Picturing the people's game
A marvellous selection of images shows how football photographs need just be for dedicated fans, but can equally be appreciated as works of art
The game in all its glory features in True Football, 100 photos from the Hulton Getty and All Sports Photo Library. Classic images include Pele in action, Maradona's "Hand of God", Gascoigne's tears, The White Horse Cup Final, a roll call of legendary players including Dixie Dean, Stanley Matthews, Pele, Diego Maradona, Kevin Keegan and current stars Ronaldo, Michael Owen and David Beckham.
The game's majesty is revealed in sweeping views of massive crowds at Hampden Park and Wembley, its horror at Heysel and Hillsborough. Football's uniquely balletic grace of gesture and movement is shown in more and more detail as the technique advances over one and a half centuries since the first football photograph of 1855.
This imaginative display is just around the corner from Charing Cross station at the Proud Gallery, which despite its modest size is one of London's most dynamic and popular spaces: "We tried to choose pictures which really showed the art of the game and the art of the photography of the game. It shows that photography is the way beautiful moments can be picked up," gallery owner Alex Proud says. "Also just as importantly. We wanted to get across how football until recently was a game for the masses. It is a tribute to an era of football, which is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
"It shows how much football has changed over the last ten years, maybe not all for the bad. But it's important, especially for a new generation of people for whom buying a Man United replica shirt is their first experience of football. They deserve to be shown the proper legacy of the game – its social mass nature, its working class heritage. I think that's really important," Proud says.
One reason things have changed is the way ticket prices have gone up. The cheapest seat at Arsenal is now £400 a year, for example.
"I think safe terraces should be brought back into the game," Proud believes. "If it was done in the right way, that would allow a lot more people back into the game, and also create a great atmosphere.
"New Labour's Sports minister Kate Hooey suggested this but got her ass banged for a bit of free thinking. That's not allowed under Blair."
"The problem a lot of the clubs are going to have soon is that if they continue putting their prices up and getting more and more people like me – upper middle class people – the atmosphere will die. The game will be left with empty stadiums.
"I've already noticed that the atmosphere at the stadium at Arsenal has dropped in the past few years, as less and less working class people watch the game."
Proud blames the clubs for profiteering out of the huge sums of money, which pour in from the global sponsors. "The clubs do have the choice," he insists.
Does he think that clubs could be collectively owned by the fans, players and managers?
"In the ideal world we would have the Barcelona mode where the fans own the club. It's too big business now. Man United turned over £100s of millions last year.
"It's in football's interest for the fans to run things in the long run. It would be great to have fans on the boards, since it is they and their fathers who made the club over the years.