By David Lynch
Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group have reaffirmed their commitment to redeveloping the club’s Anfield home.
The Reds’ lengthy battle with Liverpool city council over the necessary demolition of nearby housing appears have reached an amicable conclusion, though specific announcements regarding an increase in capacity will not be made until a later date.
And managing director Ian Ayre revealed Liverpool have been working closely with the council in order to reach a solution which will help regenerate the entire Anfield area.
He told the club’s official website: “I know a proposition of staying at Anfield has been looked at before, but fundamentally the difference is that for the first time ever all of the relevant parties are coming together for a common initiative and that common initiative is not for the needs of the football club but actually the needs of the community.
“The regeneration of Anfield is something that many residents and many people throughout the city have talked about and we all recognise the football club is an employer, a business, and a resident, to some extent, in this area.”
Ayre, who remained keen to insist that an Anfield stay is as yet not a certainty, also claimed that staying put was a more economically viable option than building a new stadium.
He added: “If you build a new stadium, for example, one of the big challenges is that, depending on the capacity, you build 15,000 or 16,000 new seats – you don’t get 60,000 new seats in a new stadium, you only get the difference.
“That makes it very difficult to make it viable because the cost of building such a big new stadium doesn’t work economically, particularly in this market, so one of the things we had to look at was the balance between that solution and a staying at Anfield type solution, and the work we’ve done on that showed us that as long as we could find the right solution to stay at Anfield and get through the barriers and hurdles that we needed, we would have to find the best long-term solution for the club that had sustainability and worked economically.”
The Anfield Road and Main Stand areas of the historic ground are believed to have been marked out for refurbishment, in order to bring the stadium’s capacity up to around 60,000 – in line with Liverpool’s rivals at the top end of the Premier League.
As explained by fan site The Anfield Wrap on Saturday, the Merseyside outfit hope to begin the restoration work in 2014.
The announcement brings an end links with a vacant plot of land on nearby Stanley Park, where the Reds had previously planned to build a new stadium for which plans have been written off at the cost of £35 million.
Principal owner John W Henry had repeatedly spoken of his desire to refurbish Anfield following FSG’s takeover – two years ago to the day – citing concern over the escalating cost of a new build for the relatively small reward of just 15,000 extra seats.
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