The crowning glory of Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s ill-fated takeover plan at Liverpool was the promise to relocate the club to a new ground in Stanley Park. Fast forward five years, and the plan for the ground remains just that, a plan. However that may be for the best in the short term, as the Reds look to improve their ailing form and establish, once more, a place in the UEFA Champions League.
The visions of the new 60,000 seater stadium excited fans upon their release in 2007, with its futuristic design seen as what could be a catalyst for the club to push on and become title challengers. However financial issues surrounding the American duo, and the Fenway Sports Group’s takeover have pushed the blueprints into the background.
Although this could be seen as a negative around the club, perhaps a few lessons should be learnt from Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium, as they looked to keep pace with Manchester United and the Roman Abramovich backed Chelsea. Anybody who has been to the North London club’s new home will testify of it’s quality, yet the economic implications have held the club back somewhat over the past few years. The project cost an initial £390 million, with a significant sum coming from bank loans, denting the clubs financial situation. The increased income created from a larger stadium will eventually see it fund itself, yet the short term impacts can have a negative effect on performance levels of the team. Although Arsenal’s issues may have stemmed from the end of the ‘golden generation’s’ reign, the failure to spend top dollar in replacing them was surely influenced by the budget adjustments caused by the stadium development.
To relate this to Liverpool, success in the short term is what is needed. There would be very little point in building a large ground, without top level European football. The club would more than likely fill the ground to a significant level through the season, such is the size of their loyal fan base, yet to maximise income the pull of Champions League football, and the increased level of revenue from gate receipts, would be needed. It’s clear to see that the club need to spend once more this summer, with a long term replacement for Steven Gerrard and a genuine goal-scorer top of Kenny Dalglish’s wish-list. Players of sufficient quality will likely cost in the region of £20-£25 million each, and with no big money sales looking likely, the investment, alongside any potential stadium plans would put a strain of the club’s bank balance.
As well as this, Anfield will always be the spiritual home of Liverpool, and a move from the site may result in a different atmosphere. I’m not saying that the fans will lose their passion, but there wouldn’t be that magical ambiance which is ever present at their current home. The ideal situation would be to extend the ground, which would be significantly cheaper than relocating, and will also keep the Anfield magic alive.
Eventually Liverpool will need a larger home, if they are to move up to the level of United, Arsenal, and Manchester City. However in the short term, the club need to establish on-field success, and the allocation of finances should be tailored toward this. Liverpool simply cannot spend another five or six years treading water.
Do the Reds need a new ground to keep pace? Or should they invest in the squad? Comment or follow @Alex_Hams to have your say
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