The National Football Museum is England’s national museum of football. It is based in the Urbis building in Manchester city centre, and preserves, conserves and displays important collections of football memorabilia. As a publicly funded national museum, entrance is free.
The idea for what became the National Football Museum goes back to 1994 when Baxi Partnership, a local company, acquired Preston North End Football Club (PNE) and began the redevelopment of Deepdale Stadium. A chance conversation between Bryan Gray, Chairman of PNE, and the Football League, led to a meeting with Harry Langton, the man who over thirty years put together what is now called the FIFA Museum Collection. FIFA recognised the importance of the collection and acquired it from Harry Langton with a view to finding a permanent home. FIFA saw the proposed museum at Preston as an ideal permanent location for the FIFA Museum Collection.
Bryan Gray formed a small team of people to work on the project including Keith Cooper of FIFA, David Fleming, Director of Tyne and Wear Museums, Brian Booth, formerly Vice Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire, and Chris Newbery, director of the Royal Marines Museum in Portsmouth. The Football Association was represented by David Davies. The National Football Museum was incorporated as a private limited company in June 1995 and became a registered charity in November 1995.
After much hard work, an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund was successful and a grant of £7.5m was awarded in November 1997. The total project cost was estimated at £12m. A ground breaking ceremony took place on 26 September 1998 by Sepp Blatter of FIFA with the Rt Hon Chris Smith in attendance. The foundation stone was laid by Bryan Gray and Ben Casey (who had persuaded Baxi to buy PNE) in April 2000. Finally the National Football Museum was officially opened on 21 June 2001 by HRH The Duke of Kent. Bryan Gray, the founding chairman of trustees, stood down in September 2001 to be succeeded by Brian Booth.
Rob Pratten was the first employee of the Football Museum: he joined the team in May 1995 and for some time was the only employee. Kevin Moore was appointed Director in August 1997 and was later joined by Mark Bushell, Hugh Hornby and Lindsey Jones. The museum's first site was outside Deepdale, Preston, Lancashire. Deepdale was particularly significant as it is the oldest continuously used football league ground in the world. The museum's president is World Cup winner Sir Bobby Charlton.
On a visit in 2004, Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA commented "The National Football Museum merits my admiration as a footballer and as the President of FIFA — it is a superb realisation, a real jewel!". Sir Bobby Charlton commented that he “can’t think of a better museum anywhere in the world.” and Sir Alex Ferguson "Each time I visit the Museum I am so impressed by the great job it does in bringing the rich history of football to life". The museum received the award of Large Visitor Attraction of the Year, at the 2005 Lancashire and Blackpool Tourism Awards
In December 2008, chairman of the Football League, Brian Mawhinney caused controversy when he suggested that the Museum should be moved from Preston to Wembley Stadium in order to attract more visitors. Founder Kevin Moore, stated that it had been an aim to have an exhibition at Wembley, but stated that the trustee's policy was to have its headquarters in Preston.
Despite critical acclaim and attracting 100,000 visitors per year, funding was repeatedly an issue. In 2007, it had an income of £791,256 against out-goings of £1,231,195. The trustees were concerned about the museum's long-term future. In 2009, they approached Manchester City Council about moving the museum. The city council offered a funding package worth £2m per year for the museum to move to Manchester. Despite an improved offer of £400,000 per year from Preston and Lancashire councils, the trustees voted to move the museum to the Urbis exhibition centre in Manchester.
It was intended that subject to satisfactory funding, the Preston site would remain open as a secondary centre. However, the museum failed to agree a funding package with Lancashire County Council and the Preston site closed to the public at the end of April 2010. As of 2012, the Preston site is still used as a research and storage centre.
Urbis closed in February 2010 in preparation for an intended opening of the new National Football Museum in summer 2011.
The museum reopened in Manchester on 6 July 2012. It is hoped that the new museum will attract 350,000 visitors per year. It was reported in August 2012 that the new National Football Museum attracted over 100,000 visitors in the first six weeks of opening. By the end of April 2013, the museum reached its 350,000 target.
The museum is based in the Urbis building and is laid out over 4 floors:
Level One – The largest floor, housing the zones:
Level Two – Featuring various paid-for football interactive games, as well the zones:
Level Four – Learning and Education zone, currently featuring a small exhibition called "Our Sporting Life"
Level Five and Six – The Suite- Event Space (Previously a restaurant called 'Kaleido', which closed in 2013)
The Neville Evans collection forms part of the largest private collection of football memorabilia in the world. Also known as the National Football Collection, it consists of a wide range of football-related items, including the largest private collection of Tottenham Hotspur memorabilia in the world. At least 400 items are on long-term loan to the National Football Museum, with other items also being supplied to complement their in house and travelling exhibits. Started by UK businessman Neville Evans, the collection continues to grow and works to preserve and share the history of football for the next generation of fans.
At any time, around 2,500 items from the museum’s collections are on display at its new home in Manchester city centre, with around a further 140,000 items held. Key items include
The original 'Laws of the game' drafted for and behalf of The Football Association in 1863.
The oldest surviving FA Cup trophy (1896-1910).
Wales shirt which worn by Billy Meredith against England and Ireland in 1908.
Many exhibits are loaned to museums in the UK and artifacts have been loaned to exhibitions in Germany, Portugal, Switzerland and Belgium. The museum has worked in partnership with UEFA to create the UEFA Jubilee Exhibition, which opened in the European Parliament in Brussels, before moving to the National Football Museum. The museum also worked with UEFA to create the world’s first exhibition dedicated to women’s football, to coincide with the UEFA Euro 2005 Women’s Championship. To mark the 2006 FIFA World Cup the museum worked with partners to develop exhibitions in Hong Kong and Germany. A special exhibition "Saved for the Nation: The Story of the FA Cup" which featured the oldest surviving FA Cup trophy, used during FA Cup Finals between 1896 and 1910, was launched in May 2006.
The museum's temporary exhibitions programme has also included "One for All: All for One", a photographic exhibition highlighting the work of Philip Colvin, documenting the experiences and challenges of disabled Crystal Palace supporter Samuel Burch as he travelled across the country in support of his team); and "The Greater Game: Football and The First World War", exploring the role football played at home and at the front during the war years, and explores the myths and reality of famous stories from the conflict, including a previously unseen diary detailing the events of the famous Christmas Truce of 1914, as well as lost footage from the front and of wartime football.
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