The household name wants to create ‘Sheffield Rules,’ The Star can reveal, with a museum celebrating the city’s role in the origins of the game, have-a-go football experiences with celebrities, community pitches on the roof and bars and restaurants on the ground floor opening on to Barker’s Pool.
The building would be revamped with ‘football architecture’ including a central column to represent a halfway line and a tunnel leading to the roof.
The proposal could also see the John Lewis car park replaced by a residential tower.
The iconic store closed for good in June after the firm made a £500m loss. The building is owned by Sheffield City Council.
The global brand, whose identity is being kept under wraps for now, has been working on the project with a consortium of local companies.
A spokesman for the consortium said ‘Sheffield Rules’ would create a true home for the game and if the authority agreed to the deal, the company would be in Sheffield ‘in a heartbeat’. Some 200 jobs could be created.
He added: “We’re very excited, this could deliver the heart of the city - football - into the Heart of the City (a reference to the £480m redevelopment of the city centre).
“It’s something we gave the world and we are taking it back and saying ‘this is the heart of our culture and values and who we are’.
“It also could lead to the brand spending a lot of money in the city.”
WHO WOULD VISIT THE ‘HOME OF FOOTBALL’?
One hope is that a family from Manchester would travel to Sheffield for a day of football, visit the museum, have a penalty shootout with a famous goalie, a meal and a kickabout on the roof.
The spokesman added: “There will be a lot of different ways to interact with the space. We don’t want another National Centre for Popular Music.”
The brand has similar, successful centres around the world, he added, and the proposal had been put to Sheffield City Council.
“The response has been positive. But they can’t commit because they are going through their own processes. The consortium is very interested to know what the Sheffield public thinks of these ideas.”
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Sheffield’s claim to be the ‘home of football’ includes the first rules of the game. ‘Sheffield Rules’ were first used in 1858 and were created by Sheffield Football Club, the world’s oldest team.
The Star is involved in a campaign to recognise the city as the home of The Beautiful Game.
Other firsts include the oldest football association in England, formed in 1867, and the invention of the corner kick.
WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHN LEWIS IN SHEFFIELD?
The John Lewis closed in January at the start of lockdown three, it never reopened. The company made it official in June with the loss of 299 jobs, controversially ending decades of operations in the city.
Sheffield City Council is seeking new uses for the building and in July hired placemaking specialists, Fourth Street.
Last month, The Star revealed John Lewis had yet to hand back the lease and the council confirmed the building would stand empty and in darkness at Christmas.
The authority has been approached for comment.