English Premiership

Anfield expansion gathers pace

2014-09-23 19:13
Artists impression of remodelled Anfield (www.liverpoolfc.com)

London - Eighteen-times English champions Liverpool have been granted planning permission for phase one of the expansion of their Anfield stadium, Liverpool city council announced on Tuesday.

Phase one of the project will see the Main Stand expanded with a further 8 500 seats, taking the capacity of Liverpool's iconic stadium to 54 000.

A motion to defer the planning permission decision because of concerns over transport infrastructure for the extra fans coming to games was voted down five to one by councillors.

"Today's approval by the Planning Committee is another step on our journey which we embarked on nearly two years ago," Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre told the club's website.

"We received very positive support for our proposals during a public consultation exercise earlier this year and while we are delighted about the progress made today, there are still some steps that we need to navigate through in order to give us the certainty that we need to proceed with our expansion plans."

Liverpool hope to complete the first phase of the development in time for the 2016-2017 season, while there is no time scale on the second stage of the project which will increase the capacity of the Anfield Road end by 4 800 seats.

As part of the expansion plans, the memorial dedicated to the 96 Liverpool fans who died in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster will be moved to another area of the Anfield Road Stand to form part of a new memorial garden.

Since buying the club in 2010, Liverpool's American owners, the Fenway Sports Group, have always favoured staying at Anfield instead of building a new stadium on nearby Stanley Park.

Fenway Sports Group, who own Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox and oversaw a renovation of their Fenway Park stadium, have approached the redevelopment of Anfield with great caution unlike their predecessors Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The American businessmen, who bought the club in 2007, rushed through lavish designs for a new stadium that never materialised after promising to "plant a spade" in the ground within 60 days of their reign.

By increasing Anfield's capacity to around 59 000 when the work is complete, Liverpool will be able to host major international and European games as UEFA guidelines state that stadiums must hold a minimum of 50 000 people.

Liverpool will also close the gap on two of their main rivals in terms of matchday revenue with Manchester United able to fill their 75 000 capacity Old Trafford stadium, while Arsenal's Emirates Stadium holds around 60 000.

Last week, local rivals Everton were given the green light to begin planning a new 50 000-seater stadium in Walton Hall Park in north Liverpool.

Read more on:    liverpool  |  english premiership  |  soccer

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