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Why Manchester United’s new Old Trafford is bigger than just football



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Friday afternoon’s announcement of the formation of the ‘Old Trafford Regeneration Task Force’ sent shockwaves throughout the footballing world.

The Manchester United task force will assess the feasibility of replacing Old Trafford with a brand-new, state-of-the-art football stadium. This task force will be chaired by Lord Sebastien Coe—former Chair of the organising committee for the 2012 London Olympics—and includes key local government figures such as Andy Burnham and former United captain Gary Neville.

Many fans will be excited about the possibility of a bigger, better Old Trafford whilst some would simply prefer a redevelopment project, not wanting to let go of one of football’s most iconic grounds. But this project is much bigger than just football, for both the club and the city it could have a very significant economic and social impact.

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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 for a project of similar scale and ambition in the north of England. I am honoured to have this opportunity to share my experience in support of this tremendously exciting project.”

This highlights the potential impact that this investment in the stadium and local area could have on the city of Manchester. London, considered by many to be the best city in the world, took a huge jump following its enormously successful hosting of the Olympics in 2012, and what is now West Ham’s London Stadium was a key part of that.

The investment in these stadiums and the areas around them leads to huge infrastructural improvement in the local area, creates a large number of jobs – a project the size of the Old Trafford one will require a lot, and hugely improves fan experience, boosting tourism.

There is also huge potential for commercial partnerships and other events to be held at the stadium. In recent years, we have seen NFL games hosted at both Wembley Stadium and the new-build Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. With United requiring investment to actualise this project, many franchises will be keeping a close eye on the situation, with an incentive for them to invest in it.

In recent years, Manchester has been on the rise. More people are moving up North, and the city has seen a lot of infrastructural investment. Long considered a hub of technology and innovation, the city’s economy is rapidly growing, and a new Old Trafford would be a huge catalyst for this process.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, highlighted these potential economic benefits, saying, “The development of one of the most iconic stadiums in world football will help attract investment, create jobs, and lead to new opportunities that will not just benefit Trafford but communities across our city-region and beyond.”

“Greater Manchester has been a hive of innovation and creativity for centuries, and sport has played a huge role in shaping our past and present. This bold and exciting vision for the future of Old Trafford and the surrounding area can become another success story for our city-region.”

Burnham was not the only local governmental figure to express support and excitement for the project whilst lending his support to it, with the Chief Executive of Trafford Council, Sara Todd, calling it a “unique opportunity to truly transform the historic industrial ‘engine room’ of Greater Manchester into a modern hub for growth” whilst expressing a desire to “build on the socio-economic benefits this will bring, particularly for local residents”.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the driving force behind the project, 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 the 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.”

Overall, this is not a vanity project and is not just about football. Manchester United have always held a great responsibility towards their home city, and this project only reinforces that commitment. If it goes through, then it will be the biggest step in levelling up a city that continues to grow and could soon be seen as a global power.