No place on Earth is more significant than that which we start and end the day. It’s about more than just safety or comfort. It’s the dependability of knowing that while the wider world is forever changing there will always be somewhere you can rely upon. The strength to go out there and face whatever challenges await as well as the motivation to see them through and get back safely all come from one incredible intangible.
Today, Liverpool Football Club formally announced it would be staying at Anfield and looking to redevelop it as opposed to moving to a new stadium. This has been something which the club as a whole has been trying to address now for quite some time and finally there appears to have been progress in that regard. The current ownership have succeeded where others had failed in managing to talk the local council into redevelopment of the ground, something they had been vehemently opposed to in the past.
The phrase “spades in the ground” is a term symbiotic of the Hicks & Gillett regime.
Much like their promises to supporters that the club would not be going into debt it skirted the fine line between embellishment and outright lie. Whatever happened with Stanley Park and everything surrounding that venture, it was a failure on such a level that the club is still – two years after having changed hands – coming to grips with it.
Effectively having paid a Sergio Aguero’s worth for a few renderings from architects, there is nor ever was any tangible progress on that front despite the incredible sums of money that were put into it. No drawing of a stadium is that good.
As football has evolved over the last ten years – which is a polite way of saying it’s become almost solely about money – Liverpool has been lagging behind in the stakes for generating new match day revenue. This was an issue prior to the ill fated takeover of Tom Hicks and George Gillett and the gap will only get larger for anyone who stagnates. The mistakes made in the past which were compounded by the economic state of the world were far more costly than they should have been but now they have made this final step in moving forward and though it does appear as though Liverpool has gone back to where it was ten years ago, in was the right move in order to get as far away from the previous ownership as possible.
Building a new stadium right now would be completely unfeasible monetarily and a complete financial black hole. It would have a dramatic impact on the choices the club make in regard to both transfers and contract negotiation. Think of the situation Arsenal have had to endure multiplied by a thousand.
Not to mention the fact that Anfield can still go some way toward balancing the books while changes are being made whereas any new ground would not be earning until it’s opened.
Naming rights is also an issue that has come up a number of times and with the decision to stay put, it’s unlikely that the ground itself will have to change names – not that anyone would ever call it anything different. Whether or not any of the reworked parts of the stadium would have any commercial subsidy (the Anfield Road end and Main stand are those that are presumed to be changed) attached to them remains a possibility however.
Of the major new stadiums that have been built recently, the Emirates benefitted from Highbury being in one of the wealthiest areas of the country in terms of resale and the City of Manchester Stadium had substantial contribution from the government as it was built for the Commonwealth Games. This project would be something more akin to the extention of Old Trafford, which has extended it’s capacity by almost 20,000 since the turn of the century.
Comparisons were made to what John W Henry had done with Fenway Park and how it could be applied to Liverpool from the moment he bought the club. Though the move in principle is the same, the work done in Boston was ensured not to extend the capacity beyond 40,000.
There was also a significant increase in the pricing structure which supporters will also be concerned about, Ian Ayre having gone on record as saying that a larger number of seats will not translate into any decreasing in ticket pricing.
Though the speculation is that Anfield will be extended to 60,000 there will be no official word until any local properties that are necessary to the redevelopment have been purchased and any compensation packages agreed to. The council will have to work hard in coming to an agreement with people who – the market having crashed pretty much everywhere – will not be quick in their willingness to move.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson was quoted in Monday’s press conference as saying “we can’t let a small group hold back regeneration” which suggests some level of commitment on their part but there will be a lot of talking yet to do. After all, we are talking about their homes.
It will take some time yet before any concrete plans are in place and as such there will be no bold and ultimately empty promises of spades going into any part of the area any time soon. Aside from the numbers aspect, the decision to remain at Anfield is one that supporters all over will be able to rejoice in.
Without the ground the club itself wouldn’t exist.
This is a venue that has seen some of the most incredible feats of football to have ever been played. Whatever spectacular feat of modern engineering the club could have moved into just wouldn’t feel the same. Major European nights at Anfield are something truly special in the world of football. St. Ettiene, Olympiakos and Chelsea have gone down in Liverpool folklore. With this announcement there will hopefully be many more to come.