With strong rumours that a final decision has been made on the stadium issue over at Liverpool, it is thought that after months of dithering over the matter, that John W. Henry is said to be coming to the conclusion, much like he did with the Boston Red Sox, that staying put at Anfield and redeveloping the site there instead of a full scale move to another site is the play to make, but is this in the best interests of the club?

The report published in the Daily Mail a few days ago states that: “Detailed plans are in place for a phased expansion of the Main Stand and then the Anfield Road stand. The work is expected to cost about £150 million, a huge saving on the estimated £400m that a new stadium in Stanley Park would cost, although an estimated £50m has been spent by the club on designs and planning for a new stadium.”

This was backed up even further by a Liverpool council spokesperson, who have worked with the club closely for years on how best to resolve not only Liverpool’s, but Everton’s future homes, had this to say on the matter, with an announcement thought to be imminent: “It does seem to be the case that the club have decided to stay at Anfield and that Liverpool officials are preparing to confirm the decision.” But is it the best move for the club?

Well the answer to that one, in the short-term at least, is an overwhelming yes. Match-day revenues at the club have long been a source of frustration by the hierarchy at the club and even though they are said to have made £1.5m from the game at the weekend at Anfield, Manchester United are set to bring in double that for the game at the 75, 765-seater stadium at Old Trafford. When you add that number up across the whole season, with league games alone, that comes to £38.5m that they are missing out on. The new site would see Anfield turned into a 60,000-seater stadium, up from the current 45,000, with 7,000 of those reserved for corporate seating at a cost of £150m.

It’s a sad indictment at the way the game is heading and at times these days supporters are treated more like customers rather than the life-blood of the club, but since football cross over from a sport into a fully-fledged entertainment business, the trend was bound to happen. There’s also the knowledge that if every other club is doing, particularly your rivals, why run the risk of falling further behind financially due to principle in a game that increasingly is starting to be run without it.

The breakthrough comes as the council’s director for regeneration Mark Kitts intimated that homes would be given “an open market valuation” – which he suggested could be upgraded to reflect an area in better condition – plus a 10% “home loss payment” and removal costs and matters are eased even further by the fact that the club will not have to negotiate directly with residents or buy their houses,with the council stepping in to perform an arbitrary role. The council has the option of applying for compulsory purchase powers which would force residents to sell, if necessary, but the added 10% bonus on top of many homes receiving as close to their market value as you’re likely to get in today’s economic climate appears to have smoothed things over to an extent.

Building a new stadium would be fraught with risks and most importantly, would have to comply with the strict Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules which are coming into effect at the start of next season and after nearly 15 years of stagnation over the issue, the time for a move appears to have passed. Getting this call right is a huge decision and one that could have repercussions on the club’s long-term future for decades to come and the sensible approach appears to be erring on the side of caution and maximising the current’ sites potential. Manchester United make on average from match-day income 108m per year, Arsenal 93m, Chelsea 67m while Liverpool bring up the rear on 40m, so a decision has to be made and soon, but it has to be the right one for the club going forward.

The club’s owner John W.Henry stated in a letter to The Anfield Wrap back in June: “A long-term myth has existed about the financial impact of a new stadium for Liverpool. Maybe it became a good reason for selling the club at one point. Whatever the reason, a belief has grown that Liverpool FC must have a new stadium to compete with United, Arsenal and others.  No one has ever addressed whether or not a new stadium is rational. New stadiums that are publicly financed make sense for clubs. I’ve never heard of a club turning down a publicly financed stadium. But privately carrying new stadiums is an enormous challenge. Arsenal is centered in a very wealthy city with a metropolitan population of approximately 14 million people. They did a tremendous job of carrying it off on a number of levels. But how many new football stadiums with more than 30,000 seats have been built in the UK over the past decade or so?  I’m sure every club would like to move to a new facility.

“Can Liverpool as a community afford Chelsea or Arsenal prices?  No.”It is often said that for Liverpool to compete in match-day revenue with United, Arsenal and Chelsea, we need a new stadium.  But you can see that the £50 or £60 million differences stem as much from revenue per seat as from the number of seats. Even if Liverpool were able to get to 60,000 seats, there would have to be an increase from £900 to £1550 in revenue per seat as well to catch Arsenal. “If Anfield yielded £1550 per seat, without adding seats, LFC match-day revenue would rise from £41M to £71M.  That would be the same as building a new stadium with 60,000 seats or increasing seating at Anfield and increasing revenue per seat to £1170.

“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. That would certainly help, but it’s just one component of LFC long-term fortunes. This will be principally driven financially by our commercial strengths globally.”

Henry appears to be that rare breed of owner in football that actually ‘get’s’ his local community to an extent. There’s simply no point in building a new stadium or ramping up ticket prices to such an extent that you alienate the community you purport to represent. There’s a clear difference in expendable income between London and Liverpool, so why try and pretend that it doesn’t exist in the first place? At the moment, Anfield may have increasingly become awash with what we shall politely call ‘tourist fans’, but that is what the 7,000 seats being created are for, while there will be an extra 8,000 for regular punters. On the face of it, it looks a decent compromise.

You sense that Henry is extremely mindful of tinkering too much with the ground at the risk of losing some of its famous atmosphere and while the process to get to this point may have been frustratingly slow at times, it at least looks like it’s heading towards a logical and fiscally-responsible conclusion.

It’s far from ideal and Henry’s words imply that there’s already a tacit acceptance that they will never be able to keep up with the match-day incomes of both Arsenal and Manchester United, but the club have improved immeasurably in marketing themselves to a worldwide audience and in truth, that’s where the real big bucks lie these days. Thankfully, it’s not quite another ‘spade in the ground’ moment, but it’s certainly in the best interests of the club in not only short, but also the long-term.

You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1

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  • chunky
    2 years ago

    No. You are wrong .

    Reply
    • Smoking gun
      2 years ago

      No, you are wrong!

      Reply
      • Kidda
        2 years ago

        No you are wrong!!!!!

        Reply
  • Mike
    2 years ago

    The Financial Fair Play rules are supposed to exclude any money spent on either expanding or building a stadium. After all the costs involved are excessive and yet do not directly and immediately benefit a team.
    It would be nice to stay at Anfield, though think of the revenue that is going to be lost while the current stands are being rebuilt! It would probably be better for the future of the club to build a new stadium, but really 60,000 seats is a suitable amount for at least another 15 years. United didn’t reach 76,000 overnight or during a single season.

    Reply
    • Al
      2 years ago

      Surely it’s possible to complete work over Summer? Work all day and night if they have to!!

      Reply
      • Bill
        2 years ago

        If they bring in American iron workers and Polish contractors then maybe.

        Reply
  • FAN OWNERSHIP NOW!
    2 years ago

    Henry is completely and utterly full of it.
    Martin Broughton was pretty clear on what he expected from new owners on a stadium.

    Henry will just wriggle and cost cut til we’ve got new rotters and charlatans abusing our club.
    Milking revenue, cutting costs, stripping assets and dodging investment

    Sad, sad times for all true reds.

    wearenotabrandliverpool.wordpress.com

    Reply
    • Al
      2 years ago

      Henry’s goal is to make as much money as possible. To do that the club needs to make as much money as possible and be winning things to be attractive to buyers.

      It’s not rocket science. A new stadium just doesn’t make sense.

      Reply
    • Ed
      2 years ago

      Liverpool FC must be made to pay its way. a 60000 seat stadium would be awesome, and I imagine once the first extension has taken place and property bought up, in the surrounding area, it will be easier and cheaper to expand in the future.

      Reply
  • Mr Peter
    2 years ago

    I think ‘ll be a good idea at least it ‘ll help the club and it owner to generate revenue, so let him expand anfield instead of building a new stadium.

    Reply
  • Aregbesola henry{ire ekiti,nigeria
    2 years ago

    The presure on suarez in england by d refs are becoming too much..it wil be beter to swap him for anoda world class striker in january transfer..and even add more..to boost d club moral..we want yesil and suso in action

    Reply
    • Bill
      2 years ago

      Idiot, what we need is EUAFA to jump on the FA from a great height, they can’t be allowed to continue favouring Manure over everyone else just because Old Red Nose says they should. not get rid of our best players.

      Reply
  • Herbie
    2 years ago

    Whatever the decision, I hope they consider the seating comfort of fans. At the moment it is uncomfortably tight sardine-like seating at Anfield for 90 minutes with hardly any leg room. Very, very unpleasant. American fans would never accept this or the food. Food services need to improve from greasy poor tasting cardiac and diabetes unhealthy foods to other healthy and varied options. Toilet services need to modernize and kept frequently clean. Plant a few medium size trees around the stadium where possible. Make the stadium an attractive, comfortable and pleasant place to visit. Don’t accept the low, embarrassing standards we now have. Don’t be disregarded. Be proud of Anfield when you and foreign supporters visit.

    Reply
  • Herbie
    2 years ago

    A new stadium please. Let’s shift the mindset for new ambitions. Let’s come up to date and stop clinging to the glorious past.

    Reply
    • Bill
      2 years ago

      Do you have £400,000000.00 going spare? Thought not, so belt up you clown. You are beginning to sound like one of that shower from over the park.

      Reply
  • dwesty
    2 years ago

    Spin, spin, spin.

    Like h&g, they never were going to build it. They are just cleverer when it comes to PR on the subject.

    Anfield is not Fenway Park. There’s no room around it and bugger all in it. Anyone over 6ft has to do origami with their legs to sit down and food facilities are an embarassment. Access in any form is crap and the proximity of residential homes to the stafium perimeter is grossly inappropriate to its current size- let alone after an extension.

    The new stadium (ideally the texan model with the big kop that cost the club a fortune to construct in YouTube) in the park is so obviously the ideal future of Liverpool Football Club- even if it takes 30 years to pay for itself!! Let all the increased commercial Income pay for on-pitch success.

    Problem is that such long-term investment makes no sense to people with a short to medium-term model.

    Leave Anfield alone please. If you can’t build LFC’s fine new stadium, just say so and drop the subject. One day some fucker will have the clout and the will to do so, and sinking in £150million now on a patch-up job won’t facilitate that.

    Reply