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125 Years of the Beautiful Game: Football, Politics and Society

150 years of the beautiful game

The documents in this online exhibition cover a range of footballing controversies and debates - from the dawn of the professional game in the 1880s to more recent discussions over the ownership of clubs by big business.

Additional football-related archives can be identified through a 'ready-made' search of our archive catalogue. The Modern Records Centre also has an exhibition on politics and sport at the Olympics available online.


"The best quality football outfits", 1884

Advertisement for kit, including an illustration showing some particularly vigorous tackling

The "Drafting" controversy, 1884

Controversy over club transfers and fears over the integrity of the game

"A bright future", 1888

The first 'Old Firm' derby reported

Club adverts in the Scottish press, 1888

Cup ties and exhibition matches (women get in free), plus job advert from an unnamed Lancashire club.

"Gentleman versus players", 1896

Two contrasting players profiled in the 'Sportfolio' - the amateur and the professional in the game

The Woolwich Arsenal, 1895

The heavily moustachioed team, photographed at their south east London ground

An outing to Stamford Bridge, 1914

Photograph of a trade union team at one of Britain's biggest grounds

Female football foiled, 1922

'The Empire Citizen' strongly approves of the FA's ban on women's football

'The Workers' Sports Movement', 1928

Report on a footballing trip to Soviet Russia, which played (and mostly lost) before huge crowds

"Fellowship is life", 1929

A British team's tour of Germany in a post-war gesture of international goodwill

No political significance whatever"?, 1935

Controversy over sport, politics and an Anglo-German football match to be held at White Hart Lane

Dynamo Moscow in London, 1945

Correspondence regarding the Soviet club's tour, organised as a symbol of wartime unity

Players in exile, 1946

Appeal to the FA for the exiled Spanish Republican team to play in Britain

Football League retain and transfer list, May 1952

Lists of talent either retained by their club or advertised for transfer

'Fair comment for the British footballer', 1953

Proposal for the reorganisation of the "football industry" to benefit exploited players

"Soccers slave market", 1955

Problems of professional players addressed by a former West Brom director

Robb Wilton's 'Football Director', undated [1950s]

A comedian's take on lower league football

"Something rotting in this state of football...", undated [1950s]

Gambling spoiling the beautiful game? An attack on football pools

'Liverpool football team looks in at the local', 1966

The Brewers' Society uses stars of football to advertise the benefits of beer and pubs

'Argentina '78: This game will be won by the people', 1978

Human rights and the 1978 World Cup - an Argentinian opposition group's view

'The 1978 World Cup and human rights: What sportspeople think', 1978

Human rights and the 1978 World Cup - Amnesty International's view

'Dazzler socks racists', 1978/9

Coventry City fans taking a stand against racism in football, as part of the Anti-Nazi League's broader anti-racist campaign

'Eh mate... what's the score?', 1989

Liverpool fanzine, taking delight at Manchester United's long search for a title

'Reclaim the game', 1992

Militant Tendency pamphlet, calling for local communities to take clubs back from big business