I’m going to cheat here and use the notes issued by Rugby League Cares (RLC) at the All Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group Meeting I attended.  I arrived late having been to see The Jersey Boys in the afternoon, it went on longer than I thought it would leaving me 25 minutes to get from Piccadilly to Parliament.  It’s never good being late to a meeting it’s even worse entering the room through the wrong door!  But, I’m very glad I went to listen to the presentation about plans for a National Rugby League Museum.  Over to the briefing document –

Outline and Background

There is a real passion for the history of Rugby League; a passion which is unrivalled by most other sports.  There is no other game that can pinpoint the exact date and location of its birth, and the reason for its inception.  This makes Rugby League special, and its fans are proud of that special heritage.  They view the history of their clubs as synonymous with that of their towns and communities.

For a number of years there was a display on the history of Rugby League at the George Hotel in Huddersfield, where the game was founded in 1895.  This closed in 2013.  There have been, over the last 10 years a significant number of RL heritage projects. initiated not in the main by the clubs, but either by their charitable arms or groups of volunteers and enthusiasts affiliated with the team.  In 2014 a ‘Rugby League Heritage on Tour’ exhibition funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was launched by Rugby League Cares with the aim of telling the story of RL and showing some key highlights from its collection.  This exhibition toured 15 different venues and was seen by over 53,000 people in 15 months.

Because of all this, and inspired in part by the success of the National Football Museum in 2014 RLC launched a campaign to establish a world class National Rugby League Museum.  It was clear that there would be interest and enthusiasm for a museum.  what was less clears whether the project was feasible or not.  Dr Kevin Moore Director of the National Football Museum and his team were chosen as consultants to advise RLC on the next steps.  Through a competitive process which saw expressions of interest and detailed bids from a number of Local Authorities across the North.  In April 2015 Bradford’s bid to host the museum in their iconic City Hall was accepted.  Bradford’s bid met strict criteria, which included location, commercial potential and strong and supportive partnerships.

Current Position

Having engaged the Heritage Lottery Fund at a early stage to gauge their interest, their response has been encouraging.  RLC are working on a Round 1 application which will be submitted in June 2017.  The outcome of the bid will be known in September 2017.

National Rugby League Museum Mission

‘We are Rugby League – past, present and future’

The National Rugby League Museum exists to explain how and why Rugby League has become a key part of England’s heritage and way of life.  It aims to tell the story of the people and the communities who form such an integral part of it.  Through Rugby League the Museum will tell the story of the people of the north of England.  It also aims to explain how and why the game has spread from England around the globe.

The Museum has a long term mission, a responsibility to protect Rugby League’s heritage and culture for future generations as well as current audiences.

Those working on the Museum believe that –

  • Rugby League is an important part of our heritage and culture
  • As a consequence, there needs to be a national museum dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the game, past and present
  • Museums are not just about the past, but are equally concerned with the present and future
  • The power of Rugby League in society can by used by the Museum as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, through the range of services offered

The Northern Powerhouse

The museum will contribute to the development of the Northern Powerhouse.  Sited just off the main artery road throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire the museum will be a beacon of excellence; another cultural flag for the north to shout about. which in part tells the story of the region.  Reflective of how the sport started, as cities like Bradford, Manchester and Leeds were amongst the most prosperous in Europe.  The NRLM will reflect the current status of the north: dynamic, innovative and on the move.  With the World Cup coming to England in 2021 it’s expected that the museum will be a major visitor attraction for fans from abroad and other parts of the country.

Impact on People and Communities

In addition to those visiting the museum for day trips it is thought that the project as a whole will have wider benefits for people and their skills.  Whilst the museum will be based in Bradford it will have a national remit and will bring benefits to all communities associated with rugby league.  This will be achieved by an innovative outreach programme, research has shown that social isolation among vulnerable adults and older people costs the economy millions.  The USP of this museum will be to engage with people across the reach of the sport, from reminiscence sessions with past players, to foundation run intergenerational events for all the family, all under the branding of the museum.

The idea is for the museum to engage people together, with different generations united by their passion of the sport.


Professor Tony Collins – A Professor of History was part of the presentation team, he explained that unlike many sports rugby league mirrors the social history of those areas where the game has ‘lived’.  He’s clearly a fascinating man with a real passion towards both the game and sharing the history.  I for one will be heading to Bradford once the museum is up and running in the Autumn of 2020!

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