Anfield has laid witness to the majority of the great moments that have occurred down the years for Liverpool and matches against Olympiakos and Newcastle immediately spring to mind, while there are many, many more in the pages of history, like St Etienne for example. European nights, league victories, cup success – Anfield has seen it all.
However, for well over a decade there has been talk of a move away from the spiritual arena because of the need of a stadium that possesses a greater capacity than Anfield’s. Manchester United, Liverpool’s arch rivals that have now overtaken the Reds in terms of league titles, have a stadium capacity of approx 76,000, while Arsenal have the Emirates with a capacity of 60,000, having taken the decision to leave Highbury and build a bigger stadium.
Furthermore, Newcastle, Sunderland and Manchester City all have stadiums with larger capacities, with City looking to expand their stadium, while Tottenham are looking to build a stadium and Chelsea have also looked into it, though in Roman Abramovich they can afford to have a smaller stadium.
Teams want bigger stadiums so that more money can be generated from ticket sales amongst other things. Liverpool cannot boast a Russian or Arab owner who will spend hundreds of millions of pounds on the team, while Financial Fair Play looks set to stop those tactics anyway (if they can get their act together to stop teams getting round it). Building larger stadiums is one way of being able to consistently generate greater amounts of funds that can be spent on improving the team and moving up the league ladder, or staying at the top.
One thing is for certain, and is something everyone who has Liverpool’s best interests at heart agree on – greater capacity is needed. What is still under debate is whether that would be best served by building a new stadium or through redeveloping Anfield.
Currently, the plan going forward is a redevelopment of Anfield, which will see the capacity jump to 60,000, with the project costing £150m. However, there will be further regeneration of the area surrounding Anfield, with new housing, a business hub, a hotel and a new public square as well as the redevelopment of the stadium, bringing the cost of the project to £260m.
The idea of building a new stadium perhaps shouldn’t be overlooked as there are advantages to the long awaited successor to Anfield that was first announced 11 years ago.
Firstly, it will be very difficult to develop Anfield beyond the 60,000 that is currently being mooted (and was the planned capacity for Stanley Park) without altering quite a lot of the old historic stadium. Yet for a new stadium measures could be made to allow for a future extension to approx 80,000, allowing for a significantly greater amount of revenue from ticket sales.
Secondly, Liverpool can create more corporate areas to sell in the new stadium, again raising additional funds, which would be more limited at Anfield if such an expansion of the stadium took place. Furthermore, a new, modern stadium with state of the art boxes may help Liverpool attract more esteemed corporations, as with Wembley and the Emirates.
Finally, even if construction on redeveloping Anfield began in the off-season, it would almost certainly drag into the next one, leading to a reduced capacity. Conversely, construction of a new stadium could take place while Liverpool play at Anfield, causing no impact on capacity and revenue from ticket sales.
In spite of this, redeveloping Anfield is the preferred option amongst most, including myself, for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, bluntly – the cost would be less. A lot less. Under Hicks and Gillett, the new stadium proposed was set to cost at least £350m, but most believe that a new 60,000 stadium, plus all the redeveloped area that would come with it, new shops etc, would cost nearer £500m, if not more if delays occurred.
Working on Anfield would be considerably cheaper in comparison. Secondly, the regeneration that would occur if Anfield was expanded would be extremely beneficial for the region, with Joe Anderson (Mayor of Liverpool) stating that the work would the help an area that had “been in the doldrums for a long time”.
In addition, the project will create 700 jobs in the completed buildings, without taking account of the jobs available for the building and construction that will take place. Finally, and crucially, staying at Anfield means that Liverpool are not having to leave the home that they have lived in for their entire history, the home that the fans love and the historical pull that attracts many others too to see a game, or go for a stadium tour and experience the magic of Anfield.
Liverpool fans have experienced many false dawns, and quite a few have come from the lack of progress towards salvation over the stadium. However, hopefully Liverpool are now going in the right direction; not only in having a stadium that will have the capacity to rival the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, but also in that the stadium will still be Anfield.
Because Anfield is our home.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.