By Kevin Koczwara
Liverpool FC needs to catch up with the times. It needs to start getting more revenue from its stadium to generate the kind of money it needs to compete in the Premier League, which has become a league run by money, let’s be honest. A new stadium won’t generate enough revenue to buy players or support the club, but Anfield needs to be made modern and needs to bring in more money for the owners to be able to compete on a higher level in the transfer market.
“Liverpool Football Club is an integral part of the Anfield area and will be an integral part, together with Your Housing and others, in actually shaping the future of Anfield,” Ayre told reporters today.
“This is an exciting opportunity for us, it really is. We’re talking about a regeneration scheme that is going to develop a new future for that area. It’s long overdue, but very much welcome.”
For years, the club has been looking at either building a new stadium in the city or redeveloping Anfield to support a modern crowd and modern facilities. Today, the club’s managing director Ian Ayre announced that Fenway Sports Group will look into building more seats and luxury boxes at Anfield as part of the regeneration process, which will require the team to buy homes in and around the stadium.
Ayre was joined by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, Mark Kitts and Ged Fitzgerald of Liverpool City Council and Kathy Cowell, chair of Your Housing for the announcement today. Ayre told reporters:
“Today represents a huge step forward for the Anfield area. I’d also like to congratulate Mayor Joe Anderson and his team at Liverpool City Council because I think it’s their vision and work that has brought this to a reality.
“We’re a business, we’re an employer, we’re a stakeholder and we’re a resident of Anfield. Everyone at the football club knows the importance of today and knows the importance of that area and how much regeneration means to it.
“We really welcome the opportunity to be part of this partnership. Having come together with Your Housing and Liverpool City Council over the last few years, we’ve made tremendous steps forward. I go on record as thanking Joe and his team for giving us the support they’ve given us to take – and make – the right decisions.
“Today represents literally to the day two years since Fenway Sports Group acquired Liverpool Football Club. In that time, we’ve been given the time – and taken the time – to consider all of the different options available to Liverpool Football Club. It’s about finding the right solution, it’s about finding the right viable solution and considering properly the potential of both options.
“We also this year celebrated our 120th year as Liverpool Football Club at Anfield. There is no question, Anfield is the spiritual home of Liverpool Football Club. Our fans around the world, both those who have been here and those who haven’t, recognise the importance of this great stadium. For many of them, they’ve had those life-changing experiences that they’ll never forget [at Anfield].
“It’s important for us to note that any preference we ever had was always to be and stay at Anfield. The opportunity to remain is clearly at the forefront of our plans and today’s vision and announcement, we feel, is a major step forward in that direction. It’s a major step forward for the football club, but more importantly for the residents.
“The work on his project has to provide a winning solution for everybody. Improving the quality of the housing and local environment will come from providing all of these different elements – and the football club is just one part of it.
“It is the first step forward and there are things like the successful acquisition of property and then the creation of the right planning consent and all of those things, so it is step one – but it’s a major step forward and I’m pleased to say we’ll take it together. We’ll take it with Joe and Liverpool City Council, we’ll take it with Your Housing and we’ll take it with the residents.
“The right solution is the right solution for everyone.”
When asked about if the club has been held back by the lack of progress made on the stadium project, Ayre was candid and said:
The game of football today is one driven by high finance. You don’t need me to tell you Manchester United, Arsenal and teams like this who have a greater capacity clearly have greater matchday revenue. It’s one of the two or three key revenue streams that drive any major football club these days and if you want to compete, then you have to have as full a pot from each of those contributing areas as possible. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always been focused on improving that and setting that straight, but it has to be done in the right way. As we found out only two years ago, getting decisions wrong around the finances of the football club can lead to a major problem. We had to take our time – and we were able to take our time because of the support we had.
According to Ayre, the Stanley Park project is off the table for now. “Stanley Park is off the table unless there isn’t a solution here,” Ayre told reporters. “We all believe there is a solution and we’re all working together to deliver that solution.”