MUST announced today that it has submitted a nomination to Trafford Council for Old Trafford Football Stadium, the home of Manchester United Football Club, to be registered as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ under the “Assets of Community Value Regulations of the Localism Act (2011)”.
The listing of Old Trafford Football Stadium as a ‘Community Asset’ by the council would mean that in any circumstance where the stadium’s current owner were to look to dispose of it, the Manchester United fan community would have the opportunity to secure Old Trafford’s future.
MUST believes that the listing will:
· Reduce the chance that, without prior notice to the local council and community, Manchester United Football Club could move to another location
· Protect the stadium’s viable use as venue for Manchester United Football Club for current and future generations
· Ensure it continues as a site for delivering social benefit and community value, both through the continued hosting of Manchester United’s matches, and through the associated community activities Manchester United undertakes
· Help ensure a sustainable future for Manchester United within the community, with the community potentially owning a stake in the stadium
· Provide the opportunity to use the non-football revenues generated by the stadium to support Manchester United and its sporting and community activities
· Ensure that Trafford Borough continues to receive the economic benefits associated with match day activities and the value derived by providing the home to a truly global brand
In its nomination to Trafford Council, MUST set out a number of reasons why Old Trafford Football Stadium qualifies as an Asset of Community Value. Manchester United delivers both social value and community benefit to Trafford, Manchester and Salford, and more broadly as an integral part of the local area. The Club’s history in Manchester goes back to its founding in 1878 as Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Football Club.
MUST has sought specialist legal advice on this application and we’ve been advised our nomination is very strong, meets the criteria set out within the legislation and furthermore that there would be the option to take this to Judicial Review should the nomination fail to proceed.
The application by MUST now resides with Trafford Council to consider and they will have up to 8 weeks to make that decision. Should the owning Glazer Family (majority shareholders) wish to appeal against a successful nomination on the basis that Old Trafford is not an Asset of Community Value this would clearly represent a rather odd position given the Club’s longstanding statements on this matter including in its own charter and the website of its community engagement arm – The Manchester United Foundation.
Following a successful listing should the owner of the asset wish to sell they will be required to notify the Council and MUST will then have six weeks to lodge a non-binding expression of interest, in which case a window of opportunity of a further four and half months, (making six months in total), will come into effect to delay the sale. The full moratorium period exists to afford community interest groups sufficient time to prepare and raise money to bid for the property, potentially in competition with other interested parties.
Liverpool Supporters’ Union are also in the process of submitting a similar application and expect many more supporters’ trusts will nominate their stadia as Assets of Community Value over the coming months. We look forward to Government building on this initiative to further encourage co-operative ownership of football clubs.
“It is important to understand that a successful listing gives us the ‘right to bid’ rather than the ‘right to buy’,” said Duncan Drasdo. “However a listing reduces the chances that Old Trafford could be secretly sold off and worse still Manchester United FC move to a new location, as we’ve seen with such disastrous effects at several other English clubs – perhaps the worst example being Wimbledon/MK Dons. We don’t have any reason to assume the Glazers currently have any plans to sell Old Trafford and we’d anticipate denials to that effect should they respond to such questions at this time. However if that truly is the case they should have no reason to oppose this application. On the contrary they should welcome the emergence of any potential bidder as it simply provides an option but no obligation to accept any bid.”
Supporters Direct, the national body for supporters’ trusts, expressed their support of MUST’s application.
“We fully support MUST’s application to designate Old Trafford as an Asset of Community Value,” they said. “If it’s possible to protect a work of art, then surely a football stadium deserves similar protection. We hope that the wider game acknowledges the importance of this move.”