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Andy Burnham: Public money needed for Man Utd’s historic regeneration project

Old Trafford

Manchester United should pursue public money for their Old Trafford regeneration project that could be bigger in scale than east London’s Olympics transformation, the city’s mayor Andy Burnham has said.

Burnham will form part of a taskforce to examine how a world-leading new stadium could support wider renewal of the area surrounding United’s current Old Trafford home that he believes has the potential to be the biggest regeneration project in the history of the north of England.

Burnham said the group – which will be chaired by Sebastian Coe and also include former United captain Gary Neville among other prominent local leaders – would make their recommendations by the middle part of the year or early autumn.

He has urged Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United’s new influential minority shareholder, and the club to be as ambitious as possible and believes such a project could have a bigger impact on the west edge of the city than the 2012 Olympics had on east London and drive huge benefits for decades to come.

“From our point of view 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 Mayor of Greater Manchester said.

“If you look at this area investment has gone into Media City but 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 will ever see - it could be that big.

“It could be on that scale [east London’s transformation following the Olympics] 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.”

The Old Trafford area
Old Trafford could see the biggest regeneration project in the history of the north of England - Getty Images/David Goddard

Burnham said there would be a case for public investment whether United opted to build a new stadium or redevelop Old Trafford because of the potential infrastructure changes it would demand, including to the railway line directly behind the south stand.

“It has to be a public private partnership,” he said. “Even to refurbish Old Trafford will have to be a public-private partnership.

“There is not going to be any kind of sense in the pouring of public funds into a new stadium. That’s not what we’re talking about. What we are talking about is a complex regeneration scheme that could be the biggest in the north of England in our lifetime.

“The power of this club for us is massive. We need set it up for the 21st century and in doing so I think we will bring huge economic benefits for our residents.

“It is about the wider enabling. If Sir Jim goes big with his vision, we will need transport infrastructure to support it, we will need to put investment in to support that so the jobs can come in around it. That’s what is at stake here.”

On the issue of the railway line behind Old Trafford’s south stand, Burnham added: “This ground is fairly unique in having a train station that is almost part of the fabric of the ground. A train station that is not being used at the moment because it’s not designed in the right way. That itself says if you were to refurbish the stand as part of that approach, you would have to do something to move that station and that would require public money.

“I didn’t say it was all about the railway station. I gave it as an example. There is a wider area around Trafford Park industrial park that could be the location for major new investment into the city-region. It would mean perhaps some public funding into the enabling and infrastructure works to make that happen. That is what we are talking about here.

“It is too much of a narrow debate to say how much has the club got and who is paying for the stadium. It is much bigger than that and I think you need to see it in that way otherwise people won’t understand what is at stake here.”

Burnham cited how some public money was used in the creation of Everton’s new £700 million stadium on Bramley Moore Dock although it is understood the club only received a £15million grant from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority for maintaining £55million worth of heritage assets.

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham will form part of a taskforce chaired by Sebastian Coe - Getty Images/Ian Forsyth

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

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

Burnham claimed a transformed Old Trafford area with a new United home at its heart would leave Manchester as the undisputed world power in club football.

“Only Milan and Manchester have two Champions League winners in a city and that sets Manchester apart,” he said.

“You could make an argument that this is the biggest city in world football because of the two clubs we have got within it. But if the ambitious vision comes through, either refurbished or new build, there would be no doubt about that.

“If on the west of Greater Manchester you have United at the heart of a new campus of facilities that links to Media City and the east of the city you have 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 to Manchester. No one would come close.”

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