Council and RFL urged to move on with rugby league museum plans

James Gordon
George Hotel birthplace national rugby league museum

There has still been no movement on plans for a National Rugby League museum after Kirklees Council backtracked on plans to host it at the George Hotel in Huddersfield.

A local business-led organisation in the town is now urging the Council to move forward or risk losing the museum altogether.

Huddersfield Unlimited, who formally supported the bid to host the museum in May 2020, has expressed concerns that the town’s image and reputation will suffer if they fail to deliver.

One of the key parts of the bid was to host the museum at the George Hotel, the birthplace of the sport.

But late last year, Kirklees Council said it would not be financially viable and would propose an alternative location.

However, no proposal has as yet been forthcoming.

Sir John Harman, Chair of Huddersfield Unlimited, said: “We agree with the Council that to house the whole of a national museum in the George would incur unsustainable cost to the public purse.

“We support the Council’s plans to redevelop the George and that the only obvious commercial solution for the building is as a hotel, but it also needs to be linked to, and provide part of, an alternative museum proposal.

“We believe an alternative solution can be found if the Council and the Rugby Football League really want to do so, and if we can help in this, we will.

“The Council has ambitious plans for renewal of the town centre’s ‘Cultural Heart’ and we encourage everyone who cares about the future of the town to have their say in the consultation which is taking place.

“The museum could be part of those plans, as the Council has suggested, but we would point out that if the long timescale for that is a problem, there are other buildings in Huddersfield Town Centre in need of renewal and regeneration.

“What is clear is that the remodelling of the George Hotel and the plans for a museum need to proceed in step.

“Huddersfield should be the national and international home for the history of Rugby League, not only because of the historic significance of the George Hotel, but because of the extensive archives of the game held by the University of Huddersfield. It must be possible to make this happen.”

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RFL still waiting on alternative proposal

It is nearly 10 years since the Rugby League Heritage museum was closed in 2013.

A touring exhibition, featuring the contents of the centre, went to locations in 2014.

And then in 2016, after a feasibility study, it was decided to establish a new rugby league museum.

It was initially awarded to Bradford, but this proposal was dropped in 2020 in favour of the George Hotel proposal.

The RFL and Rugby League Cares were then left frustrated by Kirklees Council’s u-turn in January, and it appears not much has changed in the six months since.

An RFL spokesperson said: “We have yet to receive a firm alternative proposal for the development of a National Rugby League Museum in Huddersfield from Kirklees Council.

“Nevertheless, we remain committed to working with RL Cares and other partners to deliver a world class museum which tells the story of the sport and its wonderful communities.”

ELSEWHERE: Fresh offers made to house National Rugby League Museum