The Football League and the National Football Museum have launched a major new exhibition at the latter’s stunning new Manchester home entitled Game Changers: 125 Years of The Football League.
The exhibition, which is free to all visitors, celebrates the 125th Anniversary of the world’s original league football competition. It runs from September through until April, the length of the first season of The Football League in 1888/89.
Game Changers tells the story of the origins of the professional game and its place at the heart of our nation’s sporting culture. The exhibition brings to life the personalities and events that have shaped league football, both on and off the pitch. It also features some of football’s most iconic and historic items - including many never before seen objects - with each of The Football League’s 72 member clubs providing an item of historical importance.
On display is the shirt goalkeeper Jimmy Glass was wearing when he scored his famous injury time goal in 1999 to keep Carlisle United in The Football League, Sir Alf Ramsey’s Division One, Two and Three winners medals from his time as manager at Ipswich Town, the Red Book presented to Sheffield Wednesday legend Derek Dooley on ‘This is Your Life’ in 1961 and the coracle used by Shrewsbury Town for more than 40 years to rescue balls from the River Severn next to their old Gay Meadow ground.
The exhibition also includes objects from the early years of league football - such as Wolverhampton Wanderers official fixture card from the first Football League season in 1888/89 and the boots used by Derby County legend Steve Bloomer in 1895 - to more recent items, such as a signed programme from Stevenage's first ever Football League game in 2010 to the ball used by Fleetwood Town to score their first ever Football League goal in 2012.
Greg Clarke, the Chairman of The Football League said: “This new exhibition at the National Football Museum captures the essence of The Football League and what it means to millions of people throughout the country.
“The content of the exhibition is extraordinary; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see items from 125 years of football history and we’re thrilled that it features contributions from all 72 League clubs.
“I strongly encourage supporters to go and see the exhibition and the rest of this outstanding museum.”
Kevin Moore, National Football Museum Director said: “The history of The Football League provides a fascinating story for football fans across the world. It’s the benchmark of competition football and a triumph for the game that this nation created.
“We’re delighted for the fantastic support from The Football League and The Arts Council for this exciting new exhibition. Game Changers reinforces our message that the National Football Museum really is for all fans of all clubs.”
Game Changers is divided into five chronological zones. Zone 1 looks at the origins of league football and pays homage to the founder of The Football League, William McGregor.
Zone 2 looks at football between the wars with a particular focus on one of its great modernisers, Herbert Chapman of Huddersfield Town and Arsenal. Football’s post-war heyday is covered in Zone 3 with the legendary Sir Stanley Matthews at its heart.
A major part of the exhibition is dedicated to the original superstar footballer, George Best, whose Football League debut was 50 years ago this month. Zone 4 showcases some unique objects on loan from Best’s sister Barbara McNarry, including poignant letters sent home to his parents.
Artist Chris O’Shea has been commissioned to develop a new interactive artwork, inspired by the life-story of George Best, which will put museum visitors in the shoes of a footballing superstar. The artwork part of the new Arts Council funded ‘Out of Play’ visual arts programme at the museum, uses Kinect motion tracking technology to put visitors under the celeb-spotlight.
Zone 5 looks at football in the modern era, the role played by supporters and what The Football League is today.
The National Football Museum boasts three floors of objects, stories and ‘hands-on’ interactives. Highlights include a shirt from the world's first international match played in 1872, the 1966 World Cup Final ball and the shirt worn by Maradona during the infamous 1986 ‘Hand of God’ quarter-final match between England and Argentina.