Liverpool reveal plans to redevelop Anfield into 60,000 seat stadium
Liverpool have formally declared their preference to redevelop their existing home, Anfield, rather than build a new stadium elsewhere.
The 18-time league champions have been looking at possible solutions for increasing match-day revenue for a decade, with plans for a new stadium in Stanley Park released under the former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
But on the the two-year anniversary of current owners Fenway Sports Group buying the club, it has been made clear that the intention is to redevelop their home since 1892 instead.
It comes off the back of Liverpool City Council announcing extensive plans for a regeneration of the Anfield area having secured a £25m grant with a housing association set to also invest heavily.
"Today represents a huge step forward for the Anfield area. Everyone at the football club knows the importance of today," managing director Ian Ayre told reporters at a press conference at Liverpool Town Hall this morning.
"We welcome the opportunity to be part of this partnership - we want to thank Joe Anderson (mayor of Liverpool) and the council for the time and the support they've given us to help make the right decision.
"LFC celebrated its 120th year in 2012 at Anfield and there is no doubt Anfield is the spiritual home of the club - our preference was always to remain at Anfield.
"This is a major step forward for the football club but more importantly the residents.
"This is step one as there is land to acquire, plans to be approved etc, but this is a significant moment."
Anfield's current capacity of 45,000 is expected to be boosted to 60,000 although Ayre was coy over the specific plans.
"Questions about capacity and cost are not for today - not until we have certainty."
Redevelopment is likely to see major improvements to, and extensions of, the main stand and the Anfield Road end although that is all subject to planning permission, which has been made possible by the regeneration plans to clear some streets close to the ground, and the support of homeowners and the community.
However, redevelopment is entirely dependent on being able to get the necessary permissions to carry out the work the club want - which means a new-build on Stanley Park cannot be conclusively consigned to the wastebin until those have been secured.
The decision to redevelop Anfield rather than build a new stadium, which would have cost in the region of £300m, would appear to be financially motivated.
"If you build a new stadium, for example, one of the big challenges is that, depending on the capacity, you build 15,000 or 16,000 new seats - you don't get 60,000 new seats in a new stadium, you only get the difference," Ayr told liverpoolfc.com.
"That makes it very difficult to make it viable because the cost of building such a big new stadium doesn't work economically, particularly in this market, so one of the things we had to look at was the balance between that solution and a staying at Anfield type solution, and the work we've done on that showed us that as long as we could find the right solution to stay at Anfield and get through the barriers and hurdles that we needed, we would have to find the best long-term solution for the club that had sustainability and worked economically."
Ayre also said the views of the fans were crucial to reaching today's decision.
"I think this is the spiritual home of Liverpool Football Club. Football fans, both Liverpool fans and fans of other clubs, will have had some of the most amazing memories of their time supporting the club and coming to Anfield at this stadium.
"We've had some of the greatest triumphs in our history here, so it makes sense if there's a right solution that this is the place we should continue to play our football."
Some will question how it has taken so long for the club to arrive at this decision, although Ayre has defended the timescale.
"I think the important factor there is that today is actually the two-year anniversary since the purchase of the football club by Fenway Sports Group.
"That's an important point to make because in reality the team of people have been looking at this solution for two years. I think the process and the progress we have made in those two years is actually phenomenal, really, in the timescales for such a major proposition as an expansion of Anfield or a new stadium.
"That doesn't detract from the 10 years that people have had to wait, but I think it puts into perspective the hard work that's gone to reach the decision today."
Should Anfield's capacity be increased to 60,000 it will make it the joint second largest in the Premier League alongside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. Manchester United's Old Trafford has the highest capacity at 76,200.
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