ANFIELD’S EXPANSION GIVEN A GREEN LIGHT
A couple of months after the plans were revealed to expand Anfield’s seating capacity by the directors of Liverpool FC, we can be sure that by the 2016/17 season Liverpool FC is going to have a bigger stadium. The Liverpool City Council has granted the permission for the first phase expansion of the seats by up to 54,000.
Anfield set to become the third biggest club stadium
When the work of the first phase of expansion of the main stand completes, Anfield will be the third biggest club stadium in England, behind Manchester United’s Old Trafford and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. The current seating capacity at Anfield is 45,522. However, even more capacity addition is also planned in the stadium with further plans to add 4,800 seats to Anfield Road stand by 2017/18. The new stadium design will also include corporate seating arrangements as well as bigger parking stands, which will ultimately put the final capacity to around 59,000.
The new designs have been well received by most Liverpool fans. Most fans aspire to see Liverpool compete with the best in England and Europe in terms of revenue and facilities. But no one actually wants Liverpool to leave Anfield, regarding the venue as something of a spiritual shrine, rather than just a stadium. This was the very reason why the fans had mixed reactions when announcement was made by previous Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. And building a stadium from scratch takes a lot more these days than what it took in 2005. Ultimately, the money stricken greedy owners were somehow forced by the then Liverpool board to sell to the current owner John W. Henry against their wishes, when none of their plans materialized and the club nearly defaulted on its debts.
However, the current owner and his sports investment group Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have managed to live up to the fans expectations, especially by deciding to rebuild Anfield, rather than build another stadium at Stanley Park from scratch. FSG, previously known as New England Sports Ventures (NESV) had faced a similar stadium dilemma with another of their sports franchise, the Boston Red Sox. But, against the suggestions by their financial consultants, the group decided to favor the sentiments of the club’s fan base, who regarded the club’s current home, Fenway Park, as their club’s spiritual home base, just like how Kopites regard Anfield.
However, the decision to rebuild Anfield has been disappointingly received by a lot of locals around the stadium, as it may force a lot of them to leave their ancestral homes. Yet, most Liverpool fans as well as the resident of the city are pleased with the fact that Anfield will be bigger and better soon. The stadium is expected to bring almost 80 million worth of extra revenue for the team every year, which will help a lot in making the team more competitive against other financially strong European teams. Liverpool’s directors expect that the redevelopment will ensure that more international games would be played in the stadium as Anfield’s facilities would be comparable with the best stadiums in the world.
We have to admit though that the current owners and directors of Liverpool FC have finally proven that they can deliver. After years of bad management and policy implementation, the current owners have made strong inroads in the recovery of Liverpool, both on and off the field. Liverpool are currently in a fairly healthy financial state, where the club’s external debt has declined by nearly £200 million since 2010 and at this rate, the Reds will comfortably comply with the UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations. Although clubs like Manchester City and Manchester United are owned by multi-billionaires, for whom money is just an object, both the clubs are badly immersed in debts and it can cause persistent troubles for them in the near future, with possibilities like a total ban from participation in European competitions.
Concluding it all, we can say that the decision by FSG to expand Anfield’s capacity is certainly a decision that will not only ensure that Liverpool will remain competitive with the best clubs in Europe but will also make fans happy for years to come. After all, Anfield is where a Liverpool’s fan heart is!