Liverpool fans furious over latest stadium delay

August 29, 2008

Liverpool fans' groups have launched a savage attack on the club's American owners after yet another delay to the building of their new stadium in Stanley Park.

Stanley Park view from Anfield
Empics / MatthewAshtonStanley Park: Liverpool first announced plans to move across from Anfield in 2002.

Co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have announced that the £400million arena will be delayed because of the global cash crisis.

Now it has emerged the delay could be for up to a year, while there is even more worrying suggestions that the Dubai investors who want to buy the club may be losing interest in the whole saga.

Liverpool fans are angry and stunned by further delays to the 60,000 stadium, which Hicks and Gillett promised would be well under construction by now when they took over the club 18 months ago.

Dr Rogan Taylor, founder of the fans' group ShareLiverpoolFC, who want to take the club into community ownership, hit out saying: 'This has not come as a surprise. The Americans did not have any money for the stadium.

'We have been saying this for a long time. These guys are a broken record, they are the soap opera of Anfield Road. This just goes on and on and is just an excuse for not starting the stadium.

'The money goes up every time. Three years ago it was £150million, now it is £350-£400million. And now they are talking about 're-visiting' the capacity issue.

'But that was the original reason for the delay 18 months ago, these guys are not in a position to make a long-term investment of the kind required for a stadium.

'If there is no funding in place by spring, then European and NW development grants will be lost indefinitely for the re-generation of the area.

'This is about the owners breaking our trust over and over again. They do not have the confidence of anybody in the city, or the wherewithal.

'A new stadium is essential to the business structure of a modern, great club.

'Just compare the matchday 'take' at Arsenal's new Emirates Stadium or the money taken by Manchester United at Old Trafford. They pull in around three times what Liverpool manage for each match.

'If you add that up, 20 games a season, and those clubs are getting £50million more than us each season simply by playing in a bigger stadium.

'You cannot keep up with them in these circumstances. The problem is the debt our owners carry, there is not really a significant problem in raising money to build a stadium if they did not have a major debt on their backs.

'If they did not have that, raising this money is not a problem. You can get half of that up front with naming rights for the stadium and executive boxes for 10 years.

'I am embarrassed by what is going on at my club, certainly since the Americans' takeover.

'There are about a dozen clubs worldwide who have this genuine combination of local and global strength. But it is a dangerous situation.

'This club is more vulnerable now than it has been in my entire 47 years of watching the club. It is a house of cards and a puff of wind can blow it over.

'Liverpool is a sub-prime loan by the Royal Bank of Scotland, and if we do not do something about this everything can go away.'

The Spirit of Shankly fans group, dedicated to removing the Americans from the club, are also angry.

Spokesman Jay McKenna said: 'It is our firm belief that the owners have neither the resources nor the intention to deliver this project, and are using the current economic climate as a subterfuge while they attempt to drive the potential sale value of the football club up.

'The owners have no money, no credibility and no dignity, and are not fit custodians of the club.

'We demand their immediate resignation and the sale of the club to fit and proper owners.'

Waiting in the wings are a Dubai consortium led by the oil state's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

They maintain they still have the money to buy out the Americans and that a deal is still on the table.

But sources suggest that their patience will not last forever. They have the money to build a stadium, but the spiralling cost has become an annoyance as the ownership saga has dragged on all year.

Liverpool have not signed the lease for Stanley Park with Liverpool City Council but deny this is anything more than a legal issue.

A spokesman said: 'The contract will be signed when the planning requirements have been met.'

A club statement read: 'Our commitment to building a new world-class Liverpool Football Club stadium is undiminished.

'Like many other major development projects in the UK and overseas we are affected by global market conditions and, as such, work on the project will be delayed in the short term.

'We will use this period productively and revisit the plans for the stadium to increase its capacity to 73,000 seats.'