The future of the National Football Museum has taken another twist after a group of public establishments came forward with plans to keep the museum in Preston.
Lancashire County Council, Preston City Council and the University of Central Lancashire say their proposals would ensure a £3m refurbishment of the museum, currently at Preston North End's Deepdale ground.
They are also offering £400,000 per year to plug a funding gap and keep the museum running for the forseeable future.
Virgin Trains is backing Preston's bid with a promise to advertise the museum at 17 stations between London and Edinburgh and in its customer magazine. It is also offering free transport to the museum for players and VIPs. The university would use the museum as a research resource for its students.
The free-entry museum has been spending more money than it receives in grant and income at Preston and supporters of the move say it would attract more visitors if the exhibits, including the 1966 Jules Rimet World Cup, were relocated to Manchester's Urbis centre.
The board of trustees is due to meet next month to decide on the proposed move.
Manchester City Council, which wants to attract the museum to bolster the city's cultural and tourism offer, released a report this week saying that the move would cost £8m in fit-out costs and would be funded by “external stakeholders” and contributions from developers carrying out projects in the area around Urbis.
In a letter to the museum trust chairman Paul Dermody, Lancashire County Council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald said: “The museum should stay in its home, Deepdale, and we believe the nature and speed of our joint response demonstrates our commitment to ensure that occurs.
“We believe this proposal secures its short and longer-term financial requirements and facilitates future developments.”
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver told the Lancashire Evening Post: “Preston is the first and true home of football and the National Football Museum is an important part of the life of the county – and we are not going to let the museum leave without a fight.
“The plan we've put on the table is a strong commitment by the three leading public bodies in Preston.
“It will deal with the immediate funding shortfall and at the same time bring our significant resources to bear on giving the museum a permanent future in Preston where it belongs.”