No where would come close – Andy Burnham excited by Man Utd regeneration project

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, believes the development of a world-class stadium for Manchester United could spark the “biggest regeneration project in the north of England that we’ll ever see”.

The Premier League giants announced on Friday that a task force has been formed aimed at exploring options to regenerate the Old Trafford area of the city with a top-class ground at the heart of it.

United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe favours a new stadium on adjacent club-owned land rather than redeveloping the current ground and called this is a “once-in-a-century opportunity”.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham is on the club’s task force (Joe Giddens/PA)

Lord Coe, the London 2012 chief, was named chair of the ‘Old Trafford Regeneration Task Force’, which also includes former United captain Gary Neville and the city’s mayor.

“From our point of view there’s nothing bigger in world football than the name Manchester United,” Burnham said.

“And if we unlock the full power of this club in terms of its power to regenerate then that’s fantastic for Greater Manchester in terms of jobs, new investment into the city-region.

“If you look at this area investment has gone into Media City, but actually if you look around at the wider area there’s not been a huge amount in recent decades.

“This could be the biggest regeneration project in the north of England that we’ll ever see. It could be that big.

“It depends on the club, though. The club’s got a decision to make about is it refurbished, is it new build.

“Whatever the club decides, we’ll support them in that and in either scenario it’s massive for Greater Manchester.

“But obviously we’re standing behind the club, to make sure that the maximum benefit is achieved for the economy of Greater Manchester.”

Lord Coe
Lord Coe was named chair of the ‘Old Trafford Regeneration Task Force’ (Martin Rickett/PA)

Asked if it could be on the scale of what London 2012 did for East London, Burnham said: “It absolutely could be on that scale and it could be more because of this club and the desire of people around the world to be associated in some way with this club.”

Burnham was Old Trafford on Saturday to see his Everton side defeated 2-0 by United and, most importantly, speak up the benefits of this project.

“What I have got to do as part of the task force in the next five, six months working with Lord Coe, Gary and others is give all the supporting information to enable the club to make a decision,” Burnham said. “Is it refurbished or is it a new build?

“In either case there will be some requirement to have some public funds involved because of the train station and there’s a big freight depot right behind Old Trafford, which is an issue as well and that’s something we have got to look at.”

While Burnham accepts funding will be a talking point, he highlighted how taxpayers’ money is frequently used when teams build new stadiums.

“You look at any new-build stadium in the last 20-30 years, there will have been some public funds involved in terms of infrastructure, in supporting development,” he said. “That’s just a fact.

“If you look at the example of West Ham, the Olympic Park, lots of public money has gone in to some developments around the country because of what they can bring to those places.”

Manchester United v Fulham – Premier League – Old Trafford
Burnham admits public funding would be needed for the project (Mike Egerton/PA)

Burnham believes the changes would help establish Manchester as the go-to place for elite football, with Milan the only other city boasting two Champions League winners.

“If on the west of Greater Manchester you have United at the heart of a new campus of facilities that links to Media City.

“Then on the side of the city you’ve got Manchester City who continue to build out from the Etihad with a new massive indoor arena going in there. Just think about that.

“No other city in the world would be set up in terms of its football infrastructure. No where would come close to Manchester.”