Manchester United are looking at ways to invest in Old Trafford to turn the iconic stadium into a “world-class” venue once again and bring it up to modern standards.
The club unveiled new disabled facilities last week that have been hailed as amongst the best in the world, with the £11million investment welcomed by the club’s disabled supporters’ association (MUDSA).
That caps a £20million spend at the ground this summer, with work to paint and clean the exterior as well as the installing of a new pitch, floodlights and rail seating.
But it’s just the beginning of plans to bring the iconic ground back up to standard, with an acceptance it had fallen below the level of new builds in recent years.
United don’t have a blank canvas to work with, given the restraints around Old Trafford, but chief operating officer Collette Roche has revealed that the club are now working on plans to establish how to take the improvements forward.
“We did quite a lot over the summer, we spent about £20million on a new pitch, floodlights, changing rooms, the rail seats,” Roche told the Manchester Evening News.
“But for me that is only the start. We do recognise the need to invest even more in Old Trafford and that’s what we’ve turned our attention to now.
“We’re starting to scope out what a world-class Old Trafford looks like and we’ll go through the process and the project of getting that off the ground.”
New build grounds such as Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and, more recently, the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, have raised the bar.
Improvements at Old Trafford were discussed when co-chairman Joel Glazer attended a virtual fans forum this summer and those plans are being pushed ahead with, although the club are conscious that supporters’ must be heard.
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“From an engineering perspective sometimes it’s easier just to start from fresh on a green site. For us Old Trafford is like a museum, it’s something we want to build on,” said Roche.
“Heritage is really important to this club, we want to modernise it rather than start over and I think that’s something I’ve heard loud and clear from our fans.
“As we go through the process of what does Old Trafford look like in the future, we will ask them the question and hopefully the fans will feed into the design the same way MUDSA have.”
The Manchester United Disabled Supporters’ Association have worked closely with the club on the new facilities in recent years and are delighted with the outcome.
The work has included creating a state-of-the-art concourse right at the back of the Stretford End which increases the provision inside Old Trafford to 278 wheelchair positions and 278 dedicated amenity seats, with those supporters having the choice of where to sit, something they aren’t afforded at a lot of grounds, with facilities lower down in the Stretford End and at the Scoreboard End.
Collette Roche unveils a plaque at the new disabled platform at the top of the Stretford End with Chas Banks (left) “That’s something that was really important to us. A lot of fans in any stadium can choose where to sit, but our disabled fans didn’t get that choice,” added Roche.
“We deliberately wanted to build that in. The most exciting part is we’ve now got some of the best seats in the house in the Stretford End and our disabled fans can really soak up the atmosphere.
“We’ve worked with MUDSA for many, many years. The thing that has been really important is that we’ve designed the facilities with them along the way.”
There were initial plans for the increase in disabled facilities to be incorporated in the Scoreboard End, but Chas Banks, the secretary of MUDSA, revealed that had been overruled by Glazer.
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“This was Joel Glazer’s idea to be fair to him. He said we can’t just make them all sit in one corner because there was a plan at one point to extend the platform all along the Scoreboard End,” said Banks.
“It wasn’t popular with the Scoreboard End fans who were there, it wasn’t popular with us, we didn’t think it was very good. Joel said we’re going to have to spend the money and do it properly.
“They’ve put £11million into this, they’ve put their money where their mouth is and never asked for any recognition for it either. The club have been superb and supportive for all of these changes that mean so much to so many people.
“I had doubts when I first saw the plans, I thought ‘how in the hell are they going to do that?’ But then this is something that probably couldn’t have been built 20 years ago.
“It isn’t just about this particular facility, as superb as it is, it’s about the choice and the different facilities all around the ground. We’ve got more choice than any other club stadium in the United Kingdom.
“Considering the club had to deal with the legacy of what has come before them at Old Trafford it’s been a challenge, but one that they’ve embraced and with teamwork you can achieve anything.”
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