Batley Bulldogs chairman puts forward offer to host Rugby League museum

Batley Bulldogs chairman Kevin Nicholas says that he would like to bring the new Rugby League museum to Mount Pleasant if it cannot be based at the George Hotel.

Kirklees Council won the bid to host a national museum for the sport two years ago with the intention of housing it at the Huddersfield hotel, the game’s birthplace.

However, the council has since made a U-turn on the venue, citing the excessive costs and suggesting it could be housed elsewhere in Huddersfield.

That caused great controversy among Rugby League fans as well as among the towns and cities which missed out on housing the museum.

Now Batley chairman Nicholas has proposed another location which could accommodate the site which is still in Kirklees but also has a significant slice of the game’s history – Mount Pleasant, the oldest Rugby League ground in the world.

Writing in this week’s League Express, Nicholas put forward his case to bring the museum to Batley:

As a Founder member back in 1895 Batley Bulldogs were fully supportive of the Rugby League Museum being situated at The George Hotel in Huddersfield, the birthplace of our sport and if there is a way for that to happen that remains our stance.

However, I now hear various accounts in the media and various criticisms regarding this now not being an option. A figure of £20m, I think, has been mentioned as being the main reason why it cannot happen. I also am not aware of Kirklees Council as yet putting forward an alternative location in Huddersfield or indeed elsewhere within the Council boundary.

I am not seeking to criticise any party in this whole situation and if a solution can be found to stay with The George Hotel that would be great, but if not, I wish to put forward an alternative for consideration.

In August 1895 there was this historical occasion of the meeting of Founder Clubs to form our sport, but the next historical occasion was the playing of the first games. The first game to be played at Mount Pleasant now the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium was Batley v Hull on 7th September 1895. Other first games were played over the following weeks in September, including at Belle Vue, Wakefield, the oldest rugby stadium still here.

However, the fact that our stadium is still in its original location over 126 years later means it is the oldest Rugby League ground in the world. That is not an insignificant historical fact and a reason surely to site an historical museum at our stadium.

The leader of Kirklees Council is Shabir Pandor who himself is a Batley Councillor and so as well as putting forward this proposal to Rugby League Cares and I do likewise put it to him on behalf of the Council as an alternative solution to seek to make this happen and still embrace the history of our sport.

The practicalities are as follows.

1. From a £20m spend it would be reduced significantly. The proposed site is land partly owned by Kirklees already and partly by Batley Bulldogs, hence there is no cost to purchase but simply building costs.

2. The location would have free on-site parking on the same basis. It has bus routes and the train station is a short walk from the stadium or a £3 taxi ride. It is still central to the location of Rugby League enthusiasts and not much different a location than Huddersfield.

3. Batley Bulldogs have recently formed a plan to improve the whole sporting complex at Mount Pleasant, which could easily be altered to incorporate this building with a stand on the side of it to complete our historic ground.

4. This would be a new build and so the requirements of the Museum could more easily be accommodated than seeking to adapt an existing building.

5. This would be a significant boost to the people of the town of Batley. This is cultural and has immense civic pride and so perhaps fits into criteria for a Levelling Up fund application to be explored by Kirklees Council and our MP.

6. Our MP Kim Leadbeater is already supportive of our sporting complex development plan and so clearly would be supportive of this proposal. We would seek support from Batley Councillors initially, then hopefully Kirklees and we have a preferred builder in place who has built stands, terraces and other buildings at our stadium at very competitive costs to further assist the project financially.

In conclusion, this project is feasible at an acceptable cost if it finds favour with the relevant parties and we at Batley Bulldogs wish to put it forward for consideration.

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