Thursday, 6 January 2011

Is a New Anfield the answer?

In 1884, Anfield stadium was opened in Liverpool. Eight years later, that stadium became the home of Liverpool Football Club.

Anfield, from between 1903-1906
For the last 119 years, the Reds of Merseyside still call the historic place their home. However, this could all end.

For nearly a decade now, Liverpool have considered demolishing the historic ground and moving their home across the street to Stanley Park to allow an expansion in seating.

The current Anfield was originally rented by Everton until 1892 when an argument over rent caused a rift in the club, splitting it into two: Everton and the newly formed Liverpool Football Club. Everton found a new home at Goodison Park while Liverpool stayed at the original home, situated between Anfield and Walton Breck Road.

Early Main Stand
 Although there have been several structural changes through the years, including changing the stadium to all-seated only rather than standing following the tragedy at Hillsborough in 1989, the feeling and history around Anfield is still the same.

The stadium has a capacity of 45,362. In addition to football matches, Anfield also hosts the LFC museum, a club store and more recently, a restaurant situated behind the Kop stand. There are several hospitality suites and meeting rooms that can be used at any time, not just during game time.

Anfield currently sits across the road from Stanley Park.

Anfield is currently only has a 4-star rating from UEFA. Because the capacity is lower than 50,000, then the stadium cannot be considered for hosting major football events. The pitch side accommodation for teams is considered inadequate.

A new Anfield at Stanley Park would boost seating capacity to 60,000. It also allows a chance for more businesses to be erected in the old area, including food and drink establishments and a hotel.

It could also prove beneficial to Liverpool as a city, as it prides itself on its sporting history, and the football clubs are considered to be some of the major tourist destinations. The potential of bringing in 15,000 more people into the city for games could have a great economic effect on the city in the long run.

Proposed design of New Anfield
 But would a move to a Grade II listed Historic Park be the right thing?

While Stanley Park has meant to provide a serene escape from busy life, it has gone downhill in recent years due to anti-social behaviour and vandalism. An increase of match goers could possibly contribute to even bigger increase in crime, litter, noise and light pollution in the park and the neighbouring historic Anfield Cemetery.

Groups such as Friends of Stanley Park are heavily opposed to the new stadium, citing that park goers will be reluctant to visit on match days and with more vehicle traffic, there is a serious risk to the serenity of the park. They also claim that the proposal of the move includes nothing about helping the park at all.

Residents living in the area expressed that the city has no right to sell a park that belongs to the people of Liverpool and that no other business would be allowed to operate within it, so Liverpool Football Club should be no exception. Also an increase of 15,000 fans is only going to contribute more to the suffering the residents already go through on match days.

Information and petitions on the potential detriment to the park and surrounding area have been available to residents. This includes websites such as “Save Our Stanley Park” and “Our Ground.”

Alternative sites have also been suggested by the council. The most sustainable area suggested is Speke Boulevard.

The area is large enough to accommodate such a magnificent structure. There is good access to the area by car or public transport. The residential area is a considerable distance away.

However this arguably takes away the historic spirit even more so than moving to Stanley Park would.

One of several proposed groundshare designs
 Another recent suggestion is a groundshare with Everton Football Club, who are also in need of a new stadium.

Although this idea is quickly dismissed by fans of both teams, some officials say in today’s economic times, the thought is not too crazy.

It is also suggested to keep the current Anfield. It has been restructured in the past to add a tier in the Centenery Stand, so it is believed that the whole stadium could undergo a similar revamp to provide more seating. The offices and other areas situated inside the stadium could also be redesigned to provide sufficient areas for staff and visitor. It is also said to save a lot of money, rather than creating a whole new 60,000 seater stadium at a new location.

Ex-Liverpool owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks promised a new stadium since council approved the plan in 2006, but angered Reds’ fans all over the world when they failed to deliver their promise and instead, put the club into debt. As of October 2010, Liverpool acquired new owners from America who fans are hoping will bring a new stadium. Although nothing has been said yet exactly about the future of Anfield, the owners have made it aware they are considering all options before acting.

Even with council's approval, Liverpool may not know right away the fate of Anfield, especially with the only recent transition of owners and managers, but fans have made it very clear they will not settle for how things are now for much longer.

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