The National Rugby League Museum may not return to its spiritual home – the George Hotel in Huddersfield – after all.
In June 2020 Kirklees Council beat off competition from Wigan to win the bid for the museum.
But now, it has emerged, Kirklees Council is refusing to commit to the George – the birthplace of the sport – as the location for the museum.
The council bought the grade II* listed building and is now restoring it. The aim is for the majority of the building to remain a hotel but it is thought the council believes potential hotel operators may be put off by sharing a building with a museum.
And the council is also working on detailed designs for its Cultural Heart project in the Piazza area which will have a new Huddersfield Museum, probably based within the existing library and art gallery building.
Clr Peter McBride, the council’s Cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We are aiming to transform Huddersfield into a thriving and inspirational place to live, work and visit.
“Our vision for the Huddersfield Blueprint includes spaces for culture and celebrating our heritage. We believe that the rugby museum could have a home in the town centre and we are working with Rugby League Cares to establish a way forward that best delivers our and their aspirations for Huddersfield town centre.”
When Rugby League Cares, the RFL’s charity arm, chose Huddersfield as the location for the museum, council leader Shabir Pandor said of the George: “This is so much more than a building to local people and to rugby league fans across the world.
“This is where it all began for rugby league and there is no better place to create a museum that celebrates and remembers the history of the game.”
Rugby League Cares has taken Kirklees Council to task and remains committed to the George which it described as the sport’s “spiritual home.”
A spokesman said: “Rugby League was born at the George Hotel on August 29, 1895, and RL Cares remains 100% committed to establishing a world class museum within this historic building.
“The importance of the George Hotel to the project was recognised by the independent panel of five experts who assessed Kirklees Council’s submission detailing how and where the museum would be based.
“Since Kirklees was awarded the tender in June last year, RL Cares and its partners have invested considerable resources and time to realise this fantastic project, which would make the National Rugby League Museum at the George Hotel the crown jewel of the local authority’s regeneration plans for the town.
“RL Cares, Kirklees Council, the University of Huddersfield and the Rugby Football League have all worked closely to deliver the National Rugby League Museum at the George Hotel and applications to secure the required funding are at an advanced stage.
“Kirklees Council has already secured over £3m in funding for the St George’s Square redevelopment, including the National Rugby League Museum at the George Hotel project, and there remains a great deal of enthusiasm and support from elected officials to deliver a museum at the George Hotel that would put Huddersfield on the map.
“RL Cares would like to place on record its surprise and disappointment at recent suggestions from Kirklees Council officers that the charity is considering new proposals to establish the National Rugby League Museum at a location other than the George Hotel. This is simply not the case.
“The success of Kirklees Council’s application to host the National Rugby League Museum was based on the museum being housed at the George Hotel.
“To the wider world, Rugby League, recognised by the Government as one of the UK’s top five sports, was coming home, and nothing has happened in the last 17 months to change that.
“Any proposals to house the National Rugby League Museum in Kirklees anywhere other than the George Hotel are both misguided and uninformed.
“RL Cares remains hopeful that Kirklees Council will honour its commitment to work with the charity and other partners including the University of Huddersfield and the Rugby Football League, to deliver a National Rugby League Museum within the George Hotel that will be the pride of Huddersfield and the envy of the watching world.”