Man United could lose Super League Grand Final host rights to Man City

EXCLUSIVE: Man United could lose Super League Grand Final staging rights to bitter rivals Man City with the Etihad emerging as an alternative as decaying Old Trafford enters final year of RFL contract

  • Old Trafford has hosted the Super League Grand Final since the first in 1998 
  • Man United’s contract with the Rugby Football League is set to expire next year 
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Manchester United could lose staging rights for the Super League Grand Final to Manchester City due to the poor state of Old Trafford and uncertainty over the club’s plans for a rebuild. 

The climax of the rugby league season has been staged at Old Trafford since the inaugural Grand Final in 1998, with the exception of the behind-closed-doors Covid final in 2020 which was held in Hull, but United’s contract to stage the event expires next year and it is unclear whether it will be renewed.

The Rugby Football League have a good relationship with United and would welcome talks over extending their deal, but the club’s need to upgrade Old Trafford has led them to consider potential alternatives, with the Etihad Stadium emerging as a potential contender. 

Mail Sport revealed last year that United were considering two main options for rebuilding Old Trafford – constructing a completely new ground on the same site at an estimated cost of £2billion and a £1bn rebuild – while Sir Jim Ratcliffe has pledged to provide £245m to improve infrastructure within 12 months of completing his £1.3bn investment.

While the Etihad’s capacity is significantly lower than Old Trafford’s at 53,000 to 74,000 the Grand Final attendance has not topped 60,000 since 2019 and a guaranteed sell-out is also more attractive to television. 

The 2023 Grand Final was won by Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford for their fifth trophy

The state of Old Trafford has been on the decline and the RFL are considering alternative venues

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The RFL have also developed close links with City in recent years, with their executive and commercial teams moving into offices on the Etihad Campus last year.

Talks with United over a potential contract extension are due to start imminently, but there are concerns that the club’s negotiations with Ratcliffe could present a complicating factor. 

Ratcliffe is planning to review the club’s executive team and is also interested in expanding Old Trafford’s capacity to 90,000, both of which could have implications for the Grand Final.

Old Trafford has not been selected by the FA as one of the venues for the 2028 European Championship, with the Etihad chosen instead, and losing the Grand Final to their local rivals would be another blow to United’s prestige.

The Etihad has emerged as an alternative to Old Trafford as well as having been chosen to host games at Euro 2028


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