Read­ers’ letters

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Homes of Foot­ball. The

Please send us your views on sport and our cov­er­age to the Sports Edi­tor, The Daily Tele­graph, 111 Buck­ing­ham Palace Rd, SWIW 0DT. Or email sportlet­ters@ tele­graph.co.uk. Please in­clude your postal ad­dress. We will pub­lish the best each week. aimed at the Amer­i­can mar­ket – ap­par­ently they can­not get enough of Clarke’s pictures and Wil­liams’s text. There is size­able ap­petite for the quo­tid­ian rhythm of the English game. It is the au­then­tic­ity of it, the way the con­nec­tion be­tween fan and game blooms or­gan­i­cally, with­out con­trivance, Wil­liams reck­ons. There is noth­ing to match it in Amer­i­can sport or, in­deed, Amer­i­can life.

Clarke is about to set off again round Bri­tain to re­visit the sites he brought to life so vividly in

He will spend this sea­son back at old haunts. Much will have changed. De­cay­ing city-cen­tre grounds have gone, re­placed by grand, com­fort­able, cus­tomer-friendly sta­di­ums.

“I am fas­ci­nated by what has changed,” Clarke told me when I caught up with him ahead of his trip. “My guess is ev­ery­thing will have changed, but in one way noth­ing will have changed: my be­lief is foot­ball is still at the heart of the com­mu­nity.”

He does, how­ever, set off at a time when the pictures he took have never been more per­ti­nent and yet more poignant. Be­cause, as he jour­neys round the coun­try, he is go­ing to find a cen­tral part of his ma­te­rial miss­ing. The pan­demic has stripped the game of, for him, its most vivid in­gre­di­ent: the peo­ple. As we have seen on tele­vi­sion with be­hind-closed­doors en­coun­ters, with­out a crowd a sta­dium be­comes just a build­ing, empty of point and pur­pose.

“I think the one thing all this has taught us is that, in foot­ball, crowds are ev­ery­thing,” he said.

The good news is, as the crowds slowly re­turn over the next year, as cau­tious as they are cel­e­bra­tory, Clarke will be there with his cam­era to record the mo­ment. It would not be the same with­out him.

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