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Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says Old Trafford could be north’s biggest ever regeneration scheme

The Mayor of Greater Manchester believes Manchester United’s plans to redevelop Old Trafford or to build a new stadium could be the biggest regeneration scheme in the north of England in his lifetime.

Andy Burnham, who is part of a task force that United have set up to consider the best way to build a ground that new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to be the equal of Wembley, the Nou Camp or the Bernabeu, encouraged them to dream big by saying: “The more ambitious, the better.”

And Burnham, a former Cabinet minister in Gordon Brown’s Labour governments, said it has to be a public-private partnership to bring jobs and investment to the wider Old Trafford area, which could benefit the people of Manchester for decades.

But he insisted that while there could be publicly funded support for the surrounding area, United will have to pay for the stadium themselves rather than Ratcliffe, Britain’s second most wealthy individual, or the Glazer family, who have made hundreds of millions of pounds from the club, expecting the local authorities to fund it.

Burnham said: “What we are talking about is a complex regeneration scheme that could be the biggest in the north of England in our lifetime, and why as Mayor of Greater Manchester would I not want that? The more ambitious the club is, the better it is for us, because then the benefits will come out to our residents for decades to come.

“This could be the biggest regeneration project in the north of England that we will ever see – it could be that big. But it depends on the club, the club has got a decision to make about [whether] the stadium is refurbished or is it a new build.”

Andy Burnham is on the task force to help improve Old Trafford (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
Andy Burnham is on the task force to help improve Old Trafford (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

Burnham believes the global reach of United can help as he cited a meeting with Doug Emhoff, the husband of US vice president Kamala Harris, to illustrate the size of the club. He said the regeneration of the wider area could have a still greater impact than the Olympic Stadium – now West Ham’s ground – had for east London.

He added: “It 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. I do trade missions around the world. Meeting the second gentleman of the US, the vice president’s husband, and the first thing he wants to do is talk about Manchester United. It is that big.

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

Burnham argued that taxpayers’ money is often involved when wealthy sports clubs build grounds.

He explained: “You look at any new-build stadium in the last 20 or 30 years, there will have been some public funds involved in terms of infrastructure and supporting development. Look at the example of West Ham, lots of public money has gone in to some developments around the country because of what it can bring to the country.

“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.”

Lord Coe will chair the task force, which will also include Gary Neville, and Burnham believes they will deliver their recommendations in about six months.