United could host the Women’s Champions League at Old Trafford next season when the club compete in the Champions League for the first time.
Marc Skinner’s side have played twice at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season, attracting 30,000 and almost 28,000 crowds to watch Aston Villa and West Ham the match of.
United are committed to keeping Leigh Sports Village as their main venue for the foreseeable future and look to build on an encouraging season which has included two sellouts at the venue.
But UEFA rules allow them to nominate up to two Champions League home games.
All of Arsenal’s home games this season have been played at the Emirates Stadium. Chelsea played one group game and all knockout games at Stamford Bridge.
Given the allure of playing at Old Trafford, it’s likely to be considered for at least one game there.
There are calendar issues to consider – group games are scheduled between November and January, which is particularly busy for domestic men’s teams – and other logistical issues, such as Manchester City at home at the same time, to consider.
However, A conversation with BBC Sounds’ How to Buy a Football Club podcastManchester United women’s head of football Polly Bancroft says European competitions still have to be decided.
“Actually, we’re still working on this,” she said.
“We have yet to identify men’s or women’s fixtures. Once they are drawn we will start looking at where we can host the women’s games at Old Trafford next season.”
The Women’s Super League winners can go straight to the group stage – although this is not guaranteed and will depend on the final outcome of the Champions League, as England is not one of the top three top nations according to UEFA. The runners-up must advance through a two-leg play-off in October.
United headed into the final weekend hoping they would overtake Chelsea for their first WSL title, but were certain to finish second.
“The women’s team is very dependent on the men’s team”
Bancroft joined United from Brighton in October in a newly created role.
Bancroft is, by definition, one of the most important women in the women’s game and her voice carries weight at United. She spoke to United co-chairman Avram Glazer when he attended the Women’s FA Cup final earlier this month. Manchester United were beaten by Chelsea..
“Then I saw him,” she said. “It’s his first time seeing the women’s team, so it’s great to have him playing and we’re looking forward to seeing what the future holds.”
It’s clear that regardless of the current uncertainty of ownership, women have huge potential for growth in the game.
It’s a delicate balance, but Bancroft is confident enough to sanction a ticket increase next season as United prepare for a busy summer reshaping their squad in an attempt to secure a spot for WSL heavyweights Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. Provide more competition.
“We know economics doesn’t exist yet,” Bancroft said. “We did a new TV deal with the WSL last season.
“We know the trajectory of the income, and broadcasting is going up. Obviously, women are very dependent on men. So we understand the economics. [But] There is definitely a growing profile within the club.
“Leigh Sports Village is a great stadium. It has all the facilities a Women’s Super League team needs and the staff there are fantastic.
“[It] It may not be the ideal location in terms of public transport and otherwise, and we are working with the council to improve the matchday experience.
“If you look at the other mini stadiums in the WSL, it’s definitely there in terms of capacity, and the fact that we’ve sold out there twice this season has shown that we’ve done a good job of getting to 11 or 12,000.
“We’ve also started raising the ticket price a little bit. We’ve noticed that it still needs to be easy to use, so charging a price that values both the product and the ease of use, that’s where we’re at.”
Hear more from Polly Bancroft on BBC Sounds’ latest episode of ‘How to Buy a Football Club’ here.
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