Anfield - Her Future is Yet to Be Decided
Before I start the blog properly, I must explain my title. I have used the expression her for the simple reason, my father, ex sailor who became a steelfixer always said that when you are referring to anything be it a car, a ship or a building you spoke as though it was a lady. Now, too get down to the subject in hand.
Several months ago I wrote about the stadium situation and said that John Henry needed to make a decision over whether to re-develop Anfield or indeed build a new more modern Anfield on Stanley Park. This week the subject was brought up again on Twitter by none other than John Henry.
He was I think trying to quell the hysteria that had begun to develop on the forums as most of us were aware that the planning permission for Stanley Park ran out on the 19th June 2011. This also coincided with a lease that the club had, not being renewed on the 30th June 2011. The press had also been picking up snippets of information which pointed to the possible leaving of Anfield and the occupation of Stanley Park.
Having listened and read the various articles and debates that have sprung up since John Henry hinted that a new stadium was the way they were going to go I decided to write about it once more. As these things go though, as I was trying to think of a title, a tweet arrived stating that LFC were going to issue a statement shortly. This was as we all now know a statement from club regarding the current situation around the statement. Something which should have been issued , rather than a series of tweets.
The Statement is as follows:-
Liverpool FC today made clear its frustration at the obstacles facing the potential re-development of Anfield.
The Club has been comprehensively exploring all options open to it in terms of new stadium development or expansion, which has included a study into the refurbishment of both its Main and Anfield Road Stands to increase capacity beyond 60,000 seats.
Managing Director Ian Ayre said: "In the nine months since the new ownership, an enormous amount of work has been undertaken in conjunction with leading architects, consultants, other industry experts and with Liverpool City Council to explore the building of a new stadium as well as exploring a refurbishment solution that could deliver the necessary growth in capacity, whilst maintaining the heritage and atmosphere that make Anfield uniquely Liverpool FC. However, with land/property acquisition, environmental and statutory issues creating barriers to our ambition, it looks increasingly unlikely there is any way we can move forward on a refurbishment of Anfield unless there are significant changes in those areas."
Commenting further on the options open to the Club, Ayre explained: "In terms of a Stanley Park stadium versus redevelopment, there is absolutely no question that a refurbishment of Anfield would come at a significantly lower cost than a new build. A new stadium of course also has its merits, being modern, more functional, and easier to construct. However, a new 60,000 capacity ground also comes at a significantly higher price, while at the same time only delivering roughly the same amount of revenue as a refurbishment of Anfield - with both options offering an uplift of approximately 16,000 seats each."
Added Ayre: "It's disappointing that based on where we are at the moment, we seem to be unable to press on with the more viable economic option of a refurbishment, but we remain committed to finding the best possible long-term solution. We already have a very healthy dialogue in place with several leading brands regarding naming rights for a new stadium, but like every major deal we have ever done, that just takes time to explore in full. We also have ongoing discussions with various parties around the financing of either facility. Our challenge now is to try to find a way to bring all of those elements together in a solution that is in the best interests of Liverpool Football Club and its fans.
"We are mindful that supporters have been promised a solution in the past and have been disappointed, and also that local residents would like to know what direction we are headed in. However, just like any other business, we can only proceed as and when we are clear on all elements and we will not be forced to make a decision that is not in the best long-term interests of our club and we will not make any promises to our fans that we cannot keep. We will continue to work diligently on this project and keep our fans informed of any progress."
Council leader Joe Anderson said: "We recognise that Liverpool FC need to make the right decision on the stadium options, and it is crucial that it is not only the right one for the club but also for local residents.
"We fully appreciate that the new owners have made real progress over the past nine months since they took over, and we will continue to support what they are trying to deliver. However, it is unfortunately the reality that the debate and discussions over a new stadium have gone on for many years, causing a great deal of frustration and uncertainty within the local community.
"Although we are fully supportive of the club, we can't ignore the fact that the clock is and has been ticking, and people need certainty about the development.
"We will do what we can to continue to help the club, and I can reassure people that we will be pressing for a decision as soon as is practically possible that will benefit Liverpool
©Liverpool Football Club
I have read through the statement several times and I can understand what the club is trying to say but it has put in place a completely new set of questions. The first being the capacity of the stadium. Ian Ayre has stated whether it be a re-development of Anfield or indeed a new stadium the capacity would be around 60,000. I can understand this being the set figure for Anfield, due to planning restraints etc, but a new stadium on Stanley Park needs to be around 70,000 - 75,000. Perhaps they are worried that it would never be filled to its maximum, which of course is absolute rubbish. We are Liverpool Football Club after all and it would be filled for every match, which in turn may actually work in the supporter's favour. It would perhaps help to bring the ticket prices down to a more reasonable level.
The cost of course is another factor that the club have looked into. A re-development would be cheaper, because the main structure is already in place but that would be offset by the lost ticket revenue throughout the 2-3 seasons it would take for building work to take place. That then becomes a false economy because no savings have in fact been made.
The new stadium in Stanley Park would take approximately 3-5 years to build depending on which method was used. Anything faster, would I suspect contravene several building regulations. During this time of course Anfield would still be full and the money would be rolling in. The disruption to the Anfield area would also be minimal apart from road alterations etc.
Ian Ayre has said that the club are actively looking for naming rights and are in talks with several parties, one of which I understand is Standard Chartered. If an agreement is reached it will ensure that the club have some of the finance in place for the new build to commence. There is also a grant of £8.2 million that was given to the club during the Hicks and Gillett reign waiting to be used. This I understand from an interview that Joe Anderson gave the other day will have to be repaid if the re-development takes place. The remainder of the finance will come from the banks or other financial institutions, again talks are believed to be ongoing.
The club and Liverpool City Council have been in talks about both options since John Henry brought the club and it appears the main sticking points surrounding the re-development are obviously the location of the current stadium and the current planning and environmental issues that surround it. When the idea was first put the council they had several S106's put in place to ensure that the Anfield area was redeveloped and I suspect this what the council want to happen.
To ensure that the S106's are complied with a new stadium is the better option. If John Henry sticks to plans similar those of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, it would mean not only a new modern stadium, but new roads, car parks, a hotel and a shopping plaza. This type of infrastructure would help the regeneration of the Anfield area and I suspect the council would apply to the government for the finance to help ensure the project gets underway.
As it appears that there is still deadlock where a decision is concerned the City Council have granted an extension of the planning permission. This will now run out at the end of September, which in reality is not that far away. What will happen then if a decision is not made, other than Stanley Park being returned to the people of Liverpool I have no idea.
My own feeling is that they should go for the new build option. As much as I love Anfield and believe me I will be sorry to say goodbye but the time has come for us to move into a new modern stadium. A lot of supporters are worried that the atmosphere and the ghosts of Anfield will be lost forever. That won't happen; we are Liverpool supporters so within a couple of weeks the new stadium will feel as though it has been there for ever.
We would also be moving just across the road, not out of town and I suspect if the architects have done their job properly there is a way of incorporating the old with the new. There is no way Ian Ayre would allow Anfield to disappear completely. It means too much to each and every one of us.
I know a lot of supporters are also concerned about the name of the new stadium. My own view is that whoever is chosen for the naming rights will have more sense than to give it a name that is not connected to Liverpool Football club and its history. They will be fully aware of the upset it could cause otherwise.
At the moment though that is for the future and with the new season in the not too distant future, we can look forward to sitting in our beloved Anfield once more.