The Homes of Football 2020/21: Amazon Prime Video enlists Stuart Roy Clarke to photograph football fans during the pandemic

Amazon Prime Video Homes of Football
(Image credit: Stuart Roy Clarke)

“I think that I’ve been described as a veteran,” says photographer Stuart Roy Clarke. “I’ll just run around this room to show you that I’m younger than all that.”

As Stuart explains to FourFourTwo, he’s been taking photos at the football for 30 years - at all sizes of clubs. But while most of us turn up to the ground, whack out our phones and see if we can get a clear shot of our heroes between the punters’ heads in front... it’s those punters that Stuart instead zooms in on. 

25 years ago, Stuart Roy Clarke embarked on his Homes of Football project. The photographer took his lens into the ground to turn the attention onto those watching the action. His photos have managed to document the passion of fans over the past three decades - so when clubs started playing in front of empty seats at the start of the pandemic, Amazon Prime Video got in touch to ask Stuart to photograph fans in their own homes, instead. 

“It seemed the perfect opportunity to send me to all the houses we could,” says Stuart, who had to take regular COVID-19 tests in order to make sure this project was completely safe. “They’re not two-headed beasts, these Premier League supporters - I’m one now that Watford have got promoted - fans are fans, really. It was always going to be about emotions, rarified atmospheres… this has never happened before in our lifetime.”

Amazon Prime Homes of Football

(Image credit: Stuart Roy Clarke)

Stuart travelled the length and breadth of England, as fans invited him over for games around Christmas 2020. The games were shown on Amazon Prime; Stuart was there to record the reactions.

“I suppose in the 30 years of doing Homes of Football, I began after Hillsborough and it was all going to be about the changes from terraces to seats,” Stuart explains, “It wasn’t just about that - it was about how you could buy a ticket on the turnstile and move around in the 80s. In the 90s, it was all about taking up a seat so the club knew where you were. Then the marketing men would sell you things knowing that you were going to be there all season.”

“There were quite a few there where it was uncomfortable for them to watch at home, rather than be in the ground. They were itchy - pacing around. One or two couldn’t bear to watch on their own because they were used to watching in a group - so within the laws of COVID, they’d invite another group. I think there’s only one of the 32 groups that I shot - a young boy, a Chelsea supporter - and he’s got his laptop and he’s watching on his own. There’s a bit of a society in there.”

Amazon Prime

(Image credit: Stuart Roy Clarke)

Miraculously, no one cancelled with hours to go, though one group of fans had to cancel in advance - a real shame, Stuart says, as they had a lads’ bar where three households would all meet up to watch games. The Burnley group were hairdressers and would close the shop before going upstairs to watch the match together, while Stuart also noticed that household pets, such as cats and dogs, got to be a part of these shoots.

“There was a Wolves father and son with a dog laid out on the carpet. They were playing Manchester United - can’t get much bigger than that - it was a draw and going into the last few minutes, they’ve been absolutely on the edge of their seats. The wife is an Aston Villa fan. She comes in and they hardly spoke to her - and then there was a powercut! 

“They looked at each other: quick thinking though, got out a phone, found the Amazon app. They’d lost about 45 seconds but they’d suddenly realised that Wolves had scored in the final minute of the game. It was a beautiful thing to behold.”

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With one set of fans in the Lake District, Stuart watched the game with a group of Liverpool fans outside in front of a fire. None of it was scripted, though: Stuart never asked for props in the background and he doesn’t use Photoshop in any of his pictures. In some ways, this makes him the perfect person to convey what lockdown football has been like without dressing it up.

“Even now, we’re not completely out of it - it’s going to impact a third season,” Stuart says. “It’s a unique time and in years to come, there’ll be this little 130-page book and someone will be looking back and say, ‘Wow, that happened in the middle of this period.”

“I feel really fired up for going again to matches with crowds. But if someone says to me, ‘Can you go to a home and photograph fans?’, I’d say ‘Yep, I can do that’ and I can be pretty sure I can get something nice at their house. I reckon some of these photos are as nice as the ones I’ve got at matches.”

Amazon Prime Video and Stuart Roy Clarke present The Homes of Football, a new exhibition at the National Football Museum which captures an unprecedented season for locked down football fans. 

For more information and to purchase tickets for the exhibition, please visit: https://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/plan-your-visit/ 

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