Si Steers discusses the importance of FSG making a decision on the new stadium, or redevelopment of Anfield, this year – before we are left behind by more of our rivals.
It has been the single biggest issue in the recent history of Liverpool Football Club. It has held the club back for a generation as politics and finances have all prevented the club from making any kind of progress; the only outputs being rhetoric and architect drawings.
Whilst our rivals have all been progressive in stadium strategy Liverpool are still looking at options. Of course, there have been mitigating factors. But after 12 months at the club I would expect FSG to be making an announcement on the stadium this year.
The reason the stadium solution is absolutely critical to the future of the club is simple economics. Every single season for each home game we are already losing £1m per game to United and Arsenal who both have stadiums fit for the 21st Century. In terms of capacity: Anfield is behind Old Trafford, the Emirates, City of Manchester Stadium, and even St James Park (Sports Direct Arena). Both Chelsea and Tottenham are both looking at stadium solutions; the longer we sit still, the further we will fall behind our rivals.
With financial fair play coming into force it is important that we secure revenue streams that are going to enable the club to be competitive on the pitch. We have done great work on our commercial strategy: with income increasing and lucrative sponsorship deals with Standard Chartered and Warrior.
But the critical challenge for the club is increasing match day revenue. Match day revenue is recurring revenue: it is money that the club is guaranteed. Sponsorship deals are a secure source of revenue, but they are contract driven and can fluctuate. Revenue that the club generates is the primary source of income.
To increase our match day revenue we have to get more bums on seats. There is little room for manoeuvre on ticket prices; so it is essential that we find a solution to get more people to games. The facilities at Anfield have been upgraded in recent times; but they still do not compare to those at new grounds.
Solution? Redevelop vs New Stadium
So what is the solution? I have a strong view: but it is tinged with my head ruling my heart. I love Anfield; I love the match day experience. The history at Anfield seeps out of the stadium. I get goose bumps walking up Walton Breck Road every time I approach Anfield. It has a magical, mystical aura and it is the very heart of the Club’s identity. Liverpool Football Club and Anfield are synonymous with each other.
AFL Design of potential new LFC stadium
I can understand why the Club hierarchy have looked at every single alternative of expanding and upgrading the current Anfield. The emotional pull of Anfield should be a key consideration in the stadium solution, but any solution has to be realistic, sustainable, and secure the long term future for Liverpool Football Club. I cannot see that an expansion of Anfield will deliver what the Club needs to progress in terms of infrastructure and capacity. There is also the question of regeneration: the residents of Anfield have been living under the shadow of a new stadium for over a decade.
I believe that the only solution is to build a new stadium in Stanley Park. A new 60,000 seat stadium with world class facilities will secure the future for the club for generations. It will provide the club with financial stability. And critically, it will increase the value of the club. That is the long term goal of FSG, increasing the value of the club. In fact, the sole reason Hicks and Gillette brought into Liverpool; and the reason they put such a ridiculous valuation on the club was based solely upon the stadium solution.
I believe that the stadium solution can be delivered for £250m. Brighton have just moved into the Amex; a fantastic new stadium that was built at the cost of circa £100m. For Liverpool to build a new stadium in Stanley Park a key factor will be securing a naming rights partner. This is perhaps the most sensitive topic of the stadium solution. Any Liverpool stadium will always be known by Kopites as Anfield. Liverpool is a club with such a unique identity: it has struggled more than most to make the cultural transition from football club to business. The issue of naming rights will need to be managed sensitively and sensibly.
If the club does eventually move from Anfield to Stanley Park I would want to see a permanent Liverpool presence on the Anfield site. Be it the club museum, or something else, I believe that Anfield should always be synonymous with Liverpool FC.
The stadium solution is one of the most emotive subjects in our history; but it is also critical to our future success. We have to get it right; we cannot afford to make a mistake. And we have to move quickly. Our future success is reliant on us being competitive financially; we can no longer guarantee CL football. We need to secure the future of the club, and the stadium solution is at the heart of that objective.
Staying at Anfield is another option. But with Chelsea and Tottenham looking at new stadiums, the longer we sit still, the further behind we will fall. Whatever the stadium solution; we need to find a way of keeping our identity intact and traditions that define the Club.
It is FSG’s biggest challenge, and if they can pull it off, they will have left a lasting legacy that will go beyond what happens on the pitch during their tenure.