The Guardian's "Wall of World Cup Archives"

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 21 July 2010

Throughout the course of this summer's World Cup, at The Guardian we had a display of archive coverage of the tournament up in the newsroom. Put together by Richard Nelsson and his library and archives team, it covered the years 1950 to 2006.

The Guardian's World Cup archive wall

Two things really stood out for me. Firstly, how little the design and layout of the Manchester Guardian / Guardian had changed from the 1950s to the 1980s.

And secondly, how sports coverage - particularly the volume and importance of it - had drastically altered during that time.

A close-up of the print outs from the Manchester Guardian and Guardian archives

In 2010, drawing with a USA team that were ranked just a few places below England generated acres of newsprint and a mood of national crisis. In 1950, for the Manchester Guardian, a genuinely shocking England-USA result merited about a third of a column of news - the article with the felt-pen outline around it in this image.

The USA beat England in the 1950 World Cup

Even in 1966, when England had just secured the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley, the Guardian was leading with issues in Nigeria, and framed the England victory through the prism of wage demands.

A map of Nigeria is on the Manchester Guardian's front page when England win the World Cup in 1966

Inside, however, there was some rather more jubilant picture-led coverage.

Guardian coverage of England's 1966 World Cup triumph

The next time England got anywhere close to the World Cup Final was in 1990, and by then football was important enough to get a picture lead on The Guardian front page.

Italia 1990 and England lose on penalties

In 2002, rather than focus on an individual player, the image chosen was many Brazilian hands on the World Cup, an image now being echoed with the logo for the 2014 edition of the tournament to be held in Brazil.

2002 Guardian front page after the World Cup Final

The 2006 World Cup coverage looks familiar to us today. The Berliner format had only been adopted the September prior to the World Cup, and our football stats still follow the same basic design as illustrated with this print-out of analysis of the final between Italy and France.

The 2006 World Cup in the Berliner design

The 'World Cup wall' only went back to 1950, missing out on the first three editions of FIFA's tournament in the 1930s. There doesn't seem to have been much to print out if you'd gone back that far into the archives anyway.

The closest I could find in the online Digital Archive to a report of the first World Cup in 1930 was this short piece from August 4th. It was 5 days after the final, and credited as a 'Press Association Foreign Special'. Filed on the Saturday, and published on the Monday, it told of how the Argentinian team had returned home from the "so-called world's championships" complaining about the rough physical treatment meted out to them in the final.

1930 Manchester Guardian story about Uruguay and Argentina in 1930

Seeing all of this archive material on the wall made me wonder about how the digital content associated with the last couple of World Cups has been archived at The Guardian, something I'll return to in a future blog post.

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