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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 13:56 GMT
Footballers' union nets Lowry
Going To The Match was expected to fetch 500,000

A painting of a football match by LS Lowry has been bought for a record 1.9m by the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

The players' union bought the 1953 picture, Going To The Match, for 1,926,500 at Sotheby's auction house in London.

It was a record price at auction for any modern British painting.

The oil painting shows a crowd of fans on their way to Bolton Wanderers' ground Burnden Park, which has since closed.

It had been expected to sell for about 500,000.

It represents the heart and soul of the game - the anticipation of the crowds going to the match.
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, who bid for the picture, said they had wanted to buy the painting because it represented "the heart and soul of the game and the anticipation of fans on their way to a match".

He said: "I would have liked it for a lot less than that, but it is the football picture, it captures all the atmosphere of the game.

"We wanted to keep the picture in football. It's always said that there's not enough literature and art surrounding the world's greatest game, so we are trying to build up a collection of memorabilia - caps, medals, jerseys - and good football pictures."

Mr Taylor said: "Lowry did show an interest in the game. We wanted to keep it in the north west, where he came from, and we wanted it to be on display to the public."

He said the painting would be loaned to the Salford Art Gallery and Museum before moving to the new Lowry Centre in April.

'Matchstick' men

Salford-born Lawrence Lowry, who died in 1976, is known for his unique "matchstick" style figures.

LS Lowry was famous for his 'matchstick' figures
His best-known paintings depict industrial scenes of his native Lancashire, particularly during the depression of the 1930s, and were among the first modern images of working class life to be accepted by the British art establishment.

The previous record for a 20th century British painting was The Crucifixion by Sir Stanley Spencer, which sold for 1.2m at Sotheby's in May 1990.

The PFA said it hoped to put the painting on public display in the Lowry Museum in Manchester.

Susannah Pollen, head of Sotheby's Modern British and Irish Art Department, said: "This is one of the great images of this century's greatest game and one of the most remarkable Lowrys we have ever handled."

Football has changed a great deal since Going To The Match was painted.

Changing times

In 1953 Bolton were one of the top sides in England and players of the calibre of Nat Lofthouse and Eddie Hopkinson won many England caps.

The club fell out of the top flight in the 1970s but worked its way back up to the Premiership.

In 1996 Wanderers sold Burnden Park in 1996 - the ground was demolished and the site is awaiting retail development - and moved to the 35m Reebok Stadium.

Club spokesman Alan Fullalove said: "I've been asked in the past if the club would ever bid for the painting, but we are a football club not an art house."

But he told BBC News Online: "The club is delighted the painting is still in this country and still in football and, if it's going to be on display in the museum that is wonderful because it is a very emotive picture, especially for Bolton people."

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