Staffing constraints usually keep me from covering European stadium campaigns, but it’s tough to ignore the news out of Liverpool, where the owners of Liverpool FC are likely abandoning plans to expand Anfield, the site where they’ve played for the last 119 years, and instead will likely look to build a new stadium in a nearby public park.
Making things especially interesting is that Liverpool is owned by the Fenway Sports Group, aka Boston Red Sox owner John Henry. And while Henry initially said he would prefer a Fenway-style rehab of Anfield, team exec Ian Ayre now says that’s unlikely to happen:
“Land/property acquisition, environmental and statutory issues are creating barriers to our ambition.
“It looks increasingly unlikely there is any way we can move forward on a refurbishment of Anfield.”…
“In terms of a Stanley Park stadium versus redevelopment, there is absolutely no question that a refurbishment of Anfield would come at a significantly lower cost than a new build.
“It’s disappointing that based on where we are at the moment, we seem to be unable to press on with the more viable economic option of a refurbishment, but we remain committed to finding the best possible long-term solution.”
So if rebuilding is cheaper and the owners want to do it, what’s the holdup? FoS correspondent David Dyte helpfully provides aerial evidence:
Note the housing surrounding the current stadium, and the relative wide open spaces of Stanley Park to the north. David observes that “‘statutory obstacles’ sounds like code for ’eminent domain is a pain in the ass in England’ to me,” and it looks like he’s correct, more or less: A report in the Independent notes that Liverpool was looking at buying up properties around Anfield for an expansion, but that the club balked at requirements that they compensate local residents through a community benefits agreement, known in the UK as a Section 106 Agreement.
Liverpool city council leader Joe Anderson has now lashed back at Henry’s team yesterday, declaring:
“You can’t build something right next to someone’s house that blocks daylight — whether Liverpool FC like it or not. That is something that exists. It existed 10 years ago when they were talking about it then, and it exists today.
“They are not our rules, they are national legal requirements. We will do everything we can to assist Liverpool FC and help them. … There is a cost in redeveloping Anfield, they may have to wait three years before they can start. Even if it gets planning permission, that does not mean that people can’t appeal. People have rights. They have to be able to object and there has to be a strong regeneration argument. You can’t just move people out of their houses because you want a [redeveloped] stadium. There have to be wider benefits to the area, that includes jobs and the environment.”