Liverpool on Monday announced they were staying at Anfield instead of moving to a new ground, after city authorities announced plans to regenerate the area around their historic home.
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre described the move as a “major step forward” for both the club and local residents, after years of wrangling about whether they should move from the stadium that has been their home since 1892, and he insisted a multimillion redevelopment of Anfield would enhance the club’s transfer market spending power and not diminish it.
Redevelopment of the Main Stand and Anfield Road end is likely to cost an estimated ￡150 million (US$241 million) and while nothing has been forthcoming as yet on how the money will be procured, Ayre said it would not impact on soccer matters.
“As we’ve said, the right solution is the right economic solution,” Ayre told the club’s Web site. “More so from it detracting from our spending in the transfer market, the whole point of doing this is to actually increase our revenues. If we look at our biggest competitors with a bigger capacity, like Manchester United, Arsenal, their match-day revenues are significantly ahead of ours.”
“This whole initiative is designed to generate additional revenues so the ultimate solution has to be one that increases the overall output through the process, rather than decreasing it,” he said. “We’ll find the right financing solution, the right return on investment to deliver the right amount of additional revenue to support the long-term future of the football club.”
Match-day revenues would be significantly increased by bigger crowds and the financial reality was that it could be achieved more cheaply on the current site — Liverpool’s home since 1892, he said.
“We need a much-increased capacity and it has to be one that is right for the club going forward,” Ayre told the Liverpool Echo. “We could have achieved that in a new stadium, but the cost of doing so would have been at least double what we expect to spend by staying put. We would have been making very big payments — servicing the loans involved in building a brand new stadium — for very many years into the future.”
“That would have hampered our ability to spend money where we, and the supporters, want to see it spent — in buying and developing top players to allow us to continue to compete successfully at the very highest levels in Britain and Europe,” he added. “This option gives us much more chance of generating the revenues we need in a sensible and practical way — and of course of accommodating many more fans who want to come and watch us play.”
Remaining at Anfield and not building a new ground, costing upwards of ￡300 million, was always the owners preferred option.
Fenway Sports Group have a history of updating historic old stadiums, as they did a similar thing at Fenway Park, home to baseball’s Boston Red Sox, and they will now look to do the same on Merseyside.
Redevelopment, made possible by the regeneration plans to clear some streets close to the ground, is subject to planning permission, and the support of homeowners and the community — which means plans for a new-build stadium cannot be conclusively consigned to the garbage can until those have been secured, but planning applications to raise the capacity to 60,000 are likely to be submitted next year, with building potentially beginning in 2014.
“LFC celebrated its 120th year in 2012 at Anfield and there is no doubt Anfield is the spiritual home of the club — our preference was always to remain at Anfield, but today is just the start really, and there are so many other issues still to discuss and resolve, so many consultations and processes to go through, that we are not absolutely guaranteeing things. We can’t,” Ayre said. “Certainly, we are not setting unrealistic deadlines, or talking about overambitious or fanciful timescales. Neither is the club taking anything or anyone for granted — especially the residents of Anfield — and we certainly don’t want our fans to be misled or misinformed.”
The club’s decision to stay put followed an announcement by Liverpool City Council that it had secured a ￡25 million grant to transform the Anfield area in the city in northwest England, with further investment likely from a public housing association.