Please note: The museum will be closed on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 March 2023 for staff training.

“It will be an emotional reunion when we return to the museum” Calendar

25 Jun 2020

With the museum gearing-up for reopening, one set of visitors will be looking forward to returning more than most.

The Sporting Memories group enables older sports fans (50+) to meet and reflect on the beautiful game with like-minded visitors.

With the museum closing in March due to the coronavirus crisis, the group has not met face-to-face for three months.

Given the very essence of Sporting Memories is meeting in person at the museum (on Mondays and Wednesdays), the enforced absence has been challenging.

But if the group couldn’t meet physically, they could do digitally.

At the start of lockdown Louise Rutherford and Christian Allen from the museum quickly arranged for the group to carry on meeting via Zoom. A WhatsApp group was also set up and Christian introduced football quizzes for members.

Amazingly, the group has swelled in size – with eight new members joining during the lockdown period.

Christian, Learning and Communities Manager, explains: “We started the Sporting Memories virtual meet-up a week into lockdown and I’ve been blown away by the response over the past three months.

“We’ve had a weekly Zoom quiz and WhatsApp group for members to keep in touch throughout the week. We’ve extended the group to include museum volunteers and have gained eight new members.

“Group members have got involved in the museum’s Game of our Lives campaign and I hope to record more of these memories from the group in the coming months.

“Running the weekly sessions has been the most rewarding part of working in lockdown for me and I look forward to getting the group back together in the museum once it’s safe to do so.”

We spoke to three members about how they’ve coped with the lockdown and their thoughts on returning to the museum:

Jon Pidgeon, 64, from Sale. Huddersfield Town fan.

Jon has been attending the museum each week for the last 18 months. Not being able to see his fellow group members has left a void.

What have you most missed due to museum being closed?

“The thing I’ve missed most is the interaction between people and there’s a friendliness that can really only be generated by physical presence. I’ve even missed getting on the tram and going into town.”

What do you like most about the group?

“When I was working I’d quite often bump into people by the coffee machine and talk about football: the latest results, transfers, referring decisions…

“Sporting Memories replaces that 100%, adds more structure, more time, more continuity and obviously more people in my social network. There’s a real humour and camaraderie. It’s a good social occasion and everybody joins in. Something I look forward to attending.

How have you found the digital sessions?

“I’ve enjoyed them very much. WhatsApp is good for random conversations during the week. The quizzes are always fun. Mainly because it makes me look up stuff that I didn’t know. While I’m searching for one thing something else interesting turns up. In general lockdown is much easier with the technology we have now, especially Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp.”

What are your thoughts about eventually getting back to the museum?

“It has to be done at the right time. I’m more concerned that all the group are able to get back in the museum than when we can. There is clearly a higher risk to older people from the virus so I’m all for those who have a much lower risk getting back to some kind of normality very soon.”

“I suspect it would be quite an emotional reunion. I just hope Ian (one of the group’s other regulars, remembers to bake a cake to celebrate Liverpool winning the league.”

Group regular Ian Hargreaves brings in cakes marking City V LFC rivalry. A new one must be order soon…

David Rose, 70, born and bred in Rochdale. Burnley season ticket holder.

David has been attending Sporting Memories at the museum for two years.

What do you like most about the group?

“The Monday meeting helps define the week, when retired days can run together, it reminds me it’s Monday and football is on the agenda. It’s definitely something to look forward to. It’s a nice social atmosphere a good laugh, and there’s the tea…”

How have you found the lockdown?

“The lockdown has not been too difficult. I live alone so it’s been a major change. It’s given me time to think and do more exercise. Walking and biking means I’ve lost 6kg, bought a new bike and got to grips with technology.”

How will you feel when you return to the museum?

“I’m not sure how I feel when we get to meet again as a group at the museum. I’ll perhaps feel relief that it’s over, but still slight worries about the future inevitably will linger.”

England manager Gareth Southgate once dropped in on the group

Kel Hoose, 68, from Frodsham. Supports Manchester United and Runcorn Linnets.

How long have you been attending Sporting Memories?

“I actually attended my first meeting the week before the lockdown began. I saw an advert and joined the Wednesday group.”

What are the best things about the group?

“I’ve only joined the group recently but I value the opportunity to reminisce memories of football from a time when the game was so different and my interest was all consuming. I take a great deal of satisfaction in realising my memory is not as bad as I thought. It is interesting to discuss football with fans of other clubs. This is an opportunity that is not widely available nowadays and it demonstrates the extent that we are football fans first and individual club fans second.”

What does it mean to you to see the group every fortnight?

“I can only answer this on basis of weekly Zoom meetings. I’ve slowly integrated into the group and now enjoy the camaraderie and banter that takes place. The regular meetings are an important part of having a routine to look forward to especially in these difficult times.”

How different / difficult has life been in lockdown these past three months?

“My wife and I have coped quite well. It’s been a good time to get jobs done, slow down and reflect on those things that are really important. Football is the only thing I have really missed. It is now the time of year I would be looking for pre-season games to watch. The Welsh teams preparing for European qualification games would be playing now. Pre-season is a time of year I love with everyone looking forward with optimism. I feel a bit robbed of this opportunity.”

What are your thoughts about eventually getting back to the museum?

“It will be another sign of things getting back to normal. I will probably be apprehensive at first but it will be very uplifting in terms of life moving forward”.


More information about Sporting Memories at National Football Museum.

Keep track of the museum’s social media channels for details on when we will be reopening.

All updates will be announced on our website and social channels – FacebookTwitter and Instagram – so keep checking for the latest news.

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