At Anfield it doesn’t rain, it pours. Resuming the season’s theme of gloom and misery upon the red half of Merseyside, news has emerged that Liverpool’s plans for a new stadium in Stanley Park are dangerously close to extinction. It’s been revealed that the club’s much-maligned owners, Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett, have failed to secure the £300k annual lease needed to build upon the site. The club must secure the lease before the expiry of planning permission in September 2011, or they will face the long and arduous task of re-securing planning permission and the lease after this date.
Heralded as the catalyst for a new era of success, the construction of the long-anticipated new 60,000 seater-stadium was one of the many promises put forth by the American duo upon their arrival at Anfield. With Liverpool now slipping dangerously far behind rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, can the club afford to delay the construction of the ‘new Anfield’ yet again?
It is common knowledge that Liverpool currently find themselves in a messy financial situation. Irrespective of the nouveau riche wealth of Chelsea and Manchester City, the club trail behind Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the financial stakes. In the modern game it’s all too evident that money breeds success; Chelsea’s back-to-back Premier League triumphs of 2004/05 and 2005/06 and Manchester City’s meteoric rise to the upper echelons of the Premier League are illustrative of this point. In the absence of a wealthy benefactor as such, a competitive and healthy flow of income is best procured through match-day revenue.
Undoubtedly one of the top two clubs in England in terms of fan base, it appears that Liverpool are missing a trick by failing to capitalise upon this level of support. It’s clear that a club with the stature of Liverpool requires a stadium that can house more than 45,000 (the current capacity of Anfield). Over the course of a season, figures reveal that Liverpool generate £50m less in match-day revenue than both Manchester United and Arsenal, with Dan Jones, partner for Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, telling The Bleacher Report that “Liverpool [make] £42.5 million in match-day revenue whilst Manchester United and Arsenal—with their bigger stadium capacity—[make] more than £100 million.” This discrepancy in match-day revenue is directly attributable to the capacity of Anfield being dwarfed by those of Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium.
This staggering difference highlights the extent of the differing playing fields the clubs compete upon financially. Whilst Arsene Wenger’s purist policies prevent Arsenal from doing so, this level of revenue generated allows Manchester United and Arsenal to splash the cash on the world-class players needed to compete at the highest level.
With the passing of every single home game, Liverpool are losing financial ground on their top-flight rivals. What’s equally as worrying for Liverpool is that the pretenders to the top-four clubs are catching up fast, with Manchester City, Spurs and Aston Villa all making massive strides over the last couple of seasons. With Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard both making calls for Liverpool to sign more world-class players, the pressure really is on Liverpool’s hierarchy to stump up the cash needed for the club to progress and regain their top-four berth. Unless the club can start work on their new ground soon, it seems that the above scenario will be unlikely and that this season’s blip may turn into a full-scale terminal decline.
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zarifrasul