Manchester United’s Old Trafford is the largest club football stadium in the United Kingdom with a capacity of just over 74,000.
It has played host to iconic international fixtures, including England vs Greece in 2001 when David Beckham scored that free kick to secure World Cup qualification and was regularly used as an FA Cup semi-final venue in the years when the new Wembley was being rebuilt.
Despite this, it is not going to be used during the 2028 European Championship, which will be hosted by the UK and Ireland, even though it was initially shortlisted by the Football Association (FA) as a potential venue.
Instead, the tournament will be played at 10 different stadiums across the five nations.
Six of these are in England: Wembley, Villa Park, the Etihad Stadium, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, St James’ Park and Everton’s future home at Bramley-Moore Dock. The other venues will be a redeveloped Casement Park in Belfast, Hampden Park in Glasgow, the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The Athletic explains why Old Trafford is not among them.
Why will Old Trafford not host Euro 2028?
Following consultation between Manchester United and the FA, it was mutually agreed that Old Trafford should not be included because, as the club announced last year, there is an intention to redevelop the stadium.
While some may view it as an embarrassment that Old Trafford is not being used as a Euro 2028 venue, United did not want to commit to being involved, then have to pull out nearer the time because the stadium was not ready.
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Was it even considered as a host venue?
While many stadiums were left off the UK and Ireland bid to host the Euros in 2028, United’s home ground was included. This, in part, shows there was a desire to use the largest-capacity club football stadium in the UK in the tournament.
It would, however, have been unlikely that two venues from Manchester would have been chosen, and by the time Euro 2028 begins, the Etihad is set to have increased its capacity from over 53,000 to above 60,000.
Are United really planning to redevelop Old Trafford?
United belatedly announced in April last year that they had appointed architects Populous and management firm Legends International as master planners and consultants for a revamp of Old Trafford.
This was a positive step in the right direction for United supporters but they queried how the Glazer family, the club’s owners, were going to pay for any redevelopment, given the existing debts at United.
Populous and Legends International have designed some of the best and most recognisable stadiums in the world, including the new Wembley, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
As part of the process, the master planners were instructed to look at the feasibility of several different options, including raising Old Trafford’s capacity, building a completely new stadium next to the current one, and development centred around a new main stand.
What is the latest in terms of improving Old Trafford?
Major redevelopment work is at a standstill, and has been since United announced a strategic review last November which could end with the Glazers selling the club.
Populous and Legends International have provided United with a series of feasibility options, all of which were presented at a fans’ advisory board meeting last year. However, given the uncertainty regarding the ownership status, with Qatari royal Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani bidding for the club via his Nine Two Foundation and British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe also in the mix to buy United, no progress has been made.
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Incremental improvements and maintenance to Old Trafford remain ongoing, with the club carrying out work in the South Stand this summer, including the addition of a further 2,000 safe-standing seats.
At a fans’ advisory board meeting last December, Collette Roche, United’s chief operating officer, said: “The club has been open that any future redevelopment of Old Trafford would require new capital. How to potentially raise money for that and other purposes is a key focus of the ongoing strategic review.”
The minutes from a fans’ advisory board meeting held on Tuesday week are yet to be released.
What are UEFA’s stadium requirements to host a Euros fixture?
In September 2021, Theodore Theodoridis, UEFA’s general secretary, wrote to the body’s member associations to invite them to throw their hat into the ring to stage the men’s European Championship in 2028.
Theodoridis outlined that 10 venues had to be put forward in any bids, and that they needed to pass a threshold in terms of capacity. One stadium needed to hold at least 60,000 fans; a minimum of one, but preferably two, had to have at least 50,000 seats; a minimum of four needed at least 40,000 capacity; and a minimum of three sit at least 30,000.
These numbers demanded by UEFA exclude all media infrastructure and do not count seats that cannot be sold due to an obstructed view of the pitch.
Does Old Trafford meet those requirements?
In terms of surpassing the minimum capacity required, Old Trafford, with over 74,000 seats, comfortably surpasses the European governing body’s threshold.
United’s stadium was used as a venue for the Women’s Euros last year, staging host nation England’s first match of the tournament against Austria. Over 68,000 supporters attended a 1-0 England win.
Are there any other surprising absentees from the confirmed venues?
Anfield, Liverpool’s 53,000-capacity stadium which (like Old Trafford) staged games when the 1996 European Championship was played in England, is not going to host a match in 2028 either. This is because UEFA’s current guidelines state that “the field of play must have the standard dimensions of 105m by 68m (114 yards by 74)” and the pitch at Anfield is only 101m in length, making it ineligible.
Other notable exclusions include Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, West Ham’s London Stadium, Rangers’ Ibrox and Celtic’s Celtic Park.
Everything you need to know about Euro 2028
(Top photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)