FPA Exhibition Launched – BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

Behind Closed Doors is an FPA project created by our members.

Proudly supported by Canon, this online exhibition documents football life through the pandemic and during this extraordinary period in football’s history.

The English Premier League game between Leicester and Aston Villa on March 9 2020 was the last played for over three months.

The UK lockdown began on  23 March 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the country that people ‘must’ stay at home and certain businesses must close.

Life was to change for what seemed like a very long time.

Behind the scenes, English football looked at how it could continue. It was dubbed “Project Restart”. Conversations began between the media and football authorities on how football the least amount of people could work in a stadium.

The question from the football authorities on if a game could be covered for its global needs by only two photographers was met by an understanding and realisation of what working during a pandemic would be like. After consultation, negotiations and education, the numbers grew to six and then ten with the newspapers and global agencies having to pool and share images between them. 

Journalists were made to stay at home as they did their interviews on laptops at home. TV productions were cut down to the absolute minimum. 

So Project Restart commenced, with football being played BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

First up was Aston Villa v Sheffield United on 17 June 2020.

Villa Park was cut up into red and amber zones. Empty seats were protected from the elements and were covered with signage and art. 

Soon games were played every day of the week in a bid to catch up. Afternoon kick-offs on a Thursday at Everton were the new norm. 

The role of the photographer became even more important. The eyes of the world watched via television but the stillness, the contrast of change and telling the story through pictures showed the importance and value of photography. 

The FPA was formed. The need for proper dialogue was apparent as some clubs craved advice and consultation. Meanwhile, Liverpool were celebrating a deserved Premier League title in an empty Anfield Stadium.

Soon the next season was upon us. No summer break this time. With Football League side Carlisle United being the first to allow fans back in during December 2020. Soon Crewe and Shrewsbury Town to name a few followed. 

Sadly for the fans and indeed football, a second lockdown was reintroduced.

Now was the time for our photographic generation to come to the forefront and step up. 

We were the ones who now had to capture the story behind the story, being feature photographers, being creative whilst working in the most challenging of circumstances and abiding by a horrendous amount of new health and safety rules and laws.

We were not only news and sport or documentary photographers, we were recording the goings-on for the football authorities to forensically assess their own regulations and plans.

The FPA project BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, proudly supported by Canon, documents football life during the pandemic during this extraordinary period in football’s history.

Our exhibition curators were Darren Walsh the Chelsea FC Photographer, John Childs of the Daily Mail Picture Desk and Jakki Moores from Canon.