Fresh offers made to house new Rugby League Museum as council row rumbles on
Organisers have received fresh offers to house the new National Rugby League Museum as the row with Kirklees Council rumbles on.
Tim Adams, chair of the RL Cares charity responsible for finding a new home for the museum, claims the council broke a legally-binding contract in reneging on its plan to restore it to the George Hotel in Huddersfield, the birthplace of rugby league.
The George, where 21 northern clubs voted to break away from the Rugby Football Union in August 1895 to form what later became the Rugby Football League, housed Mike Stephenson’s collection of mementoes and artefacts up to 2013 when it was forced to close.
Kirklees Council bought the hotel as part of its renovation of the area and in June 2020 won a tender process after agreeing to restore the museum to its iconic home.
Since then, the council have claimed the project could cost the local taxpayer £20million and has offered to house the museum elsewhere in the town.
RL Cares, in conjunction with the RFL, says it has yet to receive details of any alternative plan and is now exploring other options, admitting it is unlikely to go down the legal route.
“The acceptance of the tender document means it becomes law but we have wasted an awful lot of time already and we are a charity so we should not be spending money on legal redress,” Adams said.
“We don’t want to burn bridges with the Council, we do want honesty and, if they are serious about wanting the museum in Huddersfield, they should make us an offer.”
The charity was at one stage in partnership with Bradford Council while Kirklees beat off competition from Wigan and Leeds to secure the right to house the museum.
Adams admits the bid could now be put back out to tender and says there is fresh interest.
“If Kirklees wish to make an offer, would consider it, but we have to consider other options,” he said.
“We are being approached by others, who have concluded the George Hotel is no longer an option.”
A petition calling on Kirklees to re-house the museum at the George has gained just short of 10,000 signatures.
Councillor Peter McBride, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, says Kirklees remains committed to bringing the museum to Huddersfield as part of its £210million transformation of the town centre.
McBride said: “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.
“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.
“Over the next few years, we will be building a new Cultural Heart in Huddersfield, which includes a new library, gallery, food court and entertainment space to draw people into the town.
“We have a unique opportunity to include the Rugby League Museum in one of the biggest regeneration plans in the country.
“By being part of the plans for the new Cultural Heart of Huddersfield, the museum would benefit from a new home that can both accommodate the museum as well as being flexible enough to incorporate additional activity to draw in fans and visitors over the long-term.
“Crucially, this plan would be financially sustainable for the long-term.
“At the same time, we will ensure that the refurbishment of the George Hotel includes a fitting tribute to the birthplace of rugby league that is in keeping with its importance in the history of the game.
“And there will be a meaningful link between the hotel and the museum, which would be located just a short walk away from each other.
“We have reached out to Rugby League Cares with our proposals and we really hope they share our vision for a museum that not only celebrates our proud history but has a place in our exciting future too.”