Rugby league is coming home – as Kirklees Council has won a bid to create a National Rugby League Museum in the Huddersfield hotel where the sport was born 125 years ago.
Rugby League Cares has announced that Kirklees Council’s bid to bring a museum to Grade II-listed George Hotel in Huddersfield has been successful.
On 16 June 2020, Kirklees Council’s Cabinet approved a deal to purchase the George Hotel which is famous for being the birthplace of rugby league in 1895 – this will be completed in the coming weeks.
The hotel, built in 1851, has been chosen as the venue for a new National Rugby League Museum.
When Kirklees Council launched its £250million Huddersfield Blueprint vision in June 2019 it included an ambition to bring the George Hotel back into use, as it has been closed since January 2013.
The George Hotel will be part of a revitalised St George’s Square which will include a revamped train station, an improved public space and more heritage buildings being brought back into use.
The council will now work closely with Rugby League Cares to create the museum.
Kirklees is also one of the hosts of the Rugby League World Cup 2021. The tournament begins in October 2021, with the Men’s Quarter Final being played at the John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield.
Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and we’re really excited to get started and bring rugby league home.
“We asked our residents what they wanted to see in Huddersfield Town Centre and one of the most popular answers people gave was to get the George Hotel back open. We listened and made the decision to buy the building so we can make sure it not only reopens but stays open.
“It 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.”
Councillor Peter McBride, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: “This is our biggest step towards delivering our Huddersfield Blueprint vision yet.
“Since we announced we wanted to bring a National Rugby League Museum to the George Hotel we have received a huge amount of support from across the world. It is the birthplace of the sport and it’s really important that we cherish that.
“Huddersfield and rugby league have a very special bond, and we know that rugby league fans from all around will be delighted at the prospect of visit the museum.
“Our main focus now is to get started with refurbishing the building as quickly as possible and to then work closely with Rugby League Cares and get the museum open.”
Tim Adams MBE, the Chairman of RL Cares, said: “I am sure everyone in the sport will welcome this decision to establish the National RL Museum at the George Hotel.
“The museum will tell the wonderful story of a sport that remains as important to the communities in which it is played as it was in 1895.
“We are looking forward to working with the members and officers of Kirklees Council to develop a museum that will be the envy of sports around the world in a location that means so much to so many people.
“I would like to thank all the other centres who expressed an interest in hosting the museum: Kirklees Council were not alone in putting forward a compelling case to the selection panel, who deliberated long and hard before handing down their recommendation.
“The interest shown is a testimony to the prestige that comes with being the home of the National RL Museum, and ultimately acknowledges the importance of the George Hotel to Rugby League.
“Our thanks also go to all the members of the independent selection panel who helped us reach this important decision: their wealth of knowledge of the museums landscape and the sport has been invaluable.”
For more information on the Huddersfield Blueprint, artist impressions and a fly-through video can be viewed on our website.
Jason Whitworth, Director of Huddersfield Unlimited said, “Great news that Huddersfield has won the right to host the National Rugby League Museum at the George Hotel. Huddersfield Unlimited supported the bid and is looking forward to working with the Council to ensure a sustainable future for the George. After years of neglect, this iconic building has a future once more.”