Old Trafford could host Man Utd's European games

Published on: 25 May 2023

Man Utd have played three Women's Super League matches at Old Trafford in the past two seasons

Manchester United could host Women's Champions League games at Old Trafford when the club makes its debut in the competition next season.

Marc Skinner's side played at Old Trafford twice in the current Super League campaign, attracting crowds of 30,000 and almost 28,000 for games against Aston Villa and West Ham.

United are committed to using Leigh Sports Village as their main ground for the foreseeable future and want to build on an encouraging season that included two sell-outs at the venue.

But Uefa regulations allow them to nominate a maximum of two home stadiums in the Champions League.

Arsenal played all their home games in this season's competition at the Emirates Stadium. Chelsea played one group game and all their knockout round matches at Stamford Bridge.

Given the attraction of playing at Old Trafford, consideration is likely to be given to playing at least one match there.

There are calendar issues to be taken into account - with the November-January period, when group games are scheduled, particularly busy for the men's side domestically - and other logistical issues, such as Manchester City being at home at the same time, to consider.

However, speaking to BBC Sounds' 'How To Buy A Football Club' podcast, United's head of women's football Polly Bancroft says decisions still have to be made about European games.

"We're still looking at that actually," she said.

"We don't have the men's or women's fixtures out yet. Once they've been drawn, we'll start to look at where we can place women's matches at Old Trafford next season."

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The Women's Super League champions could earn direct entry into the group phase - although that is not guaranteed and will depend on the Champions League final result as England are not one of the three top nations according to Uefa statistics. The runner-up has to enter via a two-legged play-off in October.

United go into the final weekend with outside hopes of overtaking Chelsea to clinch their first WSL title but are assured of finishing second.

'Women's team very much dependent on men's team'Polly Bancroft, pictured at Leigh Sports Village, became head of women's football at Man Utd in October

Bancroft joined United from Brighton in October in a newly created role.

By definition, Bancroft is one of the most significant women in the women's game and her voice also carries weight at United. She spoke with United co-chairman Avram Glazer when he attended the Women's FA Cup final earlier this month when United were beaten by Chelsea..

"I saw him afterwards," she said. "It was first time he'd been to see the women's team so it was great to have him at a game and we look forward to seeing what the future looks like."

It is clear that however the current ownership uncertainty works out, there is huge growth potential on the women's side of the game.

It is a delicate balance but Bancroft feels confident enough to sanction an increase in ticket prices next season as United get ready for a busy summer reshaping their squad to try to provide WSL heavyweights Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City with even more competition.

"We know the economics aren't there yet," said Bancroft. "We've had a new TV deal through the WSL the season before last.

"We know the trajectory of the revenue and the broadcast is on the way up. Clearly, the women are very much dependent on the men's side. So we understand the economics. [But] there is certainly an increasing profile within the club.

"Leigh Sports Village is a fantastic stadium. It's got all he facilities that a Women's Super League team require and the staff there are excellent.

"[It] is probably not in the ideal location in terms of public transport and those things, and we're working with the council on that to improve the matchday experience.

"If you were to look at the other mini stadia across the WSL, it's certainly up there in terms of the capacity and the fact that we've sold out there twice this season already shows we're doing a great job of getting to 11 or 12,000.

"We've also started to slightly increase our ticket prices. We're mindful that it still needs to be accessible so charging a price that values the product but is also accessible is where we are at."

Hear more from Polly Bancroft in the latest episode of How to Buy a Football Club on BBC Sounds here.

Source: bbc.com

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