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OMI Architects' football museum to close

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OMI Architects’ National Football Museum is set to close its public galleries following a decision to move the attraction to Manchester

The leader of Preston City Council is now threatening to take legal action over the decision to move, which will see the museum move to Ian Simpson’s Urbis in Manchester (pictured right).

A final decision on whether to move the museum (opened in 2001 – click here to read the original building study) from Deepdale stadium’s North End was taken last week, and was approved despite a bid from the Lancashire councils and Preston University.

The announcement came as a bitter blow to Preston councillor Ken Hudson who has said the museum’s trustees had ‘stuck two fingers’ up at Preston by agreeing to the move.

Paul Dermody, chairman of the museum, said that a ‘public face’ would be retained in Preston if funding is secured.

But Hudson believes that the whole collection will eventually move to Manchester, adding: ‘We will have to carry on funding a museum for the next two years, knowing that it is going to move to Manchester. We either have a museum or we don’t have one.

‘The museum belongs in Preston, we have the oldest running club in England. We are where football began.’



Phil O’Dwyer, director of OMI Architects, on The National Football Museum (written before last week’s decision)

It’s not the first time there’s been talk of re-locating the National Football Museum – so, as Kevin Keegan once said, ‘It’s a bit like déjà vu all over again.’  The Museum has always suffered from a shortage of revenue funding and it seems that its current financial predicament has created a ‘have collection, will travel’ response. 

I’m caught in two minds about the possible move to Urbis. I can think of a lot of good reasons for it to stay where it is, in the kind of proud Lancashire town where football has its roots.  Places like Preston should not be starved of major attractions like the Football Museum and the gravitational pull towards London and a few other British cities should sometimes be questioned. 

Also the placing of the permanent exhibition in the bowels of a ‘traditional’ football stadium resonates strongly with its subject matter.   

The original exhibition design by Land and The Chase is a piece of rare quality that sets a very high benchmark for anything that might follow. 

A series of subtle football references are also embedded within the new building elements and the place as a whole is playful, brash and a bit over the top – which somehow seems to capture the spirit of the game and the experience of going to a match. 

Overall, I would therefore lament its uprooting – but on the other hand I’m a born and bred Manc and to have the museum round the corner is a tempting proposition - and it would certainly benefit from being right in among the life of the city centre. 

The Urbis building is a great landmark and has contributed to Manchester’s evolving identity.  I suspect it is flexible enough to absorb the Football Museum, like it could absorb many other exhibitions with varying degrees of success. 
But would it engage with this subject to the same extent?  Would it have the ingredients that make the difference between a place that has spirit and one that feels soulless and detached from the people that use it?  I have my doubts, but that would be the challenge. 

At the end of the day, what will be will be.  If it does move I just hope they take the penalty shoot-out bit. 

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