Manchester United fans could help raise money for a new Old Trafford in return for an ownership stake, in addition to any moves by Sir Jim Ratcliffe to raise public money, according to the club’s supporter confidence.
Telegraph Sport revealed on Tuesday how Ratcliffe wants to create a ‘Wembley of the North’ and could lobby the government for money for a spectacular new home for United.
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) has broadly welcomed Ratcliffe’s ambitious thinking and highlighted Ineos’ successful track record in major infrastructure development, citing Real Madrid’s revamped Bernabeu as a “benchmark”.
Duncan Drasdo, CEO of MUST, believes that any attempt to secure public resources “must be justified in terms of regional economic development and community benefit.”
And he raised the prospect that Manchester United could potentially tap its global fan base for money, in return for supporters having a meaningful say in the club’s governance.
‘You would expect resistance to the use of government money’
“Lobbying for public money is certainly an interesting idea and speaks to the potential of the stadium development to be a local and regional catalyst for economic development and community benefit,” Drasdo told Telegraph Sport.
“However, you would expect there to be opposition to the use of public money for primarily private assets, even with regional economic and community benefits.
“A community ownership stake could help and there is potential for a source of funding from fans and the community, co-investment and having a real stake. The latter is something we would clearly be strongly in favor of if there were such a possibility.
“With the enormous global fan base, it is clearly conceivable that fans could collectively contribute a significant amount, but perhaps of greater value than the monetary amount. The concept of fans and the community working together with the club and other investors, all aligned with a shared purpose. and own a real stake in our club and our stadium.
“Any public element would have to be justified in terms of regional economic development and community benefit and I can certainly see that an important role for the community in terms of the fans supporting the club with an ownership interest could only strengthen the case.”
Ratcliffe has committed an initial investment of £237m to Old Trafford as part of his deal for a 28.9 per cent stake in the club, which is set to receive regulatory approval in the next two weeks.
The redevelopment of the existing ground and expansion of the south stand was estimated to cost at least £800 million and was quoted internally as an eight-year project, while a new stadium could cost around £1.5 billion to £2 billion.
Ineos is currently building a £5 billion chemical plant in Antwerp, Belgium, and has experience raising large sums of capital through financing.
A range of financing options are likely to be explored, with one suggestion being the creation of a separate stadium development company, which would effectively allow the club to pay rent for the use of the stadium for an agreed period until it becomes their property.
It also remains to be seen whether any putative regeneration project could benefit from tax breaks and relaxed planning rules that have been mooted.
Drasdo said he “MUST have always advocated equity over debt” and would encourage more new share issues – along the lines of Ratcliffe’s £237 million injection – as they called on the Glazers to show more flexibility around their ownership of Class B shares, which have 10 times the voting rights of A shares.
“Although the new share issuance associated with the Ratcliffe investment is relatively small initially, it establishes the principle,” Drasdo said.
“We would like to see this explored as the main source of new funding and ideally also see shares made available to Manchester United’s huge global fan base to own a share of their club and provide some of the funding needed to bring the club back to the top. top.
“A long-standing barrier has been the dual share class, which makes investment by other shareholders so much less attractive, and the recent investment in Ratcliffe was designed to overcome that problem.
“So we hope that there is a will and that the personal interest of the Glazer family as B shareholders will not get in the way of what is best for our football club.”
Drasdo said there needs to be a “full consultation with supporters outlining all options” on the pros and cons of new construction compared to redevelopment and how the project could be financed.
United launched a survey in July 2022 asking fans for their views as part of a consultation process to ensure supporters are at the heart of Old Trafford’s development plans, the results of which have yet to be made public.
“As football fans, it is normal that the first reaction is emotional and evokes very strong feelings linked to the club’s history,” Drasdo said. “There needs to be a rational debate about what is best for the football club and its supporters, and not just about the best economic outcome for the shareholders. The sounds we’re hearing from Ineos suggest they are sympathetic to that position.
“If you clearly suggest that Old Trafford will be brought down you will provoke an immediate emotional and protective response from every supporter.
“I think most fans are torn on this and it’s essentially a matter of heart versus head, but we really need to see the details of the two options side by side to be able to make a comparison and allow fans to make a to take an informed position.”
Drasdo said the prospect of some fans not being able to watch United due to reduced capacity for an extended period posed a “huge headache” in relation to the redevelopment of the existing ground.
“Unlike Spurs, we don’t have the equivalent of Wembley that we can move to temporarily while redevelopment work reduces capacity,” he said.
Sources close to Ratcliffe say the Oldham-born billionaire believes United should have a “knock it out of the park, wow stadium” and Drasdo believes this is a view “universally shared among supporters”.
“There is a feeling that we have fallen behind not only on the pitch, but also in terms of the stadium and other facilities,” he said.
“Having truly ambitious people with a track record of major infrastructure development inspires new hope and nothing would symbolize Manchester United’s renaissance more vividly than a truly world-class stadium that could rival our biggest rivals at home and in Europe.
“Many United fans have looked at what Real Madrid have done and that level should be the benchmark.”