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Design & Development

Ratcliffe targets ‘Wembley of the North’ status for new United stadium

Featured image credit: Rob Ridley

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chairman of petrochemicals company Ineos, is set to push for a new stadium that would create a “Wembley of the North”, according to multiple reports, as part of his investment deal in Manchester United.

First reported by The Telegraph, Ratcliffe’s vision for United’s stadium future is said to be underpinned by the belief that the North of England deserves a venue to rival that of London’s Wembley Stadium.

Sources close to Ratcliffe told Telegraph Sport: “He feels the club needs an absolute state-of-the-art, knock-it-out-of-the-park, ‘wow’ stadium. And we feel there’s a strong argument for the country having a top-class major venue in the North – a Wembley of the North.”

The latest developments in the saga surrounding the future of both United and its Old Trafford home come with Ratcliffe’s £1.03bn (€1.21bn/$1.3bn) deal for a 28.9% stake in the club expected to secure regulatory approval later this month. Part of the agreement with United’s American owners, the Glazer family, is that an additional £237m of initial investment would be made available for Old Trafford.

Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, is said to believe that supporters would be in favour of a new stadium on the land immediately surrounding Old Trafford. “The spiritual home is important,” sources said. “We think the fans would be quite happy to accept a brand new stadium if we stay where we are.”

It is believed that expanding the current 74,000-capacity stadium would cost at least £800m, with a new stadium having a price tag in the range of £1.5bn to £2bn. The Telegraph said Ratcliffe and Ineos officials have already commenced talks with Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Trafford Council leaders and other civic officials over the future of Old Trafford, while also starting to explore financial options.

The Manchester Evening News said today that United has been advised a new build is the best option, while The Guardian said a stadium complex with a capacity of about 100,000 is being considered that would cost more than £3bn.

Alongside the stadium itself, the newspaper said the likes of shops, restaurants, a multiscreen cinema, a club museum and other attractions could be incorporated to create a “destination venue”.

Old Trafford is the largest club stadium in England but has not been included on the list of host venues for UEFA Euro 2028, which will take place across the UK and Ireland, amid the uncertainty surrounding it.

In April 2022, United appointed Legends International and Populous to lead a team tasked with creating a masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford. Later in the year, United issued a statement announcing the commencement of a process to consider new investment into the club and a sale. The review also included the redevelopment of Old Trafford.

It later emerged that a demolition of the stadium and the building of a brand-new home was one of the options presented to United. Options to refurbish and expand the stadium were also presented.

In December, Populous backed the construction of a brand new stadium at the existing Old Trafford site. Populous senior principal and managing director for EMEA, 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 Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group agreed its deal for a stake in the club and assumed control of football operations. Problems relating to the nearby railway line and existing stadium structure have been viewed as major challenges for a redevelopment of Old Trafford.