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Saturday, September 26, 1998 Published at 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK


Blatter kicks off £12m football museum

It is one of the finest collections of footballing memorabilia in the world

The president of world football's governing body will cut the first sod on Saturday in a ceremony marking the beginning of work on Britain's first National Football Museum.

Ralph Blunsom at Deepdale: "This museum is long overdue"
Fifa president Sepp Blatter will be joined at Preston North End's Deepdale stadium by Culture Secretary Chris Smith, who gave the go ahead for the £12m project.

Mr Blatter, who is reportedly thrilled at the chance to visit what he described as the "heartland of English football" is expected to use the occasion to criticise plans for a European super league.

Mountain of memories

The Football Museum will become the home of the Fifa Museum Collection, one of the finest collections of football memorabilia in the world. It includes antique match programmes, cigarette cards from the 1930s, England caps, famous strips, photographs and several heavy leather footballs from before the war.

[ image: The museum will cost £12m]
The museum will cost £12m
The Heritage Lottery Fund has contributed £7.5m towards the project, and the museum has also received support from Fifa, the Football Association, the Football League and the Professional Footballers' Association.

Deepdale was chosen as the site for the museum because Preston North End were a founder member of the Football League and felt to be in a central position. Sir Tom Finney, the former Preston and England legend of the 1950s, is one of the guests at Saturday's ceremony.

National passion

Mr Smith said: "Football is our nation's passion, a national obsession. It is a game with extraordinary traditions, tremendous historic rivalries and emotional highs and lows.

"It is perhaps the only sport capable of rousing entire nations to the intensity of emotions displayed so recently during World Cup 98."

[ image: Preston North End's heyday was the 1950s]
Preston North End's heyday was the 1950s
Mr Smith said: "England is the home of football, and it is fitting that the nation's contribution to the development of the modern game will be recognised and celebrated by this important new museum.

"It is also fitting that the museum will be located in the North West, home to some of the oldest and most successful teams in the world."

He added: "It is my sincerest wish that the Football Museum will have as one its first tasks, the role of documenting an early triumph for English football in the new millennium - England winning the World Cup on English soil in World Cup 2006."

It is not known if Mr Blatter plans to stay on at Deepdale to watch Preston's home game with Gillingham which, if they win, will keep them second in the Second Division table.

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