New Anfield: The case for redevelopment

Chairman Martin Broughton has confirmed that the potential new owners of the club, NESV, have committed to develop a 60,000 seater stadium for Liverpool FC.

“Where they haven’t finalised their view is whether that should be the new stadium or whether there are still opportunities to build at Anfield itself,” explained Broughton.

“They have done both. The people involved have built the new stadium at Baltimore Orioles, for example, and at Fenway Park they looked at the two options and decided that actually redevelopment with all of the tradition was better than a new stadium.

“They are committed to looking at both very professionally and seeing which is the best option.”

Some reports suggest NESV favour remaining at and redeveloping Anfield.

The situation with Liverpool parallels the situation John Henry and NESV inherited when they purchased the Boston Red Sox in 2002. The Red Sox already had plans in place for a new stadium, just as Liverpool do now, but in 2005 NESV announced that the team would remain at their iconic Fenway Park and the stadium would be modernised.

NESV’s decision was largely influenced by supporter opinion, with several fan groups opposing a move from their historic home. Fenway Park is now the oldest stadium in Major League Baseball.

The difference with Liverpool is that supporters realise the need for a new stadium in order to compete with the likes of Man United and Arsenal financially.

However, various suggestions have been made as to how Liverpool could increase their capacity while remaining at Anfield. The Club looked into these plans exhaustively during the 1990’s and in more recent years have successfully purchased the houses surrounding the current stadium, notably on Anfield Road (now demolished) and behind the Main Stand.

So, what if it were possible to remain at Anfield and raise the capacity to around 60,000 seats?

The current Anfield capacity is 45,000, with The Kop housing 12,390, the Centenary Stand 11,411 and the Anfield Road End holds 9,116 (all redeveloped in the nineties). The Main Stand and Paddock holds 12,277 combined. This is the oldest stand and the obvious place to begin any redevelopment.

Some excellent designs as the SkyScraperCity website proposed adding a third tier to the Centenary Stand, adding approximately 4,200 seats, and redeveloping the Main Stand to add 9,000 seats and bring the overall capacity to around 58,000.

Alternatively, some people have suggested rebuilding the Anfield Road Stand, which has been criticised since it’s opening in 1998, with pillars and an obstructed view from the lower tier. With the purchase of the houses behind the stand, could it be possible to build a larger stand at that end with the stand spanning over Anfield Road itself. This is something that Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon Stadium features so is possible. This could bring the overall potential new capacity to around 62,000.

The main argument with redeveloping Anfield has been the loss of capacity while work is being carried out, and the subsequent financial loss from gate revenue. However, surely if money is being saved by not building a completely new stadium this becomes a non-issue. Obviously the decreased capacity remains an issue though.

However, if work is carried out in a logical manner, there can be limited disruption to the overall capacity. For instance, a third tier can be added to the Centenary Stand without disrupting the capacity. This would add around 4,000 seats. Next the Anfield Road End can begin work over the summer and could even be complete in time for a new season, thus making the overall capacity to well over 40,000 even without the Main Stand, which can begin work over the summer also and be completed during the season. So the overall capacity would never be below 40,000.

Another stumbling block often discussed with this notion is that the maximum capacity would then be stuck at around 60,000 but I see no reason why that is not adequate. Arsenal‘s Emirates is the same capacity for instance.

Could it work? I’m no expert on stadium construction but I see no reason why it can’t as all the above ideas have been successfully implemented elsewhere.

I personally would always prefer to remain at Anfield. You cannot recreate the history and heritage the stadium has. Anfield is possibly the most iconic fan stadia in the world, if there were a way to keep that then it must be done.

Something for the new owners, and supporters, to ponder, perhaps?

Of course, it would also mean not sharing a ground with the Bitters!

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