FOOTBALL fans and art lovers do not usually mix in the same circles, but that could change because of a new exhibition.

The Game Of Life, by Mackenzie Thorpe, one of Britain's most collected artists, is being staged at The Arthaus, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, until the end of the month.

The Middlesbrough-born artist, who has a gallery in Richmond, North Yorkshire, has created a collection of football imagery that captures the essence of football, the highs and lows, the taste of victory and misery of defeat.

The exhibition includes rare prints, sculptures and merchandise, and a limited edition book is being printed.

Mr Thorpe said: "I never really followed or supported a team, yet I still stayed out all night in the snow once to get a ticket to see George Best play.

"Somehow the excitement was infectious, and it managed to get through to me.

"Whether you are interested in football or not, the game, more so than any other, does seem to touch us throughout our lives."

The artist came to public prominence when former Conservative Party leader and Richmond MP William Hague chose one of his "square sheep" paintings for his annual Christmas card.

The Game Of Life will end on June 15 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, where the original pastels from the works will be auctioned, with some of the proceeds going towards children's charities.

Mr Thorpe will attend the auction, along with some prominent figures from the footballing world.