Introducing is a feature on Box To Box looking at a handpicked selection of magazines, fanzines, websites, blogs, teams, projects and individuals who produce great quality content on football and football culture. 

Sure, watching football on TV is fun. But it’s nothing when compared to the almost religious experience of watching the game in person in the stadium. In our latest Introducing feature we speak to Matthew Brown, a 40-year-old architectural designer who is the man behind the pencils of Stadiafile.

To someone who hasn’t heard of it, how would you describe Stadiafile in one sentence?

Matthew Brown: I create highly detailed hand drawings of iconic stadiums, celebrating the fans, architecture and spectacle of sports. Our slogan is, “Your stadiums, hand-drawn.” 

What is the story behind the creation of the project? 

MB: Stadiafile really started when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, New York. My two obsessions were sports and drawing. I drew the players and stadiums of that season’s sport: Winter: basketball; Spring and Summer: baseball; Fall: American football (no soccer yet). My aunt worked for a publisher and would bring my brother and old issues of Sports Illustrated. The photography was beautiful and we would draw the players and stadiums depicted.

Fast forward 30 years: I was between architecture jobs in New York, had just become a father and, feeling a little burnt out by the architecture world, I did something many mid-30s in-between-jobs urbanites did in the 2000s, I started a blog called Stadiafile. It was primarily written articles at first, but after returning to work as an architect I wanted to avoid a screen at all costs, so I went back to my childhood hobby of drawing stadiums, and posted them on Stadiafile. I now sell the prints on Etsy and have branched out to producing stadium mugs.

Do you remember what made you first fall in love with football, could you pinpoint it to a single moment?

MB: I was a late arrival to football – it happened over time. Growing up the US, kids did play soccer but I was a pretty hardcore baseball kid – soccer was the enemy, as their season overlapped with ours. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that soccer started to be shown on TV in the US. My brother came back from a study abroad trip and would put soccer on TV, and I was totally bored. Then I had the opportunity to study abroad myself, in Italy, and later to work in the Netherlands and was indoctrinated. I married my wonderful wife who has a football-mad brother and dad who took me to watch their local Bognor Regis Town whenever we visited. If there was one moment though, it was watching Gareth Bale’s hat-trick for Tottenham against Inter Milan in the 2010 Champions League that fully hooked me.

What was the first stadium you visited and also your most memorable experience?

MB: My first stadium experience was Shea Stadium in Flushing, Queens to watch my beloved New York Mets baseball team. My first football stadium was Parc des Princes to see Paris St. Germain back in 1999. I was travelling that summer and bought a ticket at FNAC, probably for the first game of their season. If travelling alone is pretty intense, going to a football match abroad alone is very intense. They sold me a ticket in the family section, but still, the intensity was palpable. I remember everyone running to exit after the match, I was so confused but loved it and wanted more for sure.
What is the unique selling point of your project?
MB: I believe anything good needs to be authentic. I’m a genuine sports fan, I’ve been drawing stadiums since I was a kid and my architecture background gives my drawings a rigour that perhaps sets them apart.

Out of everything you have done through the project so far, what has been your most enjoyable moments?

MB: Getting press passes to some live events was fun, I felt like I was an imposter sitting on the sidelines next to these sports photographers with giant lenses. Running around the historic Palestra Gymnasium at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia taking pictures of the action was great too.

What next for Stadiafile?

MB: I basically ransacked This Fan Girl’s database while on holiday and drew some of the amazing female fans they’ve documented. I posted my little drawings – travel sketchbook – on Instagram and they were into it so we’re teaming up to produce some cool products which should be ready in time for Christmas.  

Out of all the football websites, magazines, podcasts, projects out there, what are your personal favourites?

MB: Besides Box To Box? This Fan Girl is great and – having two daughters – I’m all for celebrating female sports fans. There are so many beautiful football publications out there at the moment it’s hard to pick favourites – Glory Mag, Patterns of Play, Top Corner Magazine are wonderful. There are some incredible photographers of non-league football – Peter Miles, Paul Paxford, and of course the incredible Dutch photographer Hans van der Meer.

A friend was involved with starting up a soccer club in New York state called Kingston Stockade – I love what they are doing. We don’t have a tradition of local, semi-professional spectator sports in the US – college and high school sports fill that void. Kingston Stockade have a passionate following and along with a few other small clubs are challenging the top level of soccer in the US to introduce a promotion/relegation model. I think this would help professional soccer gain popularity in the US.

If someone wanted to collaborate with you at Stadiafile, how would you suggest they went about it?

MB: Just send me an email or message me on social media @stadiafile.

To someone wanting to start up a similar project to yours, what would be your words of advice?

MB: Do something you love and have patience. Working on Stadiafile only at nights and weekends has forced it to be a slow burn but that pace is nice in a way, especially as a counterpoint to the rapid, deadline-heavy world of architecture and property development. Slowness allows things to evolve organically which helps make your project authentic.