Anfield has been the home of Liverpool FC since 1892, but even with the addition of the new Main Stand, the capacity is not enough.
Thanks to @MattAddison97 for this guest post ✔️
News broke within the last fortnight that the cousin of Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour, who bought the Premier League champions in 2008, had been knocked back with a £2 billion bid for Liverpool FC earlier this year.
According to Adam Crafton and Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail, Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nehayan was keen to acquire the Reds from US owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG), but was told in no uncertain terms that the club were not for sale.
Liverpool insist any discussions ended in January; despite a price being mooted that would have become a world-record sale for a football club, FSG are said to be happy to continue their Merseyside project and are not looking to sell up.
The ownership group, though, who bought Liverpool in 2010, are open to a minority investment that would allow them to get closer to competing with the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United in economic terms, whose owner’s wealth far outstrips that of the Americans.
Moves to sell naming rights on Liverpool’s Main Stand have so far proved unsuccessful, with the club unprepared to change Anfield’s name entirely, and there have been rumours of Chinese investment within the last twelve months, ultimately to no avail.
Liverpool were able to invest hugely in the transfer market this summer, signing Naby Keita, Fabinho, Alisson Becker and Xherdan Shaqiri for a combined price of around £170 million, but that was offset by the sale of Philippe Coutinho for £142 million in January.
The club’s proposal of using Anfield for other sporting events during the close season, which would have brought in additional revenue, was rejected by Liverpool City Council following concerns from local residents. A second application – for concerts to take place at Anfield – has been deferred.
The proposition was for around ten concerts per year to take place plus other sports such as boxing and American football, making Anfield a year-round destination, using it to its full potential.
While neither decision is absolutely final, with new applications set to go in, the plans have at least been delayed.
With no new financial might coming in, and no further news on Anfield being further redeveloped, Liverpool’s most significant infrastructural issue is no closer to being solved.
FSG have already put forward plans to move Liverpool’s training ground to the Academy site, creating one large facility for all age groups to work from as part of their continued investment in the club’s infrastructure, with that project unlikely to be finished before 2021.
The area immediately around Anfield has also been transformed thanks to the new Main Stand which added around 8,500 seats to the historic stadium.
The next step in that pursuit of infrastructural development, though,is to revisit Anfield and expand further, with the Anfield Road End the most likely point at which to develop. The Kop is deemed off-limits due to the road behind it, while the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand is still relatively new.
The reaction to the new investment rumours among Liverpool fans – who responded by showing no desire to see the back of FSG despite the potentially significant financial backing on offer – showed how the current owners are now viewed, but fail to add to Anfield’s capacity and it would feel like something was missing from their tenure when the time does come for them to depart.
On the pitch, the evolvement of the playing staff is a never-ending cycle that will never fully finish, but complete the stadium to a level where ticket demand is more reasonably met and continue with the training facilities, and there will be nothing else left to tick off on FSG’s off-field to-do list.
In terms of infrastructure, making Anfield truly world-class and of an appropriate capacity would be the final piece in the jigsaw in terms of what could fairly be expected.
Expanding Anfield has been on the agenda for years – Liverpool would definitely sell out for every league and Champions League fixture – and now is the time to make an important decision on what to do next.
Tottenham and Everton are both pressing ahead with new stadium projects that will see them reach respective capacities of 62,000 and 55,000, while Chelsea were expected to remake Stamford Bridge into a 60,000-seater venue before – according to football expert Rob Wilson – Brexit increased costs and a delay was imposed.
Manchester City already have a capacity of more than 55,000 at the Etihad Stadium, while Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium is slightly larger at around 60,000 and Manchester United’s Old Trafford holds about 75,000.
If the aforementioned stadia in the pipeline get finished as is likely and Liverpool do not react, a club with one of the biggest demands for tickets in the world, and a season ticket waiting list up to two decades long, would have the smallest stadium of the top-seven Premier League clubs.
If Liverpool really are a club that aspires to be the best in every possible way, their stadium should be no different; a situation where FSG would have unfinished business must be avoided.
Regardless of whether or not the owners can find additional investment to combine with their own, investing further into Anfield is crucial.
Only the club know how long it would take to repay the sum needed for expansion, but more seats means higher matchday revenue, with Liverpool some way behind the other top clubs in that regard, and would add to the overall asset value of the football club. When it comes to FSG selling, an Anfield with a capacity more befitting of the demand would massively add to the club’s value.
According to football finance expert Kieran Maguire at the University of Liverpool, speaking to the Liverpool ECHO, Manchester United generate £110 million per year from matchday revenue, Arsenal generate £100 million, and Liverpool are somewhere between £60-70 million. For Liverpool to reach the heights that FSG aspire to – with revenues allowing for increased investment in the squad, and therefore more chance of tangible, on-field success – that has to change.
The Main Stand was expected to take around 15 years to repay the money invested, and with little opportunity for corporate seats, the Anfield Road End would likely take longer to bear fruit. Even so, it is the next logical step to take.
For all the good that FSG have done, failure to address this lingering problem would leave a significant chunk missing from their legacy. Perhaps even more importantly for them, it would limit the worth of their resale value.