Liverpool's plans for a new stadium have suffered an embarrassing setback. The club's co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, have been forced to delay the project because they do not have the required funds.
Eighteen months after Gillett declared that work on the Stanley Park development would start within 60 days, Liverpool yesterday released a statement saying the delay had been caused by "global market conditions". The statement said that the club's commitment to move was "undiminished", yet it is likely to be another year before construction can start. Yesterday's news was a serious blow for supporters who have expressed concern at the direction in which Hicks and Gillett are taking the club.
Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benitez, declined to discuss the issue at his press conference ahead of tomorrow's game at Aston Villa, the Spaniard saying he was too busy preparing his side for the match. But Liverpool have accepted that they need to leave Anfield and move to a bigger stadium if they are to challenge the financial might of Manchester United and Arsenal.
Basic preparatory work began in Stanley Park several weeks ago, but persistent fears that construction would not get under way this year because Hicks and Gillett did not have the necessary finance in place have now been realised. In April, Hicks said in an interview that the credit crunch would have no effect on the stadium plans. The club have now set a revised completion date, in time for the 2012-13 season.
Liverpool say they will revisit the plans in order to ensure that if and when the stadium opens it will have a capacity of 73,000, rather than the 60,000 for which it currently has planning permission.
The club statement said: "Our commitment to building a new world-class Liverpool Football Club stadium is undiminished. Like many other major development projects in the UK and overseas we are affected by global market conditions and as such work on the project will be delayed in the short term. We will use this period productively and revisit the plans for the stadium to increase its capacity to 73,000 seats."
The credit crunch has not delayed the arrival of Albert Riera. The Espanyol midfielder flew in yesterday to finalise an £8.5m move. Benitez had turned his attention to the 26-year-old Spain player after failing to sign Gareth Barry, whom he had hoped to field in tomorrow's game.
Instead the England midfielder will be lining up against Liverpool after his agent confirmed earlier this week that his client would remain in the West Midlands. Benitez has been criticised by the Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, for his relentless pursuit of Barry and the Spaniard can expect a hostile reception at Villa Park.
"I talk with him [O'Neill] in April and I haven't spoken to him since then," said Benitez, who will have Javier Mascherano available. "Do I have a good relationship with [O'Neill]? I don't think so. If I have to say hello then I will say hello to him. I don't have any problem.
"My concern is to see my team playing well and if the other things can be good, then that's good. But if not, I will stay concentrated on my team. I don't know what the reaction will be from the Villa fans. But we were correct in what we did with the transfer."Reuse content