Archives, Artifacts, Bibliographies, Oral Histories and Databases
As Australia’s most nationally spread and diverse football code, association football (soccer) is also, perhaps necessarily, the most fragmented of games. It has fault and fracture lines that run across geography, ethnicity, historical period, class and gender. As a corollary, the game’s extant archives, artifacts, bibliographies and databases are, to put it mildly, in a shambles.
This is not to deny the tremendous work of bibliography, recording and collection that has been performed by disparate and enthusiastic individuals. Below is a non-exhaustive list of such individuals:
- Oz Football
- Ultimate A League
- Jambaroo Pub, Johnny Warren Museum
- O’Loughlin, Soccer Mad
- Vanessa Lucchesi
- Tony Smith
- Denis Harlow
Yet this work has been let down by the absence of overarching co-ordination from a well-funded, committed and stable organisation. Does such an organisation exist, one with the necessary standing (in both legal and cultural senses) to validate such vital work for the future of soccer in Australia? If not, can one be constituted?
As Roy Hay argues, relying “on a few enthusiasts is a recipe for long-term disaster.” Without co-ordinated oversight the game’s resources will continue to wither and crumble. Records will be lost, artifacts will decay, and databases will remain inexact, inconsistent and incomplete. Australia soccer needs to correct this absence as a matter of urgency if we are properly to memorialise our game.
It is no simple task. AFRA is established to co-ordinate and consult on matters relating to this massive undertaking. Feasibly, AFRA will be in a position to become the body that takes ownership of/responsibility for the task.
AFRA recognises five types of resource that need attention and curation: 1. archives, 2. artifacts, 3. publications, 4. oral histories and 5. databases.
· The first and urgent necessary task is the creation of an inventory of all Australian soccer resources. This inventory will provide the informational basis for the processes and systems foreshadowed below.
These are the many records, personal and organisational, with a strong bearing on the history of soccer in Australia. Archives belonging to clubs, associations and federations are scattered across Australia: in libraries, archival and manuscript collections; as yet uncollected in clubhouses and/or committee rooms; or in the personal possession of club/association officials. Archives belonging to significant individuals are similarly scattered. The archives of Johnny Warren and Charlie Perkins, for example, have reached the safety of individual museum and NLA storage respectively but there are many more without such security. Recent digitisation has seen some of these records move on-line, but this welcome move can be seen also to heighten perceptions of fragmentation.
A separate category of archives relates to audio-visual records. Thousands of hours of match footage, recorded TV and radio commentary are spread across Australia in a most haphazard manner. Often this material is in poor or unusable condition and needs repair, restoration and/or conversion. This category also includes oral history recordings discussed in section 4 below.
· An urgent task is to discover and record the existence of such archives.
· An especial task is to identify those archives in danger of immediate dispersal or destruction.
As with its archives, soccer’s artifacts are scattered across the country and even internationally. Many are lost; some irretrievably so. Soccer is a game of many trophies and is probably the greatest ‘misplacer’ of significant trophies in Australian sport. Many important shields, cups, medals and curios have been lost and forgotten down the years. The Soccer Ashes are one example among hundreds of significant items.
The first task is to create an inventory of significant artifacts that are either
- Housed in FFA affiliated places like club museums or federation rooms
- Extant but in the possession of private individuals or organisations
- Missing or Lost
Much debate exists in the soccer community about the merits of a museum to house these items. Is it possible to justify the establishment of centralised museum? Would association-based/regional museums have more practical benefits? Is it economically feasible to create such museums?
The expense of establishment and maintenance of such museums is possibly beyond the game’s reach. A better option might be to invest in an online museum site which co-ordinates artefact holdings as they presently exist. The site would be as complete as possible, containing textual, photographic and video representations of artifacts Australia wide. The site would also indicate where each holding is placed and offer viewers opportunities to communicate with and travel to such holdings. Of course, none of this precludes the establishment of centralised museums should appropriate investment be found.
· In the absence of such funding that would establish and maintain adequate museums, we need to begin the process of constructing an on-line museum.
Many soccer books, magazines, reports, pamphlets and other printed records have been published in Australia down the years. Yet the game has neither a library nor bibliographic records that capture the totality of that body of work. Some bibibliographic records exist in many of the books recently published. Also, researchers have compiled their own relatively thorough listings. Contemporary library search functions are another means of bibliographic compilation. Yet the bibliographic record remains incomplete and unable to be accessed by the public.
· We need to establish a centralised library and begin the construction of a thorough bibliographic record.
The use of oral history as a method of research in the history of soccer is increasing as practitioners come to acknowledge the importance of memory and shared experience. It records stories normally unheard. Moreover, disempowered groups including women, migrants and the indigenous are provided with an avenue in which to share their experiences and to become part of the recorded history of the game.
Unfortunately, little is being done in relation to the provision of appropriate archives for recorded interviews/transcripts. In relation to individual research (PhD theses, for example), they often remain in the keep of the researcher and remain unavailable to other researchers or to the wider public. While other studies such as those undertaken by Nikki Henningham (Sport oral history project), are archived within the National Library. The recorded voices of those involved are scattered and remain unheard by others who would clearly benefit from the research and history.
· A search is required to identify all research, which is based on oral history and include it in the bibliography. In addition an archive space (as per sections 1) which could house the recorded voices or at least identify a location would greatly assist the protection of such an important asset.
Who were the champions of Mt Isa in 1973? Was the game played in Lismore in 1927? If so, who won that year? Which individual player scored the most goals in Melbourne in 1958? How many players were there in Perth in 1914? How many enlisted in the AIF?
The answers to these questions should be easy to find on-line. Without specialised knowledge they are, however, nearly impossible to divine. Perhaps the most urgent task of all, we need as a game to know the simple statistical facts of our history. Individuals like Mark Boric in Victoria are doing tremendous work compiling such information; but the process lacks support from federations (FFA and FFV in this case). AFRA calls for the digitisation of all historical results data from all associations and regions.
· We need to commit to the goal of recovering, compiling and publishing all available historical and contemporary statistical data related to players, games and results in a systematised and consistent database.
· This commitment needs to be reflected in a mandate given to the federations to get their houses in order in relation to this process.