New Stadium at Last for Liverpool FC?

Will news that Liverpool FC may be sold to more financially capable owners mean that the promised new stadium will finally be built?

Residents of Liverpool's L4 postcode will be hoping that the long-awaited new owners of Liverpool FC can bring an end to the saga of a new stadium for the club.

After promising "a spade in the ground" within 90 days of the start of their tenure, owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks decided instead to redraw the plans for a 55,000 stadium that had already been granted planning permission and European funding.

The main reason that funding had been granted was a huge range of associated regeneration projects that would directly impact as many as 20,000 households in the city, with a £500 million investment in commercial, leisure and retail developments in the area.

However, not happy with the size of the stadium and the financial returns it would bring relative to the size of the investment, the owners came up with proposals for a state of the art 72,000 all-seater stadium. The trouble was, they didn't have the money to build it. As the credit crunch hit and debt costs rose against falling asset values, it became impossible for them to borrow the money. And so the stadium plans hit the skids and the regeneration of L4 was put on hold.

With a capacity of around 45,000, the current stadium generates around a million pounds less in matchday revenue for each game than a full Old Trafford, the stadium of bitter rivals Manchester United. Though the club is closely intertwined with the local community, it is this commercial reality that is driving the club to expand the stadium capacity.

But questions remain about the viability of a new ground for Liverpool – will the construction debt prove too expensive? Would the ground be filled week in, week out? Would it be more economically viable sharing a stadium with Everton, the club who wants to move out of their own stadium just across the park where Liverpool hope to build their new one?

That the new owners will build a new ground for the old club is certainly not a foregone conclusion and fans may have to wait for other options to be explored before a decision is made.

The matter has been conspicuously absent from statements made overnight and this morning by the club's hierarchy – it would be reasonable to expect that if a new stadium was part of the deal package, it would have been mentioned by now.

And if the deal is pushed through, the new owners would bring with them a track record of reinvestment, rather than rebuilding from scratch. That is exactly what John W Henry did at the Boston Red Sox, shortly after he took over the baseball team in 2002. If the same approach were to be taken with Anfield, this may leave local residents waiting a lot longer for the regeneration of L4.

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