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Manchester United assembling notable figures to plan ‘world class’ stadium

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New Manchester United co-owner Jim Ratcliffe is quickly moving ahead with plans to build a ‘world class’ stadium for the storied English football team. The British billionaire, who last month bought a 27.7% stake in the club, has made redeveloping or rebuilding its iconic Old Trafford stadium one of his key objectives.

Manchester United are planning to build a new stadium.(AP)

On Friday, United said it assembled a task force including World Athletics president Sebastian Coe and former player Gary Neville. “The north-west of England has a greater concentration of major football clubs than anywhere else in the world, yet we don’t have a stadium on the scale of Wembley, the Nou Camp or Bernabéu,” Ratcliffe said. “We will not be able to change that on our own, which is why this task force is so important to help us seize this once-in-a-century opportunity.”

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The task force also includes Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Trafford Council chief executive Sara Todd. Coe was also the organizing chair for the 2012 London Olympics.

“Throughout my career in sport, I have seen the potential for stadiums to become focal points for strong communities and catalysts for social and economic development,” he said. “That was certainly true of the venues we built in east London for the 2012 Olympics, and we are overdue a project of similar scale and ambition in the north of England. I am honored to have this opportunity to share my experience in support of this tremendously exciting project.”

Old Trafford opened in 1910. Despite being the largest club stadium in England with a capacity of more than 74,000, it has long been in need of modernization. United said the task force would assess the feasibility of building a new stadium of “national significance” to also host international soccer and finals.

Ratcliffe’s minority investment included a 300 million pound cash injection for improvements to Old Trafford. An entirely new stadium could see United seek public funding. United do not intend to move away from area and a new stadium would be built within the grounds of the existing site, meaning the team could continue to play at Old Trafford during the building process.

Ratcliffe said he wants plans to include the regeneration of the surrounding area. “This can be a major regeneration project for an area of Greater Manchester which has played such a key role in British industrial history, but which today requires new investment to thrive again,” he said.

Neville was part of United’s treble-winning team of 1999 and has been a vocal critic of U.S. co-owner the Glazer family. By including him on the task force, Ratcliffe has ensured there is representation from the club’s past glories.

“Old Trafford has evolved throughout its history and it’s clear we are at a point where it has to change again to ensure that Manchester United has a world class stadium befitting the world’s greatest club,” Neville said.

“While I want the best for Manchester United, I also want the same for the surrounding community. Old Trafford should be a stadium that the whole of Greater Manchester can take pride in, and be a catalyst for sustainable, cohesive growth in an area of the city that has been neglected for too long.”

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