Behind the Scenes at the Football Museum

December 2021


My desire to build a football museum goes back a long way. I remember discussing my ideas in 1986, when I made a small film for the BBC on their policy regarding racist chanting heard during Match of the Day. I will write the occasional blog, detailing things I remember in the setting ups and running of the Museum. The Scottish Football Association Museum Trust, to give it its Sunday best name.

The Feasibility Study

In 1986, I was doing my Museum Studies postgraduate diploma at Manchester University. This led me to another museum foundational character. I met and befriended Julian Spalding. At the time, he was Director of Manchester Museums. He eventually became Director of Glasgow Museums. When Glasgow City Council and the SFA, under Ernie Walker, considered the issue of a Museum, they came to him for advice. Julian pointed them in my direction.

I was a museum curator and football fan. I had been a recent Chairperson of the Greater Manchester Branch of the Football Supporters’ Association and I was President of the Association of Sports Historians. The right person, with the right credentials, in a Museum area, which did not - yet - exist.
There had been places which were football museums. It is not a protected term. Hang a picture in your house and call yourself a museum. Who cares? I did. If this museum was going to become a reality, it would be run by museum professionals, to museum standards.

In 1990, I came up to Scotland, to prepare a feasibility study. Manchester United had a museum, (run by Mark Wylie: a Saint Johnstone fan). Apart from that, it was thin gruel. I did the rounds of football clubs, getting their support. I was teamed up with John Sunderland, who had designed the Jorvik Viking Centre in York. This was a ‘Heritage’ experience and it was extremely successful.

John’s job was to come up with the design idea, based on my knowledge. I sat in his house for two days. I talked into his tape recorder, about how the Museum should look. When I saw the visuals for the final study, the Museum had turned into a soccerfootyfestathon. I must have been rubbish at explaining myself...

John and I were coming at it from two different ends of the telescope. He wanted something like Jorvik. I wanted something to preserve and protect the football heritage of Scotland.

BTW, in writing this, I checked that Mark Wylie was still at Manchester United and so he is. I also noted that the Museum is now part of a whole package. Entry starts at £25 for an adult. Kinnell, ref!
The Feasibility Study was published in late 1990 and a committee was formed involving the City, the SFA, Glasgow Development Agency, Tourism, Strathclyde European Partnership and God knows who else. It became an end in itself. Meetings about meetings to push forward the agenda for the meetings.
I watched, from my Midlands fastness of Nottingham and waited. In the end, Julian Spalding got tired of it and short-circuited the whole thing. He did a deal with the SFA and the City. They ponied up the cash for my wages and a desk in an office at the Museum of Transport, Kelvin Hall.

January 1
st 1992, I left Nottingham for my new life and we were off and running.

A final thank you: I moved to Nottingham in ’88. Supply teaching was in its infancy. I could not get a museum job. I was so poor, all I could afford was to go to see the Nottingham Forest ‘A’ team. They played at lunchtime. I watched, along with the Notts council staff on their lunch. For the princely sum of free entry, I watched Brian Clough’s young team weave elegant patterns on the pitch at the City Ground. Beautiful football, from an English Scotch Professor.