Kirklees Council has been told it has a slim window of opportunity to keep the National Rugby League Museum in Huddersfield.
Officials at the charity behind the museum, Rugby League Cares, have been left disappointed and frustrated at the council’s decision to drop plans to house the museum at the George Hotel.
Council leader Shabir Pandor says a museum at the George Hotel – birthplace of the sport in 1895 – would cost £20 million and put taxpayers on the hook for interest charges and other costs going forward.
The council has now made a vague offer to house the museum in the proposed Cultural Heart development at the other side of Huddersfield town centre but the plan lacks any detail, according to Rugby League Cares.
Kirklees Council beat off Wigan’s bid for the National Rugby League Museum because they offered the George Hotel, dubbed the sport’s “spiritual home.”
Speaking about the council’s decision to pull out for the first time, Rugby League Cares chairman Tim Adams said: “We are absolutely amazed at their decision and extremely frustrated and annoyed.
“We believe the George Hotel is the right place and we believed, until a certain point in time, that Kirklees Council believed that too.”
Mr Adams said Kirklees had offered space for the museum in the Cultural Heart but there was no detail or substance.
“If they wish to make an offer, we would consider it. All we have had are warm words, though they have not been that warm.”
Rugby League Cares had been contacted by others keen to take on the national museum and Mr Adams said: “We will now consider other alternatives and if they (Kirklees) wish to make us a proper offer they had better be quick about it.”
Mr Adams said they hadn’t put a deadline on when they might make a decision but added: “We feel like we have wasted 18 months.”
Mr Adams said Rugby League Cares had offered to pay for a feasibility study into the George Hotel plan but the council wouldn’t agree to it.
He added: “We have an option of not having a museum, of course. There’s no point in us being part of a museum that’s unviable.
“The reality is we believe it would be viable in the hotel but we were, alongside the council and the University of Huddersfield, prepared to undertake a detailed business plan to work out how it would be viable.
“If we had done a business plan that was ‘don’t touch it with a barge pole it’ll cost you a lot of money’ we wouldn’t have gone ahead but we’re not even at that stage.”
Head of Rugby League Cares, Chris Rostron, said if the museum wasn’t built at the George Hotel it would be a “missed opportunity” for Huddersfield.
He said there had been excitement around the world at the announcement and the museum could be an international attraction to bring visitors to the town.
Mr Rostron said it still wasn’t too late and added: “We hope there might be, however slim, some realisation within the council as to the value of the George and the opportunity lost.
“We don’t want to completely slam the door in people’s faces but we don’t want to be messed around.
“Our aim here – because it was so fundamentally important to the game and, more broadly, the public – was to deliver a national museum in the George Hotel. However dim the candle is at the moment we cannot slam the door on that idea.”
The George Hotel, which closed in 2013, previously housed the Rugby League Heritage Centre, mainly comprising of RL legend Mike Stephenson’s personal memorabilia.