The Liverpool saga: Episode 3043; “The stadium”
New football stadiums seem to be in vogue these days. Every club wants a one. The benefits for a club when they move to a new stadium are quite clear to see. Increased attendances, more room for corporate hospitality, better experience for fans, more are
For example, over the last few weeks, Tottenham and West Ham have been squabbling over the ownership of the Olympic stadium post the 2012 Olympics. Both clubs have been wise and canny enough to see the potential for greater revenue and increased turnover from the move to Stratford.
This brings me onto a topic that is quite close to my heart. The future home of Liverpool Football Club.
After a tumultuous battle to become the owners of Liverpool FC, NESV are now faced with their first big challenge (some will argue that it’s the position of Roy Hodgson, but that’s for another blog). So far, John W. Henry has been very tight-lipped about any plans surrounding the new stadium. Perhaps he is scared to make any broken promises like his native predecessors?
This heightens the fact that the eventual decision whatever it may be, cannot be rushed and requires careful strategic planning. At present there would seem to be three options available to NESV.
Option 1: Redevelop Anfield
When NESV acquired the Boston Red Sox in 2002, they were faced with a similar dilemma to the one currently in place at Liverpool i.e. an iconic stadium that was fast becoming a relic. NESV decided to redevelop Fenway Park instead of building a new stadium elsewhere.
The idea of redeveloping Anfield has its plus points. It will cost NESV far less to increase the capacity of Anfield (which currently stands at 45,000). Obviously if money can be saved in the building of a new stadium then it will be done. NESV are business men after all. The romantics will also argue that Anfield holds too many fond memories. Why move when you can expand upon history and tradition?
Option 2: Stanley Park
George Gillett and Tom Hicks got a lot of things wrong during their three year tenure as owners of Liverpool football club. One of the most cringe-worthy, was Gillett’s infamous “a spade in the ground within 60 days” statement (not long after their takeover in 2007), referring to the construction of a new stadium on Stanley Park. Three years on and that spade has done nothing but gather dust.
The short move to Stanley Park would do a lot of the things I alluded to in my very first paragraph. Liverpool as a city would be invigorated by the regeneration opportunities a new multi-million pound stadium could provide.
Option 3: Ground share
It might not be the most popular decision with the fans but there is a mounting possibility that Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton may consider a ground share. From NESV’s perspective it provides the best of both worlds. The luxury of a new stadium with only half the additional costs.
Kopites and toffees would find the notion of sharing a stadium difficult to comprehend but other major European clubs such as AC Milan and Inter Milan, as well as Roma and Lazio have ground shared for well over 60 years. However a loss of individual pride and identity may prove to be problematic.
Personally, I cannot see anything other than a move to Stanley Park for Liverpool. Staying at Anfield is not viable in the long-term as capacity and future re-development will be severely restricted. Why expand Anfield to cater 60,000 people (its proposed maximum capacity) when the club could possibly sell-out 70,000? Quite simply, staying at Anfield limits any future growth.
The thought of Liverpool sharing a stadium with bitter rivals Everton is even more irrational. One of the primary contributors to a football clubs wealth is its assets, such as a stadium. It is estimated Milan council, take five million Euro’s in rent from AC and Inter each year. Also, non-ownership of the San Siro means each club is restricted in what it can generate or do on non-match days. Nor can either club undertake re-structuring without the other clubs consent.
These are just some of the factors John W. Henry and co, will have to consider when deciding the future home of Liverpool Football Club. As the new custodians of the club, it is a decision they cannot take lightly. NESV will be wise to not raise the ire of Liverpudlians. We all know what happened to the last group of Americans who dared to do that.