After years of stalled projects and financial uncertainty, Liverpool abandoned plans on Monday to build a new stadium and decided a redeveloped Anfield can provide the money needed to make the team regularly successful.
While Liverpool has dithered about the future of the 45,000-capacity Anfield, Manchester United has expanded Old Trafford to accommodate 76,000 people and Arsenal moved into the 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium in 2006.
Hamstrung by the limitations of its 120-year-old ground, Liverpool has struggled to generate the income needed to produce its first English league title since 1990 with United and Arsenal having won a total of 16 championships since then.
Work on a new $800m venue in nearby Stanley Park started in 2008 but was put on hold by then-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. due to financial shortfalls.
The 18-time English champions – owned for exactly two years by American sports tycoon John Henry – have now concluded that a new stadium does not make financial sense.
“If you build a new stadium … one of the big challenges is that you don’t get 60,000 new seats in a new stadium, you only get the difference (with the existing capacity),” Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre said.
“That makes it very difficult to make it viable because the cost of building such a big new stadium doesn’t work economically, particularly in this market.”
The Fenway Park home of Henry’s baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, was similarly renovated rather than building a new venue.
“I was the person who showed John around Anfield the first time,” Ayre recalled Monday of the 2010 visit.
“We were in the tunnel area at Anfield and I remember him saying to me, `Why would we want to build a new stadium? This is like Fenway. This is the home of Liverpool Football Club.”’
But the club’s “spiritual home” – as Ayre describes it – is hemmed in by terraced residential housing, and planning permission will now be sought to demolish some properties to make it seat 60,000 people.
The redevelopment of two stands is likely to cost $250m but will boost the capacity to give Liverpool greater financial muscle to attract top players and comply with UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play regulations.
“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,” Ayre said.
“If we look at our biggest competitors with a bigger capacity, like Manchester United, Arsenal – their match-day revenues are significantly ahead of ours.”