The National Football Museum opened at historic Deepdale stadium in Preston in 2001. The museum has received over 100,000 visitors a year, and includes collections from FIFA and the Football Association. Yet after the loss of a Football Foundation grant sustaining it, the museum is now moving to Manchester, into the Urbis Centre. The move will take 18 months to complete, beginning in February.
Opened just a few years ago itself, Urbis describes itself as “an exhibition centre about city life. On your visit you can explore exhibitions about contemporary art & design, music, fashion, popular culture and the people who make our cities what they are.”
Urbis had been a success, the Guardian explains.
Urbis, it was generally felt, had found its feet. With 250,000 visitors a year coming to see its ever-changing self-curated shows on subjects ranging from Manga to video games to urban gardening, it was a success story.
That was not always the case. Urbis (Latin for “of the city”) was built in 2002 and is easily one of the most visually striking buildings in Manchester, resembling a glass ski slope with an indoor funicular.
The original idea was for Urbis to be a museum of the city but few really knew what that meant. It became, like so many post-millennium projects, something of a white elephant. Four years ago, with the arrival of Allen, a former style journalist, that changed. “We banned the word museum. The word museum does mean things in cabinets, and we didn’t have any,” Allen said.
The focus shifted towards representing popular culture in all its forms – fashion, music, television, gardening and so on – and having lots of changing shows that would be “zeitgeisty” and surprising. “We got to a point after a couple of years where we suddenly realised what we had created was a Sunday supplement,” said Allen.
It seemed to be working: visitor numbers rose steadily and the place was popular with a young demographic group.
Then football came along. The National Museum of Football in Preston was in serious financial trouble and on the verge of closure. Its trustees approached Manchester city council, the main funders of Urbis, in the summer, and things moved quickly. After its final exhibition, the building will close to reopen as the new football museum in the summer 2011.
This decision has not sat well with all. Many in Manchester lament the loss of an innovative cultural centre, and given Preston is only an hour or so’s drive away, it’s not as if the football museum was far away to begin with. The £8m cost to retrofit the Urbis Centre looks set (despite initial promises) to be funded largely by Manchester City Council, with other projects giving way. Local authorities in Preston are furious at the move. The Football League and Football Association have hardly helped, both trying to lure the Museum even further away to Wembley.
At the same time, the move to Urbis does offer an intriguing opportunity for the museum, if its holdings and exhibitions are exhibited with some of the ethos already existing at the building. Football is obviously deeply embedded in popular culture today, and a living exploration of its contemporary significance as part of a museum explaining its historical transformation could be enormously valuable for the understanding of the game’s past and present beyond whatever is on Sky Sports News.
- ESPN’s UK channel decided to unleash Tommy Smyth on an unsuspecting and unprepared British audience, and the Guardian’s Martin Kelner was unsurprisingly unimpressed. Kelner concludes that “He provides the kind of coverage that might appeal to an American audience that sees soccer as a rather comical pastime, taking Mexicans’ minds off the terrible food and stopping Europeans declaring war on each other.” I have, though, met very few Americans who find soccer comical and bother to watch it on ESPN, and even fewer who find Tommy Smyth entertaining.
- As the Football Shirt Culture site shows us, Ajax and AZ in the Netherlands both wore shirts emblazoned with Giro 555 this weekend, their regular sponsors giving up their space to promote the Dutch national disaster relief account anyone can easily donate to in times of major crisis, in this case, obviously in aid of Haiti. A good gesture by all.
- Another English women’s international, Lianne Sanderson, has signed stateside in WPS, saying the delayed start to the Football Association’s Women’s Super League meant there was no choice to make.
- Notts County are scrambling to find £2m in funding this week in order for the club to satisfy the high court over unpaid debts, in what’s looking more and more like a sad denouement to a sorry saga.
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