Sport, visual culture and museums

Submitting Institution

University of Central Lancashire

Unit of Assessment

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Research undertaken by Hughson has impacted on the decision-making of two museums, principally the National Football Museum (NFM) in England and the National Sports Museum (NSM) in Australia. In the NFM, research has informed the acquisition and display of items for the permanent collection and temporary exhibition, led to an appointment as historical advisor to the selection committee of the National Football Hall of Fame, and has also supported the NFM's successful bid for `Designation' status with the Arts Council. With regard to the NSM the research has informed the public education dimension of a major exhibition on Olympic posters.

Underpinning research

Hughson's published research on the cultural history of sport, the relationship between sport, art and design, and on the relationship between sport and cultural policy and the implications for museums underpins the impact being claimed within this case study. Five published peer reviewed works contain this research; the bibliographical details are set out in section 3 of this document. The first three of the listed items are included within Hughson's four published items returned with REF 2014. Hughson's research expertise on sport within art was established in the monograph The Making of Sporting Cultures. In various chapters of the book, the representation of sportive movement and symbolism from the ancient to the modern - Myron's Discobolus to Dali's Cosmic Athlete - is discussed. This demonstrated expertise has been instrumental in Hughson giving advice to the NFM on the acquisition and display of artwork (elaboration on actual impacts in regard to each piece of published research is set out in section 4 below). Hughson has published the first detailed art historical case study of the painting Any Wintry Afternoon in England (1930) by C.R.W. Nevinson, highlighting the painter's critical ambition for the regard of football within this artwork. The research has directly informed the temporary acquisition and display of this painting within the NFM. Hughson (with K. Moore) has published detailed research on the cultural and historical significance of the shirt worn by Diego Maradona in the 1986 FIFA World Cup semi-final match between Argentina and England. The said shirt is an item held by the NFM and the published research paper has impacted upon its display. One of the chapters in Hughson's published monograph The Making of Sporting Cultures, `The Modern City and the Making of Sport', included a discussion of the NFM and its significance within a regional cultural policy context. This chapter was informative to discussions about the on-going location of the museum within the Northwest of England and the subsequent decision taken in that regard. Another chapter in The Making of Sporting Cultures titled `On Sporting Heroes' has further established Hughson's expertise on identifying criteria on the basis of which sports heroism is established. This research relates to Hughson's appointment as an historical advisor to the selection panel for the English Football Hall of Fame (administered by the NFM). During the REF census period Hughson published two research papers on the cultural significance of officially commissioned posters prepared for Olympic Games' - one paper discussing the importance of the posters in demonstrating the sport/art relationship invested in the modern Olympic Games by Baron de Coubertin; the other presenting a dedicated case study of the modernist poster for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, designed by Richard Beck. In combination this research had an impact upon the exhibition of the history of Olympic posters held at the National Sport Museum in Melbourne during 2012 when the XXX Olympiad was held in London.

References to the research

Hughson, J. `The Cultural Legacy of Olympic Posters', Sport in Society, 13: 5, 2010, pp. 749-759.


Hughson, J. `Not just Any Wintry Afternoon in England: the curious contribution of C.R.W.


Nevinson to `football art", International Journal of the History of Sport, 28: 18, 2011, pp. 2670-2687.


Hughson, J. `An Invitation to `Modern' Melbourne: the Cultural Significance of Richard Beck's Olympic Poster Design', Journal of Design History, 25:3, 2012, pp. 268-284.


Hughson, J. The Making of Sporting Cultures, London: Routledge. 2012 published in paperback version, originally published in hardback version 2009.

Hughson J. and Moore, K. "Hand of God', shirt of the man: the materiality of Diego Maradona', Costume, 46: 2, 2012, pp. 212-225.

Selected research grant support

`Sport, Museums and Cultural Policy' A collaborative doctoral research studentship located at UCLan in partnership with the Sports Heritage Network, fully funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. John Hughson was the principal applicant and the academic award recipient. Approximate monetary value over 3 years, £70,000. The student appointed to the project is Justine Reilly.

Details of the impact

As indicated in section 2 relevant impact relates to two national sport museums in England and Australia, referred to by the respective abbreviations NFM and NSM. Recognition of Hughson's research expertise in regard to the connection between sport and art in the monograph The Making of Sporting Cultures has resulted in an honorary consultancy role with the NFM in regard to the acquisition and display of artworks. A significant example is the sculpture Footballeur by Pablo Picasso, acquired by the NFM on loan in October 2012 for temporary display over a period of twelve months. Ahead of the NFM's relocation to the Urbis Building in Manchester in July 2012, Hughson worked closely with the NFM Director giving advice on which art and design items to prioritise for display within relevant sections of the Museum. Hughson's research on Nevinson's painting Any Wintry Afternoon in England (1930) was instrumental in this artwork being sought by the NFM for a period of temporary exhibition from October 2013. The painting, normally located in the Manchester City Art Gallery, was released for public display to the NFM for a period of one year. Upon the unveiling of the painting at the NFM, on 23 October 2013, Hughson gave a welcoming public address, drawing upon his research, to speak of the painting's cultural significance. The display of this painting within the NFM serves an educative role by bringing the painting to the attention of a section of the public that may not otherwise see it in the more conventional location of an art gallery. Hughson's research, with Kevin Moore, into the symbolic significance of the football shirt worn by Diego Maradona during the controversial semi-final match between Argentina and England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Finals in Mexico has informed the way in which the shirt is now displayed within the NFM since its relocation to Manchester. The shirt, on permanent loan to the NFM from its owner, former England player Steve Hodge, was that worn by Maradona when he scored two of football's most famous goals, commonly known as `the hand of God' and the `goal of the century'. Developed in a way pertinent to a popular audience, the display signage draws on the argument in the research regarding the `polysemantic' nature of shirt, i.e. it is interpreted differently according to the cultural positioning of the viewer. The aspects of Hughson's research pertaining to clothing resulted in an invitation to guest edit and write the introductory essay to a special issue of the academic journal Costume. This, in turn, led to an invitation to join the advisory committee for the NFM's touring exhibition `Strike a Pose: 50 Years of Football and Fashion'. Two further aspects of Hughson's research within the monograph The Making of Sporting Cultures have had an impact outcome in relation to the NFM. His discussion in the book of the relevance and justification of the NFM being located within the Northwest of England informed the decision-making at the subsequent time when discussion was held regarding the relocation of the Museum from Preston to Manchester - rather than London. Hughson's research in The Making of Sporting Cultures in regard to the identification of heroes within the history of sport has underpinned his appointment by the NFM as a historian adviser to the selection panel for the National Football Hall of Fame. The impact in this regard involves Hughson's recommendations for players of the pre-WWII and immediate post-war era for induction to the Hall of Fame being put to the selection committee, made up of famous football players, for their final deliberations on an annual basis. In September 2013 the NFM became the only sport museum and collection to receive `Designation' status from the Arts Council England. Hughson's active research engagement with the Museum's collection was highlighted within the successful documentation submitted in the application. Hughson's research on Olympic posters, as outlined in section 2, had an impact benefit in regard to the Call to the Games: Olympic Posters exhibition held at the NSM during the time that London staged the Olympic Games in 2012. Hughson's research impacted upon the way that school and public educational information was prepared for the exhibition and during July/August 2012 Hughson visited the NSM for a three week period as an honorary research consultant, during which time he gave two public lectures on Olympic posters based on his research and pertaining to the exhibition.

Sources to corroborate the impact

[CONTACT 1] Kevin Moore, Director, National Football Museum (England).

[CONTACT 2] David Pearson, Deputy Director, National Football Museum (England).

[CONTACT 3] Margaret Birtley, Executive Manager of Heritage, Melbourne Cricket Club (Australia).

[CONTACT 4] Jed Smith, Museums Manager, National Sport Museum/ Melbourne Cricket Club (Australia).