10 Years in Manchester: John Brewer Calendar

13 Feb 2023

As the National Football Museum celebrates 10 years in Manchester, we are telling the stories of people who have been instrumental in the museum’s success.

The latest subject of our ‘My NFM Story’ features is John Brewer, the National Football Museum’s current Chair of the Board of Trustees.

john brewer and jane bateman

As you approach the NFM, you cannot help but be impressed by the magnificent Urbis Building and its location at the heart of Manchester city centre. But more importantly, once inside I was impressed with the variety of exhibits and things that there are to do, as well as the iconic nature of many of the items that are on display.

And of course, I was also really impressed with the passion, commitment and energy of all of the staff.

Why do you think it is important for the country to have a national museum about football?

Football is a sport that is part of our culture, and it is a sport that has grown and evolved over time, whilst adapting as times and society have changed.  The NFM is a record of these changes and provides a vital insight into how football and our society are closely linked, whilst providing a vital insight into the past for the next generation of football fans.

What has been your favourite exhibition at the National Football Museum?

I think the whole country was rightly proud of the performances of the England Lionesses at the 2022 Euros, so our exhibition highlighting the Euros and the achievement of our players was something that we can all be rightly proud of.

Interestingly, as the FA’s sports scientist in the early 1990’s, I was working closely with the England Women’s team, who at that time were run by a separate Governing Body, the England Women’s FA.  They had their office in the Manchester Corn Exchange, which of course is just across the road from the NFM and now home to a range of restuarants and coffee shops!

What does football mean to you?

As a young lad, I used to go to watch my home team, Torquay United, who I still loyally support.  So in that sense, football has brought me a lot of pain and anguish, as well as more relegations than promotions!  But seriously, football gave me my first job as Head of Human Performance for the FA, and from there I have had a long and varied career in sport and sports science, so I owe football a lot.

Today, my wife and I spend most Saturdays following Non-League football in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, and we regularly go to watch games in our local area.

How does the National Football Museum contribute to Manchester’s arts and cultural offer?

I think the NFM attracts many people who may not normally see a museum as a “go-to” place, so it plays a large part in increasing access, diversity and inclusion to the arts and culture offer in the city. It is also unique in attracting football fans from all over the world, and particularly Europe, when the are in the city for European competition.

What’s your favourite item on display within the museum?

It probably won’t be a surprise if I say it is Geoff Hurst’s iconic red England shirt from the 1966 World Cup Final!

What are your ambitions for the museum? Where would you like it to be in another 10 years’ time?

I once had a boss who was always encouraging me not to limit the “scale of my ambition”, and it is something I still use today to apply to people and organisations I am working with.  So in 10 years time, I would like to think that whilst we are still called the National Football Museum, we have a global presence and reputation all over the world, which at the same time is underpinned by a sound financial base giving us security and a basis upon which to grow.

I would like us to have a strong digital presence, with virtual exhibitions, talks and content that can be accessed by people all over the world, as well as close links with all the key stakeholders who are part of the game in this country. Our staff will continue to be proud to work for an organisation with a national and global reputation, and we will be seen as the “go to” place for all things relating to the history of football.

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