It’s already been a few weeks since the Leicester game and the very first time that we all got to see the Mighty Reds play in front of our brand spanking new Main Stand.
Despite the brilliant football on show that Saturday evening, and the numerous pints I’d consumed pre match, my abiding memory of the Leicester game centres around the amount of times I looked up from my seat in the Kop to admire the sheer size of all 3 tiers of this incredible structure that now dwarfs the rest of Anfield. I must have sat in my seat in the Kop well over 400 times since it was first seated in 1994 but I must have glanced to my left more times at the main stand in the Leicester game than I had in the past 22 years.
It’s amazing how much a new stand can make a difference to a ground and like most forward thinking reds, I couldn’t help but start to imagine how impressive the stand would look next to an expanded Annie Road end. After all, most of us believe that ‘Phase 2’ plans are already drawn up and are ready to be dusted down as soon as the builders complete the finishing touches to the Main Stand just after Christmas.
I’ve seen the sketches, and they look brilliant. But then I remembered a conversation I’d had with a few people ‘in the know’ in November last year. I was told that whilst there are plans drawn up for the Anfield Road, the owners had put the plans on hold for now and were in no rush to start work. Apparently, the next announcement from the club about further development of Anfield would be centred around a large new club shop next to the Albert. A few months later, my ‘sources’ were proved right. The club announced plans to build a megastore on Walton Breck Road, situated between the Kop and the Main Stand.
Early January, I was informed that demand for the new Corporate and Hospitality packages was well below what was expected and at this point, the Club started to have doubts that they would be able to sell them regularly even once the Stand was open. I’d like to point out at this stage that this was before the planned walk out in the Sunderland game in the first week of February. Apparently the Business case for the new Annie Road is centred around making more money out of Corporate and Hospitality.
Recent comments from John Henry where he said about the next phase of expansion ‘ I don’t know if there is a next step because ticket prices are an issue in England, That may foreclose further expansion, we’ll have to see’, only served me to believe my sources were right again. Whilst his comments wound me up something wicked, in some ways, I did respect the fact that he was being honest.
The politically correct answer would have been to say something along the lines of ‘We’ve only just expanded the ground by 8500 seats, let’s see what gates we get first, let’s see how the area copes with additional match day traffic etc’. That’s common sense and is something that’s difficult to argue with – but only if the idea of further expansion hadn’t been touted by the owners in the first place. And that’s where I have a problem.
I totally get the fact that the club need to have assurances that they can build another stand without risking the clubs finances to the detriment of the playing squad. But I think that their original business case was to build another stand in the hope that they would recoup most of the revenue via more corporate and hospitality, despite the fact that when they first took us over, they did acknowledge that the Anfield crowd was very different to teams down South and that they had to tailor the stadium development plans accordingly.
We all know Liverpool is different than London. We also know that we have thousands of people from all over the world who visit Anfield on every matchday. But these people don’t cross the globe to eat prawn sarnies in a padded seat with loads of leg room. They come to Anfield for the magic, the atmosphere and ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. That’s the ‘product’ the club should be trying to market, but more importantly as custodians of the club, trying to protect.
We’ve had a poor 26 years by our standards but yet the ‘day tripper’s’ still come to Anfield in their droves. Why? The answers obvious.
And that’s the way the club should be looking to expand the ground further to increase revenue. Get more local fans in by making it more affordable, get more genuine fans in from around the globe by trying to maintain Anfield’s magic. Who knows they may even find some new customers who are prepared to spend a fortune on dodgy warm Carlsberg in a bottle before games?
Does John Henry really think we believe they’ll only put things on hold because ticket prices are currently an issue? If they did reduce prices, how much would they lose in the grand scheme of things if more people can attend because it’s affordable? What is it the big Retail Business men used to say? ‘Stack em high, sell em cheap’?
I believe the original plans suggested the stand would gain an extra 4,800 seats. Why not make it bigger? The new 3rd tier behind the goal at Manchester City increased capacity by 7,000 standard seats. Looking at the designs for the Annie Road, I was surprised that they only suggest a 4,800 seat increase. Is this because they planned to swallow up a large area of the stand to make way for Corporate and Hospitality? Definitely!
If FSG are really serious about Liverpool getting back to the top, we simply have to keep building. We can’t let the likes of West Ham, Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester City have bigger grounds than us.
We’ve waited years to see space available behind the 4 stands to give us the room to expand, especially on Anfield Road. Besides, they need to do it to remove those unsightly unobstructed views they’ve just created in the first tier of the Main Stand. If they do that, they won’t have to only charge £9 for tickets in those seats. Isn’t that a small opportunity to increase revenue from our new Main Stand perhaps? Just saying!
Written by @Mark_Curriemmc