National Football Museum Kicks Off 2006 With Pools Exhibition

By Graham Spicer | 11 January 2006
a photo of two men in suits cutting a red opening ribbon together

Geoff Hurst and Roger Hunt opened the new exhibition. Courtesy National Football Museum.

Britain has had a long-standing obsession with the ‘beautiful game’, and a new exhibition at Preston's National Football Museum shows the contribution that the football pools have had to its popularity.

The exhibition, Football and Fortunes, runs until March 31 2006 and tells the story of Littlewoods Pools, the world’s first and largest football pool. Introduced in 1923 this system of betting on the results of football matches is still popular and in their heyday ‘the pools’ were an integral part of many people’s Saturday afternoon.

“Whether it’s having nervously waited for the results to come through every Saturday afternoon, to winning a small fortune – millions of footie fans will have a personal experience or cherished memory of the pools,” said Dave Redwood, head of marketing for Littlewoods Pools.

“We hope that Football and Fortunes will rekindle those memories and capture the public’s imagination in the same way that the pools has done for over 80 years.”

a photgraph of two men signing a football shirt

The 1966 world cup winners at the opening. Courtesy National Football Museum.

The pools were started by John Moores in 1923 when he handed out 4,000 coupons to fans at a Manchester United home game. He later established Littlewoods, who became the first sponsor of the FA Cup, and was chairman of Everton Football Club. Liverpool John Moores University was named after him in 1992.

England’s 1966 World Cup-winning legends Gordon Banks and Roger Hunt were at the museum to open the exhibition on January 10 2006, which features photography, memorabilia, stories of past winners and interactive displays.

“There’s a large photographic archive of every winner there has ever been since the start of the pools,” said Mark Bushell, Curator and Football Historian at the museum. “There are some bizarre pictures of those who wanted to remain anonymous in big Zorro hats!”

the National Football Museum officially opened in June 2001 at Preston North End's Deepdale stadium.

The National Football Museum opened in 2001 at Deepdale Stadium, home of Preston North End. Courtesy National Football Museum.

“It’s just a great gallery of shots…the good thing about those pictures is that it gives us a real insight into social history,” he added.

It also profiles the life of Britain’s most famous pools winner, Viv Nicholson, and shows the handwritten pool coupon that won her some £152,000 in 1961 (equivalent to about £3 million today). Nicholson became an overnight celebrity with her promise to ‘spend, spend, spend’ her winnings, which she blew within four years.

The story of her spending spree, string of husbands and legal problems made its way into a West End musical and she even appeared on the cover of a single by celebrated 80s guitar band The Smiths.

“This is the first time we have been able to bring all our memorabilia, winners’ stories and photography together, to showcase at an exhibition that will bring the history of the pools to life for football fans of all ages,” added Dave Redwood.

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