Liverpool set for delay over stadium

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Liverpool's move to a new 60,000-seater stadium could be further delayed if their prospective new owners proceed with plans to develop real estate and leisure opportunities on the club's historic Anfield home.

A newspaper report yesterday claimed that Dubai International Capital, the investment arm of the Dubai government which is close to completing a £450m takeover of Liverpool, will borrow £300m to finance the deal, is offering 30 per cent of their 90 per cent stake to City investors and plans to sell the club at a huge profit in seven years' time once it has maximised returns by developing "real estate/leisure" facilities "on the current Anfield site".

That final option, however, poses fundamental problems over the club's long-awaited move to a new stadium on Stanley Park. Liverpool City Council granted planning permission for the Stanley Park site, and allocated European funding towards the overall regeneration of the Anfield area, on the understanding that the club's existing home would be redeveloped as "Anfield Plaza", a scheme that currently includes some real estate and leisure developments but also a memorial to the victims of Hillsborough and those supporters who have had their ashes scattered inside the stadium.

It also includes gardens that will compensate for the loss of land the council has donated to Liverpool to enable the Stanley Park project to proceed.

"Anfield Plaza" was the result of lengthy consultations, and any attempt to revise the scheme at this late stage ­ with work scheduled to begin on the new stadium in the spring ­ will necessitate a fresh planning application on behalf of DIC and, by extension, cause further delays to the project.

But DIC's long-term strategy for Liverpool has not been finalised and sources close to the takeover were yesterday sceptical about the claims. A DIC source said: "DIC is a very serious investor with the ability to take a long-term view. DIC has not yet formally made an offer, never mind completed a deal.

"Certainly, there are no plans to exit an acquisition we have not even bought yet. What DIC is doing is planning to make sure that, if a deal is done, Liverpool has the best possible funding in place.

"This is also important in terms of making sure cash is available for the ongoing strengthening of the playing squad. Should DIC acquire the club, Liverpool will be well run, both on and off the pitch."