Ratcliffe wants 'national stadium in north'

Ratcliffe wants 'national stadium in north'

Feb 22, 2024

New Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe says his “preference” is to build a new stadium for the club that can also “serve the north of England”.

United have played at the 74,310-capacity Old Trafford since 1910, but Ratcliffe acknowledged it had become “tired and in need of refurbishment”.

A new stadium could be built next to the existing ground in Trafford Park.

“It’s about time someone built a national stadium in the north of England,” said the British billionaire.

Ratcliffe added the potential project could be a “catalyst for regeneration” in south Manchester and would therefore warrant a “conversation” with the government about using taxpayers’ money.

In his first broadcast interview, with BBC sports editor Dan Roan, since completing his deal to buy 27.7% of the club, Ratcliffe added: “If it can be achieved, it would clearly be my preference.

“I would be very excited for the north of England.”

Ratcliffe spoke about the potential for the new stadium to host England games and FA Cup semi-finals, both of which are played at Wembley in London, as well as the Champions League final.

He said there was “significant bias in terms of major investments being in the south”.

Old Trafford has not been chosen to host games at Euro 2028, and last staged a Champions League final in 2003 when AC Milan beat Juventus on penalties.

Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium
Old Trafford has been Manchester United’s home since 1910

Manchester-born Ratcliffe, 71, completed a deal for a stake in the club worth about $1.6bn (£1.25bn) on Monday. The deal includes $300m (£237m) for future investment in the club’s stadium.

Ratcliffe said the option of refurbishment would create an 80-90,000 seater stadium, but it “won’t be perfect” because of the age of the ground.

Speaking about building a new stadium, he said: “Trafford Park is where the industrial revolution began. If you look at that region of Manchester today – only a mile from the centre – it is tired and neglected and parts are quite run down.

“There is quite a big argument, in my view, for regenerating that whole south side of Manchester. The nucleus of it would be building a new world-class state-of-the-art stadium which could take England games, the FA Cup final, Champions League finals. It could serve the north of England.

“There is a bias in the UK in terms of where national stadiums have been built – they are all in the south. There is a lot of talk about levelling up. HS2 has been cancelled and all that is going to be spent on the rail network in London. The people in the north pay their taxes just as the people in the south.

“Why shouldn’t there be a venue in the north of England for England to play at? Why does everyone in the north have to go to the south for the semi-finals of the FA Cup?”

Ratcliffe said an “arms-length taskforce” would be put together to look into the feasibility of a new stadium and that he had spoken to former United captain Gary Neville.external-link

When asked if public funding would be used, he added: “I think, as part of a regeneration project, there has to be a conversation with the national government.

“The north deserves some thought as well as the south, I think, if it is a national stadium.”

Trafford Council has developed a 15-year draft plan for regenerating the area around the stadium, which is set to go out to public consultation. It said the work would create “a high-quality setting for Manchester United as they develop their plans for a world-class football stadium”.

Earlier this week the club, which was consulted on the plans, said the proposal was “tremendously exciting”.

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