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Manchester scientists solve Jules Rimet mystery

29 July 2016


The National Football Museum and The University of Manchester have once and for all solved one of the remaining mysteries of the museum's Jules Rimet trophy, won by England in 1966.

1966 World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium July 1966 England 4 v West Germany 2  Captain Bobby Moore holds aloft the original Jules Rimet trophy as he sits on the shoulders of his teammates. Pic by Mirrorpix

1966 World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium July 1966 England 4 v West Germany 2 Captain Bobby Moore holds aloft the original Jules Rimet trophy as he sits on the shoulders of his teammates. Pic by Mirrorpix

The trophy was famously stolen before the 1966 competition,  before being found by Pickles the dog. With security of the trophy a major concern during the tournament, The FA made a perfect replica in secret. Both versions of the trophy were at Wembley when England won the final, on 30 July 1966. It is understood that the original was presented to Bobby Moore by HRH Queen Elizabeth II, but the replica was 'swapped' once the players returned to the dressing room - with almost all the team unaware of the exchange.  The replica was used at public appearances until 1970, when the original was returned to FIFA ahead of the World Cup in Mexico, and Brazil were awarded the original permanently after their third tournament triumph. A new trophy design was created for subsequent competitions. England's replica, meanwhile, was secretly returned to its creator: a silversmith called George Bird, who supposedly kept it under his bed for the rest of his life.

The trophy Brazil were given was stolen and, it was claimed, melted down in 1983, with the replica becoming part of the National Football Museum collection. Until now, however, nobody has ever been categorically sure which version was which. The museum decided to solve the mystery once and for all by taking it to be scanned at The University of Manchester’s Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility.

Photos like this, featured in the 1966 World Cup Exhibition, show England's World Cup winners posing with what is now known to be the replica trophy. The players themselves were not aware of the exchange.

Photos like this, featured in the 1966 World Cup Exhibition, show England's World Cup winners posing with what is now known to be the replica trophy. The players themselves were not aware of the exchange.

Scientists from the University used state-of-the-art X-ray computer tomography (CT) to conduct a structural and elemental analysis of the trophy, which enabled its 3D shape to be recorded as a virtual model, and allowed the experts to see inside the trophy. The scientists also did some X-ray Fluoresence (XRF), which provided information on the chemical composition of the trophy.
The original trophy was silver and gold plated, while the replica was bronze and gold plated. The chemical analysis did not find any evidence of silver present, but there were strong signals for tin and lead. This suggests that the National Football Museum has the replica trophy.

Dr Kevin Moore, Director of the National Football Museum, said: “While we’ve always been fairly certain that we have the only surviving version of the Jules Rimet trophy, there has always been a slight question mark over which one it was. We’ve been delighted to work with The University of Manchester on solving this mystery once and for all.”

Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility deputy director Dr Timothy Burnett: "With our analysis, we could measure the elemental composition of the trophy beneath the gold plating. The original trophy was reportedly made of cast silver, however our analysis failed to detect any signal of this – therefore, we do think this trophy is a replica of the original Jules Rimet World Cup. We think it is possible that it is made from either cast pewter or bronze.”