Manchester United’s current ownership is reportedly in favour of the redevelopment of Old Trafford rather than the construction of a new stadium, amid ongoing questions over the future stewardship of the English Premier League football club.
United’s owners, the Glazer family, are currently in the midst of fielding investment offers for the club, with stadium development also on the agenda. In November, United launched a process that will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club and a sale.
At present, three bidders have gone public with their interest in United – Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chief executive of chemicals group Ineos; Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank; and Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus, founder and chairman of social media company novaM Group
The review also includes an assessment of several initiatives to strengthen the club, including the redevelopment of its Old Trafford stadium and infrastructure. In April 2022, United appointed Legends International and Populous to lead a team tasked with creating a masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford, with the aim of significantly enhancing the fan experience at the 74,000-capacity venue.
With the possibility that the Glazers could yet opt to retain a substantial portion of the 69% stake they currently hold in United, the Manchester Evening News has now reported that co-chairman Joel Glazer’s preference is to preserve the history of the 113-year-old stadium.
Joel Glazer’s view is said to be shared by senior club figures who are based in Manchester, with United said to be concerned that developing a new Old Trafford on the same footprint of land could create a stadium that would become soulless within a certain period.
United is said to have been informed that the cost of redeveloping Old Trafford or building a new stadium is roughly similar, however the timelines for the projects would be significantly different. A new stadium has been estimated to take six years to deliver, whereas a revamp of Old Trafford could take a decade.
United is believed to have studied completely demolishing the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, the only single-tier stand, and installing a third tier on the Stretford End and the Scoreboard End. Early projections have indicated United could host crowds of 52,000 while the stadium is under construction, with work completed on a stand-by-stand basis.
The MEN said widening seats and having the second tier of the stadium designated for hospitality ticket holders have been mooted, along with the installation of an official hotel at the site and a fan park.
Developers are believed to have assured United that they can deliver a stadium, either expanded or new, to any capacity of the club’s choosing.
United announced in January that it will replace the executive seating area in Old Trafford’s Stretford End with admission season tickets following consultation with fans.
United has worked with its fans’ advisory board to review the presence of 850 executive seats in the famous Stretford End in support of efforts to enhance the atmosphere at Old Trafford. It has been agreed that all the seating in the stand will be returned to general admission for the start of the 2024-25 season, with the process to begin following the conclusion of the current campaign.
The move comes after United installed rail seating in the Stretford End and introduced a dedicated atmosphere section in the stand.