Liverpool to remain at refurbished Anfield

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Inside Liverpool’s famous Anfield ground (pic: Vegard Grott)

Liverpool FC have announced their intention to remain at their historic Anfield ground as part of a huge regeneration scheme by Liverpool City Council, signalling an end to plans for building a new stadium.

The announcement made at Liverpool Town Hall aims to bring closure to a long-running saga which has been ongoing since 2000 and has left an area of the city and the club’s fans in limbo.

Persistent delays in making a decision have led to increasing dismay among local residents who have already seen regeneration work held up by failed plans for a new stadium in nearby Stanley Park under the club’s previous owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

However, current owner John W Henry, who bought the club two years ago this week, has always preferred the option of staying at the club’s famous home since 1892.

The council’s decision to give the green light to compulsory purchase order consultations on houses near the stadium would allow for work to increase Anfield’s 45,000 capacity to 60,000 but no start date has been confirmed for the £150m project.

Liverpool Managing Director Ian Ayre said: “There’s no question that Anfield is the spiritual home of Liverpool Football Club. Our fans around the world recognise the importance of this great stadium. Many have had life-changing experiences at this stadium. The opportunity to remain is at the forefront of our plans and today’s announcement is a major step forward.”

It is understood that at a meeting in May attended by Mr Ayre, locals living in neighbouring streets were presented with three options involving knocking down rows of houses, and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson revealed that 75% of those asked were happy with the proposals.

Anderson said: “Anfield is an area that has been neglected for so long. For 12 years there has been talk of a new stadium and the council went through a lot of tough years over making a decision over relocating the stadium to Stanley Park. As mayor I am determined to make it happen.”

Ayre added: “I would like to congratulate Joe Anderson and Liverpool City Council on bringing forward this vision. Everyone at Liverpool Football Club knows how important this vision is.”

Anfield and surrounding roads © Google Earth

The cost of increasing the capacity is unknown but it is expected work would focus on adding an extra tier to the main stand and Anfield Road and introducing more corporate facilities.

But a problem in doing this has always been that it would not allow nearby residential properties the minimum levels of natural light to which they are legally entitled.

LFC’s principal owner Henry has in the past spoken about his belief that a new stadium is not critical to Liverpool’s chances of competing with their rivals and that developing the club’s brand globally is more important for increasing revenue.

He added: “That’s why I say that it is a myth that stadium issues are going to magically transform LFC’s fortunes. Building new or refurbishing Anfield is going to lead to an increase from £40m of match-day revenue to perhaps £60-70m if you don’t factor in debt service.

“Our future is based not on a stadium issue, but on building a strong football club that can compete with anyone in Europe. This will be principally driven financially by our commercial strengths globally.”

JMU Journalism went out on the streets of Liverpool immediately following the announcement to gauge the reaction by Reds fans and you can read their comments below.

Additional reporting by Sophie Grundy, Joshua Killner, Jamie Allen, Kate Molyneux & Eivind Haugstad-Kleiven

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfP2ABaKZIY

About Joel Richards, JMU Journalism