HERE’S what I don’t understand: why Sheffield doesn’t have a thriving little tourist industry?
Stop laughing. I’m serious.
And, don’t worry, I’m not over-estimating the global pulling power of a fish butty from the Devonshire Chippy.
Nor, actually, am I referring to the lure of traditional attractions such as the Cathedral or the Winter Garden or the Crucible which, as magnificent as they are, basically fall under the headings of Old Church, Big Greenhouse and Cramped Snooker Room.
And neither do I speak of the city’s seemingly never-ending capacity for festivals which are now so often and commandeer so many different spaces, one half expects to open a bedroom cupboard one morning and find someone setting up for a poetry reading in there.
See, it seems to me Sheffield has one incredible piece of historical fortune which could quite literally bring people – and their money – flocking here from across the entire globe, and that by not taking advantage of that fortune we are missing an open goal.
Which is actually quite an appropriate analogy.
Because as I stood in a draughty stand this Saturday watching Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest club, I couldn’t help wonder why in this city, where modern football was more or less invented, you can’t so much as buy a leather ball with some pseudo-witty catchphrase on about it being kicked around since 1857.
I mean, talk about wasting an opportunity.
Sheffield: Birth Place Of The Beautiful Game – how on a pig’s bladder is that not a catchphrase?
Tupelo is built on the money of tourists wanting to see where Elvis was born. Nottingham has so many Robin Hood references you’d think they were trying to cover up something shocking like the fact he was actually from Loxley. And Dublin...well, marketing officials there have, through sheer baloney, managed to persuade people that Guinness, a drink made to exactly the same specification at different depots across the world, somehow tastes better in the Irish capital where it was first made.
Yet in Sheffield – the place where the world’s most popular pastime was first truly formulated with rules and regulations – we have nothing.
No museum. No tourist trail. No civic references. Not even anyone – Dublin style – insisting football played at Bramall Lane or Hillsborough is better than anywhere else
There was talk of course of a football museum coming here several years ago but the FA picked, um, Preston instead. Obviously, it’s moved to Manchester now.
But shouldn’t Sheffield itself be trying to take advantage of this incredible history? Shouldn’t our marketers be looking at the fact the city’s forefathers are directly responsible for a game which unites half of humanity, and shouldn’t they be trying to tap into the global passion for that?
‘Come to Sheffield, see where football was born’.
Build that museum. Create that tourist trail. Insist the Blades and Owls play a brand of football befitting their heritage. There could be package tours and everything. Two nights in a hotel. Watch Sheffield FC. Tour a specially-built museum. Have a kick around up at Davy Ms. Go home with a shirt.
Wouldn’t that work?
Then, when that’s done, perhaps we could start talking about how a city with five rivers doesn’t have a single decent waterfront attraction.