A Welsh Government feasibility study has recommended a new National Football Museum should be created in Wrexham, although at the town’s existing museum rather than at the Racecourse stadium.
The 51 page feasibility study (PDF here) notes: “…the town of Wrexham has a legitimate claim to be considered the spiritual home of the Welsh game. In 2000, Wrexham County Borough Council purchased the Welsh Football Collection with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Football Association of Wales. The collection is stored and cared for by Wrexham County Borough Museum and used as the basis for regular exhibitions. Wrexham also has existing partnership arrangements with Amgueddfa Cymru which could be extended, by mutual agreement.
“These factors make Wrexham Museum a logical place to provide a home for an appropriately scaled National Football Museum for Wales, also serving as a future hub for wider community outreach, learning and mobile exhibitions programmes.”
Based on the report’s current proposals, the initial estimate of the capital cost for such a facility is around £4,400,000, and the additional running costs to support the proposed Museum are estimated to be in the order of £144,500 per annum.
The upgrading and redevelopment of Wrexham Museum could include circa 200m2 of new gallery spaces on the first floor, together with an extension set out within the forecourt zones of 160m2. The existing glazed frontage could be modified to link the Grade II listed building with the proposed new infrastructure developed in the forecourt area, although there are no formal public plans.
It is anticipated that visitor numbers could rise to a target of 80,000 footfalls a year to the new football specific museum.
Wrexham’s Assembly Member Lesley Griffiths has welcomed the conclusions of the feasibility study, saying: “Establishing a dedicated national football museum at the rightful home of Welsh football is something I have long-called for and I am certainly pleased with the feasibility study’s findings.”
“Wrexham as a town is proud to be Welsh and passionate about football, which makes it the ideal location. I am certain the museum would be a thriving success, encouraging more visitors to the town and providing a major boost for the area in general.”
“The study’s recommendation is a positive step in the right direction. No final decision has yet been made but I have already spoken to Ministers and will continue to make representations to the Welsh Government in support of the development.”
Cllr Mark Pritchard, Leader of Wrexham Council, has welcomed the news saying: “This is a fantastic proposal for Wrexham. Football obviously plays a very strong part in the civic history and fabric of Wrexham and, along with Wrexham Lager, Wrexham is very well known more broadly for its footballing history.
“These proposals aim to add a very strong element to both the visitor offer and the footballing offer in Wrexham, and I’m very pleased with the finding of the consultants.”
“I’d like to thank all partners and all members of staff, who have worked so hard on this.”
Ian Bancroft, Chief Executive of Wrexham Council, has commented today: “Football is one of our chief assets as a town, and it will play a strong role in the vision we have for Wrexham, and how we want to it to develop over the next 10 to 15 years.”
“Proposals such as these help to define the ethos within that vision, and we’re very pleased to see this proposal discussed by the Welsh Assembly.”
Cllr Hugh Jones, Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, added: “Wrexham has a very proud, longstanding link with FAW and that legacy would continue with the Welsh Football Museum coming to Wrexham.
“Officers and representatives from Wrexham Council have been in discussions with Welsh Government and their consultants for quite some time, and I would urge the Welsh Government to agree with the finding of the consultants and bring the history of Welsh national footballing home.”
Steve Grenter, Heritage & Archives Lead at Wrexham Council, said: “Welsh football has gained no small amount of prominence recently thanks to the performance of the international team, so this has the potential to be not just a national attraction, but an international one.
“It has always been the aim of the Museum to have some continued form of historical display on Welsh football, due to the strong role it has played in the history of Wrexham, and we would continue to display both in the best possible setting.”
A document entitled “The Racecourse Ground – a Strategic Vision for the stadium incorporating Museum of Welsh Sporting Culture” produced by the football club is referenced in the feasibility study, with many hoping a new museum would tie in with the redevelopment of the Kop end of the ground.
The report itself recognises that dream, but notes: “In response to the original Racecourse stadium proposal in respect of earlier proposals for a new
National Football Museum, to be built as part of a future Racecourse development … this feasibility study concludes that any future football heritage development in Wrexham should be located as part of an extension to the existing museum, to build on expertise and resources and improve its financial sustainability.”
“The preferred approach does not offer a viable business case for any investment in the ‘Kop End’ of the Racecourse, where more commercial models should be the focus of attention. The on-going running cost of sustaining a ‘National’ standard museum i.e. designated space and utilities; interactive attractions, quality displays, learning spaces, acquisitions, specialist staff etc. would not make any future Racecourse development commercially more successful. It would demand considerable additional capital investment, as well as a significant on-going running cost subsidy.”
The report does recommend to Welsh Government a “specialist feasibility study for the future development of the Racecourse should however be undertaken embracing all options for improving the performance and sustainability of the stadium, informing a future business case to determine the priorities for capital investment, including consideration of the sporting needs for any necessary pitch and off-pitch facility upgrades”.
The football club’s value to the town is also formally noted via footfall data, explaining that ‘big’ home games can account for a ‘significant number’ of visits to the town as measured by footfall counters.
The Welsh Government commissioned two feasibility studies in the single report – one for a National Contemporary Art Gallery in Wales and the other for a National Sport Museum for Wales.
The findings of both reports will be debated by Assembly Members in the National Assembly next Tuesday, 27th November, with a final decision likely in the new year.
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