Scottish Football Museum - Museums Association

Scottish Football Museum

Football Memories was the first reminiscence project based on a sport which was targeted specifically at people with a diagnosis of dementia.

The project uses football images and memorabilia to stimulate recall, boost self-confidence and self-esteem and to encourage a return to community involvement and participation. Some of the recall has been spectacular and has confounded many observers, leading to further research being undertaken.

The audience is people with a diagnosis of dementia and from an initial target of five groups, there are now almost 90 groups all across Scotland, meeting in day centres, care homes and community venues, as well as in football stadia. It was started at a local level in 2004, and has been a national project since 2010.

Initial set-up costs were minimal as the project is volunteer-led and the early pilot groups ran for less than £500 per year. National expansion was made possible by a grant from the People’s Post Code Lottery and the financial support of Alzheimer Scotland, which funded the infrastructure and staffing required. Museums Galleries Scotland also provided funding to establish the project, and have since provided funding for further resources.

The project runs by teaming trained volunteers who have a passion for football, with staff who are professionally trained, and by providing central support through professionally-produced images, an online images resource managed by the Scottish Football Museum, and regular face-to-face and online support.

People with dementia chose the name of their team and their team colours as they formed a Football Memories League. They also contributed to the rich heritage of football history through their individual and collective stories, songs, anecdotes and personal memorabilia.

Several ex-players are in the teams and their own stories are fascinating, adding much more to the traditional narrative and statistical accounts.

People in the groups are encouraged to produce Football Memories books, which are a combination of personal and football images and accounts. These have proved a valuable resource as the illness advances and the person is maybe admitted to a care home. There have been several instances of latent talents and specialisms emerging from the football sessions, notably in sketching and singing.

There are leaflets about the project which are distributed at local and national events, as well as Facebook and Twitter sites aimed mainly at family and friends. There has been extensive media interest both nationally and internationally and the project has featured on TV and radio as well as in the football press.

The key element was the effective partnership between Alzheimer Scotland and the Scottish Football Museum, based in Hampden Park Glasgow.

The project’s administrative base is in the stadium itself and this enables almost daily contact between the two key partners. The support from the football community in Scotland has been total and the respective national organisations for players, managers and supporters have become formal backers of the work being done.

The success with football has led to parallel projects, using identical techniques, for rugby union, shinty, golf, cricket and curling.