The National Football Museum will be moved to Manchester although the site in Preston is set to remain as a second exhibition area, according to Crain's.
The museum's trustees, who are grappling with a major shortfall in funding, yesterday decided to switch most of the collection to Urbis while keeping a second exhibition base in the existing museum at Preston North End's Deepdale ground.
The move was condemned by the leaders of Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council, which campaigned to keep the 8-year-old museum in the city. Manchester politicians and officials were jubilant, saying the move would boost the city's tourism offer.
The museum trustees, headed by former De Vere Hotels chief executive Paul Dermody, said in a statement: "The trustees resolved in principle to establish the National Football Museum at Urbis in Manchester, subject to receiving assurances on certain potential liabilities.
"In the meantime, we reaffirm our desire to maintain the publicly-accessible museum at Preston and will enter into further discussions with the Lancashire County Council consortium to achieve this aim.
"The museum will in addition retain its research partnership with UCLan's International Football Institute, which means that Preston will remain a major centre for football research, attracting visiting academics and other researchers from around the world."
Urbis is expected to close for 18 months from next spring for an £8m refurbishment before the museum opens in 2011. Manchester City Council is hoping to get the money from the Northwest Regional Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund but chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein has given a written commitment that the city will underwrite the costs if necessary.
Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, questioned whether the move was a good use of public money and said his authority was considering a legal challenge to the decision taken by the trustees.
Paul Simpson, managing director of tourism promotion agency Visit Manchester, said: “This is great news for the city and for everyone that loves our national game. Urbis will make a great home to the NFM and it will be a great addition to our tourism product.”