The biggest football exhibition of its kind featuring more than 200 local and international football items kicks off at Wolverhampton Art Gallery on Saturday 25 May.

Football: Designing the Beautiful Game, a Design Museum touring exhibition, will showcase items from some of the game’s greatest players, including Pelé and Lionel Messi, alongside memorabilia from local footballing heroes.

The world class exhibition opens on Saturday 25 May – FA Cup Final Day – and features objects on loan from The National Football Museum in Manchester and the FIFA Museum in Zurich, as well as from private collectors.  

To reflect Wolverhampton’s rich footballing history, items from the Wolves Museum will also be on display while family friendly activities are being created to add to the fun.

Football: Designing the Beautiful Game is an international touring exhibition by the Design Museum in London which reveals the remarkable design stories behind the world’s number one sport.

Councillor Chris Burden, Cabinet member for City Development, Jobs and Skills said: “We’re very excited to bring this internationally renowned exhibition to Wolverhampton all the way from the FIFA Museum in Zurich.

“Wolverhampton is a proud footballing city: The Old Gold is famous for lots of firsts in football including being a founding member of the Football League and Molineux hosting the first game under floodlights. But fans of all clubs and all ages will love this brilliant exhibition about the beautiful game which has something for everyone.

“With the Euros kicking off next month, it promises to be a summer of football fun here in Wolverhampton. The exhibition, which is free for everyone, is just one of the many reasons to visit the city so make sure you book your ticket now.”

Visitors to the exhibition can expect to discover how innovation has been used to push the game to its technical and emotional limits.

From the master planning behind the world’s most famous football stadiums and the cutting edge materials used in today’s boots, to the graphic design of team badges and grassroots initiatives which push back against the sport’s commercialisation.

The exhibition’s ‘second-half’ features a screening of a film about another of the games’ greatest players – Zinédine Zidane.

Filmed by contemporary artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno, ‘Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait’ follows the French star in real time over the course of a single match in 2005.

It’s assembled from footage shot by 17 synchronised cameras and captures Zidane from multiple angles, both up close and from afar, and follows him even when the central action of the match moves elsewhere. 

Football: Designing the Beautiful Game, which heads to Wolverhampton from the FIFA Museum in Zurich and following its initial run at the Design Museum in London in 2022, is a rare and fun insight into the people and processes which have made football the game it is today.

Fittingly the event is set to open at Wolverhampton Art Gallery on one of the biggest dates in the footballing calendar – FA Cup Final day on Saturday, 25 May. The exhibition will run until Sunday, 1 September. It is free to enter, although pre booking is advised.

Fans can watch the film ‘Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait’ at the Gallery from Saturday 29 June to Sunday 20 October. Pre booking is advised for that too.

The exhibition is free and tickets can be booked via Football: Designing the Beautiful Game, a Design Museum Touring Exhibition (

We’ve picked out 5 must see items for football fans to enjoy at Football: Designing the Beautiful Game

1. Harrow School Ball, 1880s

Although the origins of football are disputed, the game as we know it today evolved out of Britain’s elite public schools where different forms of the sport developed with their own rules and styles of equipment. At Harrow School in north west London, this heavy ball made from an animal bladder enclosed in thick leather would have been dribbled, kicked and caught in a muddy field. 

The materials could withstand the conditions but would increase in weight as they absorbed water and were therefore not suited to heading.
National Football Museum

2. Wolves enamelled pins, 1939–79

This range of enamelled official and fan made Wolverhampton Wanderers pins show how the football club’s iconic wolf emblem and black and gold branding has evolved over time. 

The earliest pin on display is from 1939 and presents one of the first depictions of club mascot ‘Wolfie’. The image of the leaping wolf was introduced in the late 1960s. It was later replaced in 1979 by the instantly recognisable wolf head design which Wolves is now synonymous with. 
Wolverhampton Art Gallery Collection

3. Boots thought to have been worn by Stanley Matthews, 1950s

In the 1930s, a lower cut boot emerged in southern Europe and South America. It was an important design innovation. Different styles of play, including dribbling and elaborate footwork, had developed in these warmer climates where football was played on drier, harder pitches with less mud. This so called ‘Continental’ style boot was popularised in the UK in the 1950s by celebrated England footballer and Stoke-on-Trent native Stanley Matthews. In collaboration with the Co-operative Wholesale Society, he designed a pair for the mass market that offered flexible, lightweight soles and free ankle movement.
National Football Museum, on loan from Alan Wright

4. Wolves Old Gold Shirt, worn by Bill Crook, 1946–54

Wolverhampton Wanderers wore the much loved ‘Old Gold’ from 1931 to 1954. Shirts from that era resembled a traditional rugby jersey with a collar and buttons. Note the lack of crest, sponsors and kit manufactures that contemporary shirts bear.

Made from thick cotton, it would soon become heavy in the rain, and could be over warm in hot weather. This particular shirt was worn by Bill Crook, a regular first team player when league football recommenced in 1946 after the Second World War. Crook was part of the Wolves team that lifted the FA Cup in 1949, beating Leicester City 3-1 at Wembley. Former Wolves manager Stan Cullis described Crook as ‘highly skilled, constructive, technical and a model of precision.’
Wolves Museum

5. 1966 England World Cup shirt issued to George Eastham

The fabric and cut of football kits is constantly adapted to afford players increased speed and comfort. A selection of England shirts on display demonstrates the advances in material technologies and manufacturing techniques. With the rise of synthetic fabrics such as elastane, shirt design has focused on breathability and sweat wicking to regulate body temperature.
National Football Museum

Football: Designing the Beautiful Game, a Design Museum Touring Exhibition ( can be seen during Gallery opening hours: Monday to Saturday 10.30am until 4.30pm and Sunday 11am until 4pm.

Football: Designing the Beautiful Game is supported by the National Football Museum in collaboration with the FIFA Museum.