The articles regarding the dilemma facing FSG with regards to either redeveloping Anfield or going for an entirely new stadium for the Reds generated a substantial amount of interest and we were very happy to see such a wholehearted reaction from both trains of thought. We had over 1400 voters in the poll which Antoine was reactive enough to upload and the final result saw those wanting the Reds to remain at Anfield (thus a redevelopment of the present facilities) ahead with almost 66% of the votes cast.
Although there were many issues brought to bear in taking sides on the matter, it seemed evident that those in favour of an Anfield stay do so by accepting an increase in capacity to 60,000 and a general modernization of facilities, in an effort to maintain the legacy and heritage, while those in favour of a new stadium claim that this solution would probably cost less. The latter consistently pushed for a 70,000 to 80,000 capacity stadium (some even pushing towards the 90,000 seater mark), more often than not claiming that this would be the only way to contrast both Man Utd and Arsenal.
Objectively gate sales are an important source of income at any club, and with internet sources claiming that Liverpool currently make around Stg 43 million per season, the same sources say that Man Utd and Arsenal manage to net almost double that sum. There again we need to combined the right balance between gate sales, capital expenditure to turn the dream into reality, and shrewdness in transfer market and players salaries.
With regards to policies Clubs have adopted with their stadia, I wish to make the following three examples:
Man Utd – Old Trafford
Built in 1909, Man Utd’s home is the largest capacity stadium in the PL at 76,000 seated capacity. Notwithstanding the fact that it was originally designed for an 80,000 crowd, it’s amazing how restructuring (most of which done in the 90’s) managed to maintain almost the same capacity even though new football rules called for all spectators to be seated. The most recent important restructure was an additional 8,000 seats between 2005 and 2006 and plans are in place for a rebuild of the South Stand (currently single tier) which will bring the total capacity just over the 90,000 mark.
Arsenal – Highbury/Emirates
Construction of the new Emirates Stadium which was completed in 2006 cost around Stg 390 million! This substantial investment has and is being recouped with the sale of the naming rights (Emirates paid Stg 100 million on a 15 year deal on naming rights), the redevelopment of Highbury, and the obvious injection of gate sales that jumped from 38,000 to 60,300 spectators which meant an average of 20,000 spectators per home game. It’s hard to see the current design to allow an increase in capacity, at least not in the foreseeable future. Arguably, Arsenal had enough data and knowledge to know that this was the capacity needed so they did not go mega.
Juventus – Delle Alpi/Juventus Arena
Talking about big Clubs, this time moving momentarily to the Serie A, Juventus will inaugurate a new stadium come next season. Juventus demolished the 69,000 capacity Stadio delle Alpi and are rebuilding a new complex on the English model with a maximum capacity of 41,000! This when Clubs like Inter, Ac Milan, Roma, Lazio and Napoli have stadium at close to 80,000 capacity plus per home game! But then some would say, that is Serie A, and this is the Premier League, and stadium attendance in Italy is amongst the lowest amongst Europe’s elite. The cost is estimated at Euro 105 million. It is very likely that Juventus will sign a naming rights agreement and recoup a substantial part of the capital outlay.
The above three examples bring to the table three solutions that FSG will ponder on and ultimately adopt when they take the final decision (pending approval from the City of Liverpool). Restructure, build from scratch, knock it down and rebuild it. In the end, it will all boil down to economics with the preservation of legacy and heritage being very high on the agenda.