Football

Manchester United should consider expanding Old Trafford

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Old Trafford is one of the game's most famous and idolised grounds, and it's title "The Theatre of Dreams" is well earned, and few other stadiums elsewhere can compare with its prestige, as well as quality in terms of infrastructure and as a physical structure.

It's been almost a decade since the iconic home of Manchester United was last redeveloped, with two corner quadrants being added, boosting the capacity to just over 75,000.

Further expansion hasn't been a hot topic in the following years, with there seemingly being relatively little need. Old Trafford is already comfortably the largest club ground in England, and further expansion (particularly of the smaller main stand) was surrounded by logistical issues, like the fact that immediately behind it runs a major railway line, which previously would've been a major impediment to expansion.

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However, the unbelievably consistent levels of attendance in recent seasons have forced the issue of expansion to resurface. In 2014/15, the average attendance at Old Trafford has been 99.5 percent, with the lowest Premier League attendance being 75,112, compared to the highest of 75,454.

These statistics evidence the incredible support Manchester United attracts. Even in a transitional season, in which the club weren't challenging for any major trophies, and at times are playing poor football, Old Trafford still almost sells out each weekend, and this this raises the logical question of why not expand.

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The club's financial condition couldn't be healthier, with enormous profits over recent years, as well as vast new long term sponsorship deals which ensure funds will continue to accumulate, the most tangible benefits of this being United's extravagance in the transfer market. Considering this financial situation, it seems logical to invest in upgrading Old Trafford once again so it can keep up with the Camp Nou, Bernabeu, and other iconic footballing venues elsewhere.

Both of these stadiums are being extensively redeveloped, as are a host of grounds around the UK. Anfield is set for major redevelopment in coming years, West Ham are moving into the 55,000 seater Olympic stadium after next season, and Spurs are building a new White Heart Lane.

Though none of these stadiums will be able to compete with Old Trafford in terms of capacity, the argument for expanding is less centred around a crude comparison of capacity, and more about meeting demand.

The technological advances which will allow redevelopment to take place with relatively little disruption (particularly to the railway line), makes expansion seem like a no-brainer, considering the club's financial situation and the levels of consistent support over recent seasons.

Not only would increased match day revenues help the club financially in the long term, but it would help create an even more intense match-day atmosphere, as well as help keep ticket prices down for fans.

United's financial situation means large loans will not be necessary to cover building costs (which would be less than a major signing), and so expansion would not negatively effect the club's finances in the short term.

Therefore, ticket prices would not need to rise to cover the costs of expansion, and if anything the increased availability of seats should drive prices down, a major benefit for fans. United's season tickets have barely increased in price in recent years, and further expansion would help maintain this trend, and perhaps even drive them down.

Any expansion would have to be in keeping with the ground's iconic image, which has largely been preserved over the decades of expansion. But this should not pose any major issues, with quadrant redesigns are perfectly accommodated into the overall stadium's aesthetic, and I'm sure it would pose no significant problem to architects wanting to incorporate a significantly enlarged Main Stand.

It seems like a logical progression for one of Britain's most iconic grounds, and I'm sure it will not be long before plans are once again afoot to expanded Old Trafford.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Manchester United

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