Design & Development

Populous chief backs ‘new Old Trafford’ plan following Ratcliffe’s arrival

Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium

Featured image credit: Rob Ridley

Manchester United’s stadium masterplan partners, Populous, have backed the construction of a brand new arena at the existing Old Trafford site.

Populous chief executive Chris Lee said a new stadium would be the most cost-effective option for the club to modernise while maintaining matchday revenues and respecting the club’s historic home.

Lee was speaking after tycoon Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group completed its acquisition of a 25% stake in the club and assumed control of football operations. Ratcliffe has pledged an initial £237m towards Old Trafford’s infrastructure.

A team led by Populous and Legends International were appointed in April 2022 to create a masterplan for Manchester United. This was seen as tacit recognition that Old Trafford is paying the price for a lack of investment in recent years. The three options identified would involve either a small makeover project, expansion of the south stand and complete redevelopment, or the creation of a new stadium.

While a new stadium would cost an estimated £2bn, the redevelopment of the existing stadium could cost £800m and take eight years. This would be both disruptive and hit matchday revenue during that time. In contrast, United could continue to play at their current home without disruption while a new stadium is being constructed at the sprawling Old Trafford campus.

No space constrictions at Old Trafford site

Asked what his preference would be in an interview with Telegraph Sport, Lee said: “Well, I would say this wouldn’t I, but I feel the new build may well turn out to be the most cost-effective solution.

“Yes, the initial outlay is obviously the highest of the three options but there is so much land available to develop there.

“They [United] could carry on using the existing ground while building work is underway, meaning no decline in matchday revenues.

“Architecturally, in the space available you could do something really innovative and exciting. There would be no space constrictions.

“We’ve done the work with Legends to look at all the feasibility options, multiple different versions of renovations of Old Trafford and also what a new build could potentially look like, all of it focused on how we can create an amazing fan experience. Manchester United are very focused on that.”

Ratcliffe has pledged £158m upon completion of his deal with a further £79m by the end of 2024.

United posted record revenue of £648.4m for the 2023, with the figures driven by new match attendance and hospitality landmarks. Matchday revenue rose year-on-year from £110.5m to £136.4m. Commercial revenue was also a key contributing factor to the overall total, rising from £257.8m to £302.9m.