What's not to like about more seats at Anfield?
Photo: Rod Hull and Emu, CC BY-SA 4.0.
The last twenty years have seen a number of iconic English football grounds close their turnstiles for the last time, making way for state-of-the-art megastructures typical of the increasingly astronomical investments in the modern game.
The likes of Maine Road, White Hart Lane, Highbury, The Boleyn Ground, and even the old Wembley Stadium have now been condemned to the history books due to the openings of the City of Manchester Stadium (Etihad), Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, The Emirates Stadium, London Stadium, and the new Wembley respectively. Everton have also announced plans to relocate to a new site at Bramley-Moore Dock, leaving the historic Goodison Park behind.
Liverpool and Manchester United are examples of clubs who have opted to expand instead of rebuild, with the Red Devils adding a second tier to both the north-west and north-east quadrants of Old Trafford in 2006, and the Merseyside outfit transforming Anfield’s Main Stand in 2016.
This month, the Reds have announced that Liverpool Council’s planning committee had greenlit the club’s application to commence a £60million redevelopment of the Anfield Road stand, which will raise Anfield’s total capacity by a further 7,000 to 61,000. This would make the ground the third-largest in the Premier League, after only the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Old Trafford.
The development is scheduled to take around 18 months to complete and marks the third major upgrade to Liverpool’s infrastructure that owners Fenway Sports Group have invested in; following the previous aforementioned expansion and opening of the Kirkby Training Centre.
Included in the plans for the latest expansion is permission for the stadium to annually host up to six non-sporting events, as Anfield had previously been used for concerts by Take That, Bon Jovi, and Pink in 2019. The ground could also be utilised by overseas Gaelic and American football teams with the plans suggesting two-to-three such events could be hosted each year. This would allow Liverpool to provide competition to Tottenham Hotspur who currently are the only Premier League club to hold a deal with the NFL and its International Series.
The project’s application process consisted of two stages of consultation with local residents, businesses, stakeholders, and the wider fanbase in order to navigate and iron out concerns over the long-term impact on the immediate landscape and community. Some concerns remain over the effect of construction on nearby Stanley Park, and as such, the club has committed themselves via a statement to maintaining a clear line of correspondence with locals.
Liverpool’s injury woes last season revealed that Jurgen Klopp’s squad could benefit from added cover in a number of areas, and so fans could be forgiven for harbouring fears that the club renovating areas of the stadium will subtract from a much-needed transfer budget.
Early signs suggest that this is unlikely to be the case, with Liverpool acting quickly in the transfer market to secure the services of Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig for £36million. In the summer transfer window of 2015, the first since work had begun on Anfield’s Main Stand in late 2014, the club made nine signings totalling just under £70million. Amongst these arrivals were first-team names such as Joe Gomez, Roberto Firmino, Nathaniel Clyne, and Christian Benteke.
The financing behind the Main Stand expansion incorporated FSG taking out a £110million loan at a very low-interest rate, which ensured funds remained available for subsequent seasons. It is likely the American holding company will look to follow a similar mantra once again this year. As a result, fans should expect the Red’s transfer dealings to continue operating at business as usual.