It’s an understatement of course to call football the world’s most popular sport. It’s a global force – a unifier of nations and a divider of peoples, such is the passion it induces. So it’s perhaps not surprising that some fans want to not just play or spectate, but also to own a part of it. That’s where the likes of Craig McKelvie and Graeme Henderson come in. They’re the founders of the Dubai-based The Bootroom Collection, the Middle East’s first dealer in exclusively signed sports memorabilia, with a heavy emphasis on the beautiful game.
If you’re after a signed photo of Lionel Messi or Neymar’s Barcelona home shirt – framed and signed – there’s a chance they will have one. They can take it old school too – authenticated shirts and other sporting goods (with prices on application) for the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Paul Gascoigne, Denis Bergkamp, even George Best. As for authentification, the Bootroom Collection says that it only sources its items from the most trusted of memorabilia dealers – and the world has some real heavy-hitters, such is the demand for this stuff. But such is the demand that the world is also flooded with knock-offs, so the business also goes a step further.
“We guarantee the authenticity of our signed pieces by connecting each item of memorabilia to a unique QR code that is visible on the product, and when scanned by smartphone cameras, it directs the user to Instagram video footage of the ‘moment of signing’ involving the renowned football player,” explains McKelvie. “We also work closely with our merchandising partners All Stars and Icons, who in their own right are international industry leaders in the memorabilia sector with unparalleled access to teams and players for exclusive signings.”
McKelvie and Henderson met in 2013 through their shared love of football – and decided to launch their dealership after spotting what they believe to be a gap in the market for a ‘luxury’ supplier of sports memorabilia. And certainly it is a serious market, one that has largely moved online over recent years. Worldwide sporting memorabilia – not just football – is now estimated to be a US$370bn (Aed 1,358bn) market, with some 67m people now owning a small piece of sports history. And the money is big too, especially if you stick to the heavyweight names, as many dealers advise.
Last year, for example, a shirt worn by Michael Jordan in his final game with the Chicago Bulls sold for US$173,000 – Jordan is still the biggest name in sports memorabilia – while a pair of shoes worn by him for his infamous ‘Flu Game’ with the Chicago Bulls in 1997 sold for $100,000. The seller clearly knew he had an appreciating asset. He once turned down $11,000 for them.