FROM pitch to plinth, the statue of legendary Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe features in the first national database of sporting momuments.
The famous figure outside the Stadium of Light, which celebrates the Black Cats’ historic 1-0 win over Leeds United in the 1973 FA Cup Final, is one of 120 statues of sporting heroes taking pride of place at stadia or in town and city centres across the country.
The study, From Pitch To Plinth: The Sporting Statues Project, includes images, links to maps and information on when they were unveiled and who designed them.
Dr Chris Stride, from the University of Sheffield’s Institute of Work Psychology, which helped create the comprehensive database, said: “Our sporting statues, their location and choice of subjects reflect not only the sporting history of the nation, but also the place of sport in today´s society, the variation in the commercial development of different sports, and the kinship felt by fans.”
Almost half of the existing statues – 57 – depict footballers or football managers.
Despite the glory and national acclaim that an Olympic gold medal brings, only rowers Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent, ice-skater John Curry and athletes Steve Ovett and Eric Liddell have been honoured with a statue for their achievements.
Rugby Union players boast 15 statues and motor-racing drivers or riders 18.
The first life-size statue of a specific UK sportsperson that the research team uncovered was erected by the grave of Reading motorcycle racer Bernard Laurence Hieatt, after a fatal crash in the early 1930s.
The first footballer to be portrayed was Swindon Town’s Harold Fleming in 1956.
A total of 34 sporting heroes can currently be found portrayed away from stadia in their home towns or cities with a further 24 at national or non-club-specific sporting venues.
“Only a handful of statues pre-date the 1980s, and over two-thirds have been unveiled since 2000,” added Dr Stride. “The reasons for this rapid and recent development are varied.”
He added: “Within football, many statues erected by clubs at their stadia can be seen as branding tools, generating nostalgia in existing fans, offering visual branding that enhances and gentrifies the stadium environment, as well as providing a sense of authenticity and location in an increasingly commercialised and globalised sport.”
For more information visit, www.offbeat.group.shef.ac.uk/statues/.