformed. 

15th April 1989. Liverpool versus Nottingham Forest in the semi-final of the FA Cup, being played at a neutral venue, Hillsborough Stadium, the ground of Sheffield Wednesday FC. 3.06pm. The game is halted. Liverpool fans are being crushed behind the fences at the Leppings Lane end of the Stadium. This is the Hillsborough disaster, the worst ever disaster at a British football ground, the worst in British sporting history. 96 Liverpool fans are killed in a crush, 766 are injured.

On 17 April 1989 Taylor was commissioned by the government to undertake an inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster. The Taylor Inquiry sat for a total of 31 days and published two reports: an interim report which laid out the events of the day and immediate conclusions, and the final report which outlined general recommendations on football ground safety. This became known as the Taylor Report.

Taylor concluded that “policing on 15 April broke down” and that “although there were other causes, the main reason for the disaster was the failure of police control.” Sheffield Wednesday was criticised for the inadequate number of turnstiles at the Leppings Lane end and the poor quality of the crush barriers on the terraces, “respects in which failure by the Club contributed to this disaster.” Crucially, Taylor did not blame the Liverpool fans: “I do not consider choice of ends was causative of the disaster. Had it been reversed, the disaster could well have occurred in a similar manner but to Nottingham supporters”. Taylor concluded his criticism of South Yorkshire Police by describing senior officers in command as “defensive and evasive witnesses” who refused to accept any responsibility for their errors.

Front cover of the ‘Taylor report’, 1990

As we now know, however, there was a cover up by South Yorkshire Police, which meant that the Hillsborough families and their supporters have had to campaign for decades to obtain justice. In 2016, the second inquest into the deaths of the fans came to conclusions which Taylor had anticipated in 1990. Taylor was proven to have been right in his judgements. Football fans speak very positively about Taylor. Yet it took 26 years for the legal system to reach the same conclusion that he had.

While the Hillsborough families are still fighting for justice, the Taylor Report was largely implemented, and transformed the game for the better. It is arguably the most important document in the history of English Association football, after the handwritten first laws of the game from 1863. Taylor’s recommendations changed the safety at stadia immeasurably for the better, and changed the nature of the stadia, as modern, all-seater grounds became the norm, not the exception.

At the National Football in Manchester there is a section of the displays on stadia. At the heart of this is a film about Hillsborough and previous crowd disasters in British football and stadia safety.  Along with the images and film, there is no voice over, only the words on screen of Taylor. We decided that no one could explain this subject matter better than he. This is the complete text of the film:

 “It is a depressing and chastening fact that mine is the ninth official report covering crowd safety and control at football grounds.  Why were these other recommendations not followed?  I suggest two main reasons.  First, insufficient concern and vigilance for the safety and well-being of spectators.  Secondly, complacency, which led all parties to think that since disaster had not occurred on previous occasions it would not happen this time.  The safety and comfort of those on the terraces has not been regarded as a priority.  Club managements do not feel obliged to put their grounds into a state considered by the Police to be necessary for crowd control.  The problem of crowd control and safety, as it was said, suddenly arises.  Does there have to be a disaster or near-disaster at each ground to trigger radical action?  The combination of numbers, excitement and partisanship, even leaving aside misbehaviour, has a potential for danger.  Football requires higher standards both in bricks and mortar and in human relationships.  Police officers and stewards should be fully briefed and trained.  Standardisation in stadium design and construction is required.  Prison-type fences with spikes and overhanging sections should go.  The aim should be to provide more modern and comfortable accommodation. I am satisfied that seating does more to achieve those objectives than any other single measure.  Almost all the solutions I have proposed have been previously considered in detail by many distinguished inquiries over a period of sixty years.  Complacency is the enemy of safety.”

This was Taylor’s blueprint for the transformation of the game. Such was the power of his conclusions, this has been achieved. But as Taylor has warned us, we must never become complacent. Lest a tragedy like Hillsborough happens again….