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Design & Development

Manchester United’s Ratcliffe outlines case for government to fund ‘Wembley of the North’

Featured image credit:  Thomas Foster on Unsplash

Manchester United co-owner, Jim Ratcliffe, has given his backing to the case for public money to help fund the club’s ‘Wembley of the North’ stadium plan.

The Premier League club is exploring options for future stadium plans, with options including the redevelopment of Old Trafford and, most likely, the construction of a new stadium on an adjacent area of land.

Ratcliffe recently set out his vision for a 100,000-capacity stadium for the club that would rival the revamped Estadio Santiago Bernabéu and Spotify Camp Nou. That was followed by the creation of the Old Trafford Regeneration Task Force, led by Sebastian Coe and featuring former club captain Gary Neville and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham. The taskforce is to oversee options for the regeneration of the Old Trafford area of Greater Manchester, with the development of a “world-class” football stadium at the heart of the project.

Social and economic impact

Manchester United’s communication regarding the stadium project has stressed the potential social and economic benefits for the region. That, twinned with Ratcliffe’s suggestion the new Old Trafford would essentially be England’s second national stadium, has opened a conversation concerning who should pay for a project that could have societal and benefits way beyond Manchester United.

Ratcliffe also said the region’s sporting prowess is another justification for it to have its own huge stadium to host major international events.

“There’s a very good case, in my view, for having a stadium of the North, which would serve the northern part of the country in that arena of football,” Ratcliffe told Sky News. “If you look at the number of Champions Leagues the North West has won, it’s 10. London has won two.

“And yet everybody from the North has to get down to London to watch a big football match. And there should be one [a large stadium] in the North, in my view.

“But it’s also important for the southern side of Manchester, you know, to regenerate. It’s the sort of second capital of the country where the Industrial Revolution began.

“But if you have a regeneration project, you need a nucleus… and having that world-class stadium there, I think would provide the impetus to regenerate that region.”

Stadium plans one of Ratcliffe’s top priorities since arrival

In April 2022, United appointed Legends International and Populous to lead a team tasked with creating a masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford. Following the competition of his acquisition of a minority stake in the club in February, Ratcliffe reiterated his desire to build a new state-of-the-art stadium for United, stating it was “time someone built a national stadium in the north of England”.

Ratcliffe also added at the time that there would be conversations with national government regarding public funding for the project.

Trafford Council has approved the first stage of ambitious plans to regenerate a huge area encompassing Manchester United’s Old Trafford, but has said the Premier League club would need to bear responsibility for financing its stadium vision.