Culture is more than just art, music and theatre, it includes sport as well. To mark the start of Horsham District’s Year of Culture the Museum is producing an exhibition looking at the history of football across Horsham District. The exhibition will include objects and images from the Museum’s collections, along with a range of writing, stories, footage, images and objects contributed by some of Horsham District’s own football clubs.
Football is the most popular sport in the world in terms of both the number of players and spectators. A total of 44.5 million people tuned in to watch the BBC's television coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Internationally an average of 815 million watched the group stages of this year’s competition. The most widely-played version of the sport is Association football which has evolved from earlier ball games. A form of football has been played in Great Britain since the Middle Ages, and games that involve kicking a ball have existed for millennia. The Greeks, Romans and Han dynasty Chinese all played ball games that involved kicking, passing between players and scoring points.
Horsham has had a football team since 1871, the year that the Football Association introduced its Challenge Cup. On 23 February 1871 the West Sussex Gazette reported that Horsham’s first football club had been founded and now played in Springfield Park. The Horsham and District Football Association was founded in 1895, “for the purpose of providing players for the Horsham FC” and the early minute books record the following clubs as members of the Horsham and District Football Association; Horsham FC, Y.M.C.A. FC, Shelley United FC, Carfax FC, Bishopric Wanderers FC, Roffey FC, Warnham FC, Working Mens FC, Billingshurst FC, Handcross FC, and Southwater FC.
Horsham District is now well served with football clubs who cater for all age groups, genders, backgrounds and abilities. They range from workplace teams, women’s teams, disability football teams, walking football teams, children’s teams and leagues, through to large clubs with a major following. Each group and club has its own history, complete with its own unique characters, successes and stories. It would be impossible to outline a complete and detailed history of every club to have operated in Horsham District, but Horsham Museum’s exhibition, The Beautiful Game: A History of Football in Horsham District hopes to explore some of the stories that have contributed to Horsham District’s rich footballing tradition.
The Museum has received a fantastic response from local clubs and individuals, and is lucky enough to be displaying a wide range of objects including shirts, trophies, archival material, photos, clippings, artworks and footage that have kindly been lent to us for the duration of the exhibition.