International Football History Conference scores a success

Delegates from around the world gathered on 15th June at Manchester’s Central Library for a civic reception hosted by Lord Mayor of Manchester, Eddy Newman.

They were in the city for the inaugural International Football History Conference, organised by Dr Gary James of the department of Exercise and Sport Science, which ended late on Friday evening.

Gary, who is well-known for his own football research and writing, particularly concerning Manchester’s clubs, explained: “The conference was organised to develop collaborations and opportunities for those researching football history around the world.  The Lord Mayor and his staff have been extremely supportive, recognising how significant the sport is to the city.  Football is in Manchester’s DNA and I can think of no better city to host a conference of this significance.”

Delegates came from every continent (excluding Antarctica of course!) and included representatives from FIFA and the City Football Group.  There was a wide range of topics under discussion.

Gary said: “The conference has demonstrated that academic football research is in an extremely strong position.  Our work may be focusing on the history of the game but, in reality, much of what has been presented actually influences football today.”

At the reception Lord Mayor Eddy Newman spoke of his delight at seeing so many delegates from around the world and thanked them for visiting the city, saying: “The last few weeks have been a testing time for the people of Manchester but, as you can see, the city has been determined to carry on.  Manchester has always been an open and welcoming city and will remain so.”

Focusing specifically on the conference, he added: “You are contributing to a conference that highlights leading research of a sport that means so much to Manchester – football.  This city was built on cotton and industry but today is known throughout the world for its football.  Wherever Mancunians travel they always meet someone keen to talk to them about United, Alex Ferguson, City or the ‘Aguero’ moment.”

Professor Richard Greene, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, was also a main speaker at the reception, demonstrating the university’s commitment to innovative research and conferences aimed at promoting networking opportunities.

The main section of the conference took place at Manchester City’s City Football Academy on Thursday and Friday.  Subjects under discussion included the origins of the game, gender, venues, the Premier League and international football.  Key note speeches were made by Manchester City’s Brian Marwood, Professor Wray Vamplew – a visiting research professor here at Man Met – and renowned rugby professor Tony Collins.

Organiser Dr Gary James is a member of the Sports and Leisure History Group, here at Manchester Metropolitan University, and throughout the conference he was supported by colleague Martyn Cooke and PhD student Liam Dyer, who did a sterling job managing arrivals and assisting delegates. The North West Film Archive were also a popular presence at the reception with Will McTaggart providing an overview of their work while film of an 1898 football game was shown.  This is believed to be the oldest surviving footage of a competitive match.

Gary’s latest research on Manchester sport is ‘The origins debate – how soccer triumphed over other forms of team sports in Manchester’.  It can be downloaded free for a limited period here:



  • Over 70 delegates from around the world including Turkey, USA, Australia, Hong Kong and across Europe
  • The conference has been supported by Manchester City FC, Café Football, the National Football Museum, Manchester Metropolitan University, Routledge (academic publishers) and Manchester City Council.
  • Groundbreaking research by conference organiser Gary James has identified that Manchester first became established as a soccer city following Manchester City’s 1904 FA Cup triumph, the first major success in the city.