"We've got nothing to lose" - former sports minister on £100m football centre plan for Sheffield's John Lewis

When it was revealed that a global brand wants to turn Sheffield’s former John Lewis store into a £100m football centre it was the first time an actual plan for the site had come forward.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 2:07 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 2:07 pm
The old John Lewis building in Sheffield city centre would be revamped with ‘football architecture’ including a central column like a halfway line and a tunnel leading to the roof under plans to turn it into a new football centre
The old John Lewis building in Sheffield city centre would be revamped with ‘football architecture’ including a central column like a halfway line and a tunnel leading to the roof under plans to turn it into a new football centre

It has been more than six months since the former Cole Brothers store announced it was closing for good. Compensation over the lease has not yet been agreed, and a Sheffield Council consultation promised this autumn has not begun.

Could the Sheffield Rules plan be the answer to all our prayers?

The museum would celebrate the city’s role in the origins of the game, include 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.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Former Sheffield MP Richard Caborn

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.

Even if you aren’t a football fan, wouldn’t it be fantastic to take visitors to, to show off Sheffield’s football heritage?

Imagine having an international brand – which by the sounds of it is bigger than John Lewis – backing our city centre.

A very similar museum in Manchester brought in around £17m to the local economy in its first year. Sheffield could certainly do with that financial boost...

The John Lewis Store, Sheffield...24th March 2021..Picture by Simon Hulme

The reaction from Sheffield people so far has been positive, with some saying there should still be a consultation on the future use of the building so locals can have their say.

I spoke to Richard Caborn, the former sports minister and Sheffield MP, about the plan.

He said: “The building is right at the heart of the city and we were incredibly badly let down by John Lewis. Anything we can do to bring that back to life would be really welcome.

"If we could build on our unique position of being the home of football that would be even better – we’ve had a number of attempts at that over the years.”

He said he hoped the plan could bring together digital and physical elements to appeal to the ‘massive’ sporting world and young people.

"We’ve got nothing to lose, everything to gain”, he added.

The global brand behind Sheffield Rules, whose identity is being kept under wraps, has been working on the project with a consortium of local companies keen to hear public feedback.

Sheffield, over to you.