The Barclays Premier League leaders have announced the withdrawal of Old Trafford from the list of potential venues for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The decision was made by the Old Trafford board and groundstaff over concerns of scheduling and damage to the pitch, which is to be re-laid this summer combining grass and artificial fibres in contrast to the existing all-grass surface.
It is believed that features of rugby union including scrums and rucks could lead to long lasting damage to the pitch.
Alongside the demanding schedule faced by its Premier League side which is likely to see the team involved in three competitions at the time of the tournament, Old Trafford is already contracted to host Super League Grand Finals and will be the venue for the Rugby League World Cup Final this November.
It is rumoured that Rugby World Cup Ltd. are now in talks with United’s local rivals Manchester City about using the Etihad Stadium instead, with the current Premier League Champions already contemplating the expansion of its stadium from 48,000 to 60,000 seats. This news would have only come as a relief to the competition’s organisers, who are currently faced with a significant deficit in ticket sales following the withdrawal of Old Trafford with its 76,000-seat capacity.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup must achieve a target of 2.9 million ticket sales in order to meet the £80m fee guaranteed to the IRB before being awarded the tournament in 2009.
A final announcement is due later this month with the Olympic Stadium expected to be on the list of confirmed venues.