Manchester United reach out to Glazer critics to join stadium task force

Manchester United

Manchester United Football Club has pulled together a joint task force of regional leaders to explore options for regenerating the Old Trafford area of Greater Manchester, with the development of a world-class football stadium at the heart of the project.

The ‘Old Trafford Regeneration Task Force’ includes former player Gary Neville, a long standing critic of the ownership of the Glazer family, and co-owner of the neighbouring development Hotel Football, which is enjoying its most successful trading period since it opened in 2015, welcoming over 52,400 guests in the 12 months to December 2023, up from 48,760 in 2022. 

Gary Neville said: “Old Trafford should be a stadium that the whole of Greater Manchester can take pride in, and be a catalyst for sustainable, cohesive growth in an area of the city that has been neglected for too long.”

Chief Executive Officer of Manchester United Supporters Trust, Duncan Drasdo, another vociferous critic of the Glazer family ownership of United has also agreed to join the task force. He said: “It is very encouraging to see the emphasis being put on fan consultation, including representation on this panel, and exciting to see the vision and ambition behind this project, not only to put Old Trafford back among the world’s leading football stadiums, but also for it to form part of a wider regeneration.”

Also on board are significant local landowner The Peel Group, who will be represented by Anna Bensky, Associate Director, Trafford Council, the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and the vice chancellors of two universities.

Burnham appeared in the media suite at Old Trafford on Saturday (9 March 2024), prior to United’s 2-0 victory of Burnham’s team Everton, to answer questions about the potential use of public money in any future scheme, pledging to use his power and influence to support a project with wider regeneration benefits.

“There is nothing bigger in world football than the name Manchester United and if we unlock the full power of this club in terms of its power to regenerate then that is fantastic for Greater Manchester in terms of jobs, new investment into the city-region.”

The task force will be chaired by Lord Sebastian Coe, former Chair of the organising committee for the 2012 London Olympics, and is tasked with assessing the feasibility of a new stadium on the site equipped to host international games and finals, as well as providing a modernised home for Manchester United. 

It will work in synergy with Trafford Council’s Trafford Wharfside Framework, the project aims to support revitalisation of the area between Trafford Park and the banks of Salford Quays, and support the ‘levelling up’ agenda to drive investment in the north of England. The club said it would also reduce the “over-concentration of major sporting venues and events in London and the south-east”.

Lord Coe said: “Throughout my career in sport, I have seen the potential for stadiums to become focal points for strong communities and catalysts for social and economic development. That was certainly true of the venues we built in east London for the 2012 Olympics, and we are overdue a project of similar scale and ambition in the north of England.”

Trafford Council chief executive Sara Todd said: “As plans for the stadium and the neighbouring Trafford Wharfside area progress, we have a unique opportunity to truly transform the historic industrial ‘engine room’ of Greater Manchester into a modern hub for growth and a new community, and we want to build on the socio-economic benefits this will bring, particularly for local residents. We are committed to working with the club, local residents and other key partners to develop these exciting and ambitious proposals.”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, co-owner of Manchester United, said: “This can be a major regeneration project for an area of Greater Manchester which has played such a key role in British industrial history, but which today requires new investment to thrive again. The north-west of England has a greater concentration of major football clubs than anywhere else in the world, yet we don’t have a stadium on the scale of Wembley, the Nou Camp or Bernabéu. We will not be able to change that on our own, which is why this task force is so important to help us seize this once-in-a-century opportunity.”

In April 2022, the club appointed a team of consultants to begin work on creating a Masterplan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford, led by Legends International and Populous, who both have experience of stadium developments around the world.