Rugby League Cares and the Rugby Football League have today released a joint statement expressing their disappointment that the George Hotel will no longer host the National Rugby League Museum.
A council has been roundly condemned for axing plans to restore a rugby league museum to the game’s birthplace.
Campaigners had been led to believe the National Rugby League Museum would be rehoused at Huddersfield’s George Hotel. On August 29, 1895, 21 northern clubs voted to break away from the Rugby Football Union to form what later became the Rugby Football League at the venue.
But Kirklees Council say the venue would not be “financially viable” and has instead proposed accommodating the museum elsewhere in the town.
RL Cares, the charity overseeing the location of the museum, says it chose Kirklees ahead of bids from Leeds and Wigan due to a compelling case for the museum being housed within the sport’s spiritual home and have hit out at the about-turn.
RL Cares and RFL release joint statement
“Rugby League Cares and the Rugby Football League wish to place on record their disappointment at the poor communication and lack of clarity from Kirklees Council regarding plans to establish the National Rugby League Museum in Huddersfield,” said a joint statement.
“Rugby League Cares has spent the last 18 months working with Kirklees Council, the RFL, the University of Huddersfield and other stakeholders to realise this exciting project.
“However, Kirklees Council, without consultation, appears to have unilaterally decided that the historic George Hotel is an inappropriate venue for the National Rugby League Museum.
“Despite repeated requests for more information on their plans, Kirklees Council have failed to identify the specific location they feel is better suited than the George Hotel.
“We hope that following their latest media statements, Kirklees Council will provide the information and facts we need to make a decision on the viability of their proposals.”
Rugby League Cares and the Rugby Football League wish to place on record their disappointment at the poor communication and lack of clarity from Kirklees Council regarding plans to establish the National Rugby League Museum in Huddersfield.
— Rugby Football League (@TheRFL) January 6, 2022
Huddersfield set for £210million transformation
Councillor Peter McBride, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, defended the change of heart and said the museum would be part of a £210million plan to transform Huddersfield’s town centre.
“With the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality industry, we have had to give careful consideration of our investments on behalf of local taxpayers,” he said.
“We now know that a combined hotel and museum within the refurbished George Hotel would not be financially viable without an ongoing cost to Kirklees residents.
“But Huddersfield is the birthplace of rugby league and the sport is an essential part of our heritage. That’s why we’re offering to give a home to the museum as part of our major regeneration plans in the heart of the town.”
“I’m just flabbergasted”
Former Great Britain international Mike Stephenson, whose personal collection of memorabilia was housed at the George Hotel until its closure in 2013, says he is “appalled” by the latest development.
“I had to close my museum because the George Hotel went bust. So, I was over the moon when they told me it was going back there,” he said.
“Now they’ve reneged on it and I’m just flabbergasted. How can they come out and say they want to move it somewhere else?
“People used to come from New Zealand, Australia and France to my exhibition at the George Hotel for one thing and that’s because this is where the game was born.
“They could go into the room where they actually said ‘we’ll break away from rugby union’ and not many sports can say that. I’m appalled by the latest development.”