Evolution of Football Fan Memorabilia

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

From their inception in 1978, football sticker albums have been the obsession of young football fans everywhere, remaining big business despite the onset of technology. Sticker album fan website www.footballstickipedia.com quotes market research done in the mid-1980s that showed that a whopping 90% of young boys aged 9-11 had purchased football sticker albums.

These days football it is very much a different game with the faces of Iain Dowie and Martin Keown replaced with those of super-rich and apparently super-handsome Cesc Fabregas. Despite still maintaining a level of popularity, the humble sticker album has lost its popularity with the advent of games like FIFA and Fantasy Football, allowing a greater level of interactivity.

Back then, it would have been Panini albums, but for males who grew up in the 1990s, it was the hallowed Merlin album that covered the Premier League from 1994 onwards, which was widely praised and the deserved recipient of awards for its album design.

An obsession

Such was the popularity of the Merlin Official Premier League 94 that the company needed to initiate multiple reprints in order to keep up with demand. The fact that the vast majority of sticker albums remain incomplete as the owners would often lose interest is a common problem which haunts a lot of males my age.

Adam Carroll-Smith is one such obsessive, who during a recent rummage around the attic, was horrified to discover that an album he thought was complete – the Merlin Premier League ‘96 edition – was actually missing six stickers. He decided to track down the missing players across Europe to take their photos, which would then allow him to complete the album.

His humorous and somewhat ridiculous story is recounted in his Six Stickers: A Journey to Complete an Old Sticker Album and goes a long way to explaining the nature of the obsession of football sticker collection felt by football-loving males of a certain age. Sticker albums were very much a cultural phenomenon – an addiction that was accurately and amusingly likened in a Telegraph article on the subject to the effects of ‘heroin-laced Calpol’.

Finding myself in a similar situation to Carroll-Smith, I found four missing stickers in my album – Colin Hendry of Blackburn, Chris Sutton of Norwich City, Paul Ince of Manchester United, and Shaun Teale of Aston Villa. Using Google images and then the sticker making service at http://www.instantprint.co.uk I created pretty faithful reproductions of the original stickers.

Sticker albums sold on eBay

As Adam Carroll-Smith says, the worth attributed to these sticker albums, as well as the effort invested in them, very much ‘dwarfs the financial figure’. Indeed, there are a few Merlin albums for sale  on eBay at various points of completion, but go for upwards of around £10, but to males who were aged between nine and 11 in the early years of the Premier League, they were – and are -priceless.

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