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Old Trafford – asset of community value?

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.”

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. markynorbs says:

    Great notion to preserve the beautiful game in its home land of heritage. :-)

  2. wayne says:

    So what’s the bottom line here to make sure the Manchester United trademark stays in Manchester and if the Glazers wanted to sell OT have to notify Manchester council to give the fans a chance to bid

  3. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Interesting move by MUST and probably a good idea.

    I assume this would not impact United’s future plans to redevelop/expand the site. Protection by the architectural trust would do.

    Everytime I walk into the main stand I wonder, with some concern honestly, about the integrity of some of the brick work. Someday, that will have to be reworked.

    One senses that the club will also eventually come to agreement with the city and rail service about the rail line behind the tunnel. As long as this protects the fans position, without impacting practical solutions to the architecture of the site, it is hard to see a down side.

  4. slayer says:

    Well, building another stadium would mean spending few hundred millions to build one. Old Trafford has been there a long time and has been upgraded to one of the best available stadium in the world. If the owner attempt to try to move it to somewhere else, I think all the fans will be outraged and might attempt to rally against them. Such move might be totally stupid for a business-minded person. So, I doubt they would want to do that, besides, it might incur more debts to United’s current 350 million. Fans will definitely target them for being insensitive to the tradition and culture of the club 100+ years history.

  5. wayne says:

    Never seen an article about the Galzers wanting to move it,actually thought i read last year maybe? wanted to expand OT to 95,000,as Slayer pointed out makes no sense after all the money spent on upgrades why someone would want to move it.

  6. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Wayne, My sense was this would add some protection in the event the owners wanted to try and sell the stadium (as Portsmouth did and Rangers were considerding). I don’t think it would protect branding issues such as the name, but maybe Scott could comment.

  7. FletchTHEMAN says:

    Off topic.

    Congratulations to Robin van Persie. Virtually assured to be confirmed as winner of the 2012-13 Golden boot award.
    Though it is conceivable that someone could surpass him, the chances are extraordinarily remote and unlikely.

    [Suarez accepting his ban puts it out of reach for the Liverpool man]

    Current standings:
    Robin Van Persie……24 goals
    Luis Suárez……………23 [banned for remainder of season]
    Gareth Bale……………18
    Demba Ba……………..15
    Christian Benteke…..15

  8. Goat Peticoat says:

    An excellent idea. < sarcasm
    I can see should Manchester United grow to such a size and the premier league along with it that a 110 000 or even a 150 000 seater stadium is needed we would not be able to move.
    No company could buy the land the stadium is currently on because it would be protected effectively meaning any move to a new stadium would have to be done without the sale of the previous ground.
    Now I love Old Trafford like the next man and like Scott I love the old pictures and can spend hours looking at them but I am also a man that looks into the future. Even if that future is 100 years down the line (such a time we may need a 150 000 seater stadium).
    Also what would this do to the valuation of the club. One minute the club has full value for all its parts and then the next minute it has its hands tied behind its back in regards it home. Shareholders have to now take into account that should the absolute worse thing happen and a forced move or ground share be needed (perish the thought) United would instead go bust and face a financial collapse.
    Absolutely brilliant.
    MUST please understand, you are the fans, patrons, those that pay for a show, watch it and leave early – you dont own the club. The club is no longer a local club as Manchester is hardly a village like comunity – things have moved on. United is global, you have to be global to compete in todays football if you want the top prizes. You dont know the man sitting three rows back, once maybe because he sells your street potatoes off the back of a horse drawn carriage, hardly relevant today. However there could be a link between the two of you, you could have burgled him when you were younger, a friend of yours could have stabbed a friend of his – this is modern manchester. Grow up will you.

  9. Marq says:

    On paper, it looks a good move. Essentially its like buying an option for a property.

    But ask yourself this question. In the case of a need to sell off the staduim, it would mean we are seriously in trouble financially. So does it matter if we sold it to people hiding behind MUST or people in the open market? Like they said, it is a “right to bid”, not a “right to buy”. So technically it doesnt really make any difference at all

  10. wakey says:

    I’m not a fan of this action. I would say the most likely reason to want to sell OT is that we need to move stadium which is a real possibility due to the location of the ground that hinders the redevelopment (For example the South Stand which there have been plans to match the North Stand but due to the Railway and the houses behind the railway has many issues and is said would cost more than £100mill to do) and this could hinder it as selling OT would most likely need sold to help fund the move. At the very least this move would mean that it would take in excess of 6 months to complete a sale and bidding against a supporters group may put off other buyers hence lower the sale price.

    Additionally I would imagine that there has to be more to it. If it was just a right to bid and a right to be informed of a sale. I suspect it would give the council more say on if it could be sold and for what purpose so they could stop it if they felt it would bring less to the local area if sold.

    Obviously ideally everyone would prefer the Club to stay at OT but staying for nostalgia reasons if it would hinder the clubs ability to compete with our rivals would be a little crazy and I’m not sure making moving harder or even off the table completely is a good idea

  11. brett1985 says:

    I’m quite hopeful that there will be a revolt against MUST. Could this blog champion such a cause? Clowns that they are…


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