Can Liverpool find an equilibrium between development & success?

Stanley Park

Following on from an article last week about a £100m investment into Liverpool and how the money might be used, I thought it might be interesting to talk about the pros and cons of prioritising the new ground over team affairs. Success on the pitch while building a new stadium is a difficult balancing act which can destabilise a club if it all goes wrong. Short-term plans seem to be sacrificed for long term progression when building a new home for a football club as all investment is channelled towards the building project while transfer funds are set at a minimum level for the club’s manager. Arsenal have been pretty sensible when building their new Emirates stadium and after construction was complete, chairman Peter Hill-Wood and the rest of the Arsenal board decided the best way forward for the club was to gradually pay back the debt accrued by building the stadium, and give Arsene Wenger a slightly more modest transfer kitty than he might have normally had. Perhaps if gate receipts had been directly invested into transfer funds, Wenger may have won his first Premier League title at the Emirates but long term stability may have been sacrificed for short term success in such a situation.

For Liverpool fans, such a predicament has been no more than a pipe dream in recent years. The new Anfield at Stanley Park has seemingly been further away than ever from being started. Promises from Hicks and Gillett over getting construction up and running quickly, never materialised, as investment in the project was not forthcoming from prospective parties. As I mentioned though, over the past few months both Hicks and Gillett have been seeking possible buyers who would take a big stake in the club. It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that many of these potential shareholders will want to get the new stadium project up and running for the club would not only be more profitable but also more marketable to sell in the long run.

So if there is a new investor into the club, should the money go towards a new stadium? We come back again to this conflict between long term progression and short term success. Which one is more important at the moment for the Merseyside club? It seems to me that short term considerations are the priority: investment in the team by providing transfer funds must be the immediate concern for the board. Eighth place in the table and out of the Champions League before Christmas, if no new investment is put in to the playing squad there may be a tremendous risk of missing out on a Champions League place. Missing out on the premier European competition may have detrimental consequences to the clubs finances and this should be clear to any investor coming to Anfield that short-term success on the pitch may determine the long term direction of the football club.

The Managing Director Christian Purslow in recent months has expressed the need for long term stability on the same lines of Arsenal:

Liverpool Football Club is on a long-term journey and that journey is to be the most successful club, firstly in our country and secondly in the world and you don’t do that by worrying about short-term results. You do that by having long-term plans centring on the people and the strategy.

If both the club owners and any new investor do subscribe to this strategy and put money into a new stadium rather than invest into transfers, the big problem they face is they risk missing out on a Champions League place and losing out on big profits which could be made from the European competition. Of course such talk of a new investor is entirely superfluous if it is all just speculation with no substance, but it is certainly an interesting quandary to ponder over the next month as Benitez struggles to find bargains and loan signings. A new investor is certainly needed but would he put money at the disposal of the Spanish manager anyway?