RUGBY LEAGUE’s history is indelibly linked to Yorkshire, with the region laying claim to being the birthplace of the sport.
And now rugby league is set to come home after it was announced that a new national museum dedicated to its heritage dating back over a century will be opening in a Yorkshire city.
Bradford has been selected as the home of rugby league’s first-ever national museum following extensive consultations led by a working group chaired by Dr Kevin Moore, the director of the celebrated National Football Museum in Manchester, and involving local authorities, the Rugby Football League and other key stakeholders.
The West Yorkshire city still holds the record for the biggest crowd for a rugby match in the UK, when 102,575 spectators attended the 1954 Challenge Cup final replay between Halifax and Warrington at Odsal Stadium.
And in Super League, Bradford Bulls are one of the most successful clubs of the summer rugby era with six Grand Final appearances, including three wins.
Just 15 miles down the road, Huddersfield is seen as the birthplace of the sport, as the town’s Grade II-listed George Hotel was where the game was founded in 1895.
The museum planned for Bradford City Hall will be funded through sources including private benefactors and government grants, and the Rugby League Cares charity confirmed yesterday that the application process is already at an advanced stage.
Bradford Council’s leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “It’s fantastic that Bradford has been chosen as the preferred partner by Rugby League Cares to host the National Rugby League Museum.
“We are delighted by this news and are committed to working with all relevant parties to ensure that the museum is a success.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for Bradford and we are very proud City Hall has been chosen as the location for the museum.
“Our city and district has a proud rugby league tradition and this museum will inspire the next generation of rugby league fans and players.”
Bradford saw off competition from major towns and cities to host the museum, which will house and display the sport’s extensive collections and historical artefacts, as well as being an interactive visitor attraction.
The heritage manager of Rugby League Cares, Brigid Power, said: “We have some fantastic objects and archive material in our collection, which we are continually adding to.
“Our most recent donation has come from one of Bradford’s finest legends – Ernest Ward, whose son Trevor has very kindly donated some of his father’s medals, boots and photographs. Ernest played over 390 matches for Bradford Northern in the 1940s and 1950s, so the donation is a great addition to the collection, in light of the location of the museum.”
The museum is scheduled to open in August 2020 to mark the sport’s 125-year anniversary.
• TOP FLIGHT rugby league clubs across the UK could employ full-time mental health specialists after research showed that almost a quarter of players suffer mental illness.
The Rugby Football League (RFL), the game’s governing body, last year experimented with hiring part-time “player welfare managers” (PWMs) to offer support to players at 12 Super League clubs who were vulnerable to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
According to researchers from the University of Huddersfield, the results were so successful that it now recommends that all Super League clubs have full-time PWMs.