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So Liverpool FC won't be rushed over stadium decision?

Take your time, Mr Ayre, it's only communities at stake, says Larry Neild

Written by . Published on July 18th 2011.

So Liverpool FC won't be rushed over stadium decision?

SHOULD City Council Leader Joe Anderson show Liverpool FC the red card over its  "should we, shouldn’t we" stadium dither?

Anfield – not the ground, I mean the community – is crying out for regeneration and has been desperately waiting for action since the last century.

'I wonder how many other private
businesses would be allowed to have
such a hold on a city or a community'

After all, how many players or club executives reside within ball-kicking distance of the stadium?

Yet the club’s managing director, Ian Ayre, Kirkdale born, says the club will not be rushed into a decision on their stadium.

It would not, he said in an interview, bow to pressure and make a snap decision for the wrong reasons.

Ian AyreIan AyreTake your time Mr Ayre, I’m sure the people of north Liverpool are most content with living in an area of dereliction, closed-down shops and shuttered housing.

When planning permission for a project is granted, government rules impose a time frame, usually insisting on work starting within three years. The purpose of such a planning condition is to prevent blight in a particular community. There’s a time limit on the council offer to release Stanley Park, due to expire soon as well.

Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent on drawing up plans for a new theatre of footballing dreams, a world class stadium on Stanley Park as a new home for the Reds.

I was writing stories about Liverpool FC’s stadium aspirations in the 1990s as the area gradually crumbled. Some years before that the club embarked on a massive house buying programme, snapping up as many dwellings as possible to extend the club.

Once lively community streets became a car park, and other houses were bulldozed to make way for the Century Stand. I remember the many stories of the two sisters who, for years, held up the expansion plans by refusing to sell their home.

The public consultation exercises, with plans for an Anfield Plaza on the site of the existing ground, all seemed to point to a long standing issue being resolved.

The drawingsThe drawingsThe problem for Joe Anderson and his councillors is that the existence of Liverpool FC cannot be ignored.  Renewal and regeneration cannot be properly executed without the support and co-operation of what is after all a money-making, private company.

I wonder how many other private businesses would be allowed to have such a hold on a city or a community.

It seems Liverpool FC wants to extend Anfield to cram in more people, a pleasing prospect for the club’s directors.

Ayre appears to be suggesting building a brand new stadium to increase the capacity does not stack up in the medium term. Is an investment of around £400m for a brand new stadium worth  paying when the actual capacity will only be increased by around 15,000, assuming a 60,000-seater?

For a slice of that, Anfield could add extensions to the existing stadium and rake in the extra revenue at a fraction of the cost. Problem is the little question of the folk who live in the surrounding streets who would be plunged into a twilight zone where the sun never shines, should Anfield be made bigger.

The solution is simple. The city council should ask the local community what it wants, what timetable it wants and send the answers to Mr Ayre and his colleagues.

Liverpool FC is vitally important to Liverpool (I think!), but that does not give the club the right play the game on its terms.  

What we need is a special select scrutiny committee made up of councillors who support neither Liverpool nor Everton, and who have never accepted hospitality courtesy of the clubs, to  examine the issues and issue a public report.  

Living in limboLiving in limboEven the fans’ action group, Spirit of Shankly, want Liverpool FC to be more open and transparent.

Spirit of Shankly is concerned that Liverpool FC does not communicate with fans or local people. That, though, is the point. The club is a privately-owned company whose responsibility is more to shareholders than the fans, let alone its next door neighbours.

I hope Joe Anderson lays down a realistic time-table with the message that the people of this historic community have waited long enough.

Time is running out, and, for the residents of blighted communities, there is no such thing as extra time.

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11 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Paul HerrerJuly 18th 2011.

I doubt anybody will say boo to LFC. The burghers of small towns would never dare stand up to big business, as reflected nationally. Politicians have no say in how things are run. The people of Anfield are completely at the mercy of the club and it will always be thus.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2011.

Paul Herrer makes a good point. Which is why the City Councillors should lay down the law to Mr Ayre and his LFC board. Let's face it, if LFC moved away from Anfield it would'nt make any impact on employment levels in that area. It is as though the club feels the occupants of the terraced streets are the problem, getting in the way of what they want to do. The people of Anfield should be marching on the town hall to get councillors to act.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2011.

I find this article to be deeply unfair and unreasonable to the new owners, FSG.

The article completely neglects to take into account the change of ownership, which occurred less than a year ago, and speaks as if they club had been in the same hands for years, when what has been happening is their promised 'due diligence' in order to fully review the old plans of the previous owners, and the stadium situation they have inherited - whilst also performing what some seem to think is the club's side-line of English Premiership Football.

The issues and the process of planning permission in England and Wales, especially in a residential area, will literally be foreign to the American owners: Give them a break!

Some may recall that with the recent demolition of some housing in Anfield Road, the concept of refurbishing Anfield, thought dead, may have still been alive. However, what we are now hearing is that this was not enough to significantly change pre-existing issues.

Surely you can see that FSG needed to take the time to obtain professional advice to find that out? You are having a go at them for doing what they said they would, and for being thorough!

FSG have ensured that they have considered all the options in the matter of months since they have taken over, but have been forced to concede that a refurbishment is going to be very difficult to do; and so unpredictable to predict what will happen and the costs that will be incurred, that perhaps it is not worth the risk of spending millions on such plans which could still be refused due to potential objections raised by local residents, over the likes of "right to light", which it may not be possible or practical to avoid running up against with any expansion plan. That scenario would leave the club back at square one, but a few years later, and who knows how much money lighter.

Residents themselves will not know if they are affected and if they have grounds to object, until there is a planning application put in to consider and perhaps then object to.

People do also move away, so a potential objector now may move home and be replaced with some one who would not - or vice versa - so for this sort of reason, having a consultation far in advance of a project becomes a waste of time and money due to circumstances changing between such times that make the consultation invalid and out of date.

So don't you have this consultation issue arse about face? After all, how can you consult the community and have more" transparency", or even object to something, that does not exist, even in blueprint form?

You don't have a consultation before 'the plan', because you don't know who to 'consult' or inform, nor can you work out who would or might be affected by it - and therefore who has a right to have a say or raise an objection.

Indeed, who could have such a right if the site is to be Stanley Park? The ducks?

Why should the people at No 17 have a say if their property is unaffected? Why waste time with them, when it is the people living at No 15 who may have an issue?

Potentially affected local residents already have the right to be heard, and to object, in accordance with the planning application process, which the Local Authority is there to protect, not ignore.

So, until FSG completes its review of the options - which these recent statements would indicate they are close to doing - then there is nothing tangible to consult or to have transparency over.

I'm sure this "pressure" that Ian Ayre refers to is coming from the Spirit of Shankly, who want people to think that Spirit of Shankly has a right to be involved at this, or any stage, and think that they represent the local community, when neither of those things is true.

Any lack of transparency is down to the fog that Spirit of Shankly have created, in trying to have us believe that there are things to be 'negotiated', as opposed to laws and regulations to be complied with, and things to be 'consulted' over, when we cannot yet tell exactly who could or should be involved with any such.

Of course Spirit of Shankly will represent you over this, regardless of whether or not you have any right to a say in the matter, or even regardless of whether you are a Liverpool supporter or not (there are Evertonians living within spitting distance of Anfield, you know) - all of course for the mere cost of a membership fee.

Yes, Spirit of Shankly will take your membership fee and represent you before we even know if the current site of Anfield, or the new site of Stanley Park, will be chosen - oh, and as well before Spirit of Shankly will admit that the only way for them to be involved is to con local residents into believing that they need their representation over some non-existent issue, such as the transparency of, or the consultation over, stadium plans, before they exist in any form, let alone in a presentable form that a layman can consider.

David MurphyJuly 19th 2011.

I would turn the question back on you and ask ''How many private companies have to consider the surrounding area when planning the future of their businesses?''

1 Response: Reply To This...
YoumailgJuly 19th 2011.

...all of them if they are cheek by jowl with residential streets and are proposing a sudden massive expansion of their current site I would think...isn't that why they are struggling for a workable solution because they are planning laws, all businesses would face these issues...the question is would they all have taken so long to resolve them?

As a lifelong Liverpool fan but one born and brought up in Anfield, spending every other Saturday shouting "Mind yer car mister?" and always trying to cadge autographs/catch glimpses as the team were dropped back at Anfield from training, it was the 70's, I was heartbroken when I took my partner back a couple of years ago to show her where I grew up... I was also ashamed.

My partner grew up under Soviet rule behind the Iron Curtain in a small town in Hungary but she thought Anfield was a disgrace, so many derelict buildings and boarded-up shops that she actually felt sorry for me thinking that's what I'd grown up with!

I tried to explain that it wasn't always like that... that when I was a kid there it was a really lively, warm community, and one that was generally really proud of the assosciation with LFC... but then she asked if that was the case how had it turned to this?

The truth was I couldn't really give her a proper answer... as it should never have been allowed to happen, nothing to do with all the club's troubles over the past two decades can justify the slow strangulation of the surrounding area and the lives of those in it.

I was lucky, I didn't grow up with that but other kids since have done so, and are having to do so now.

To my mind, and with no disrespect meant to anyone else, it should be regarded as the club's third great tragedy.

The new owners should obviously be given SOME time, they have inherited this mess just as much as the local kids have, but they don't have to live in it every day.

The club has to face up to the destruction being wrought and act accordingly.

As part of our trip my partner and I then went into the ground, we have a photo of us in the trophy room at Anfield with "Ol' Big Ears".... I felt like that 10-year-old kid again, it was just like the old days.... until we stepped back outside.

Paul HerrerJuly 19th 2011.

And I would then ask, how many businesses take over a decade to decide while destroying entire communites?

Bob DaviesJuly 19th 2011.

It's somewhat ironic isn't it that if you set aside the need for public consultations, public enquiries, inevitable objections and so on, the quickest and least invasive option for Anfield (the area) is to extend Anfield (the ground). This is also the preferred option of the current owners - who have only been in place for about 9 months.

The work would be carried out largely within the confines of the existing stadium, whilst presumably, the broader linked developments for the area could go ahead at the same time.

However, the statutory requirements (quite rightly) can't be set aside and doubtless there is considerable public funding attached to the regeneration, based around a new stadium development, which might well be lost with a 'mere' ground refurbishment. This means that following this route, the various parties are going to condemn themselves to at least three more years delay before there's a spade in the ground in earnest.

The people to blame for this between 2007 and 2010 are certainly Hicks & Gillett and their carpetbagging ideals. However, longer term you need to look very hard at Moores & Parry, who effectively created the blight by buying up so much adjoining real estate over many years with only a vague notion about the 'how when and where' of rebuilding the stadium.

They then compounded the felony by getting it so spectacularly wrong in selling the family silver to Waldorf & Stadtler, thereby putting the whole issue back by at least another five years.

AnonymousJuly 19th 2011.

At present an extra 15000 people attending games would bring in approximately £1,200,000 worth of extra revenue for the club per home game. With inflation and ticket prices getting more expensive the ground would be paid for in 20-30 years and revenue would increase on a sliding scale. I would expect they would also ensure that expanding the new ground would be logistically and spacially much easier than Anfield meaning more seats and more revenue again. So in a nutshell, just like an ambitious, successful, wealthy growing family it's time they moved to a bigger better, more suitable home.

AnonymousJuly 19th 2011.

This is not a subject that needs ranting. Larry Neild's potboiler is not useful. There are more than enough inflexible positions without trying to cast FSG as the villain. There are no instant "just add water" stadiums to be had.

AnonymousNovember 20th 2011.

Moores and Parry never had the intelligence to realise the benefits of selling the club to mega rich Arabs from Dubai instead of to the Americans.
They never had any intention of using their own money to buy the club or to move it forward which was obvious to anyone at the time.
What is now happening at City (with the money coming from Abu Dhabi) is just a painful reminder of what could have been
We'll still be talking about plans for a new stadium in another ten years time by which point, it'll be completely irrelevant and pointless

AnonymousNovember 20th 2011.

£400 million pounds to build a stadium in LIVERPOOL!!. How was it that Arsenal were able to build their stadium for that price,when taking into consideration the increased costs of doing business (cost of land, construction etc) in London
This seems to be a vastly inflated figure. No wonder the new owners are balking at moving away to Stanley Park!

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