Henry: Anfield redevelopment on track
Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry says that the money is in place for Fenway Sports Group to embark on a £150 million redevelopment of Anfield.
• Whalley: Reds' expansion drive
Henry has declared that the project is on track, and that there will be no repeat of the stalled stadium projects that plagued the regime of previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. He is also adamant that the expansion of Anfield -- which is set to increase its capacity to 60,000 -- will not compromise squad strengthening.
Fenway announced last October that the club were scrapping plans to build a new stadium on neighbouring Stanley Park, and would instead refurbish their current home.
Anfield is hemmed in by housing, though, and progress on the project has depended on the acquisition and demolition of privately-owned homes next to the ground to create extra space for expansion.
The club will submit a planning application to extend the Main Stand and Anfield Road End once Liverpool City Council has agreed deals to buy the few remaining houses adjoining the stadium, with Henry insisting that “good progress” is being made on that front.
Liverpool chairman Tom Werner held discussions with council officials over the project during a visit to Merseyside last week.
Henry is aware of the troubles faced by Hicks and Gillett, who secured planning permission for a new stadium but then failed to find the money to build it.
The Boston-based businessman insists that there are no such financial issues with the current proposal, which is part of a wider regeneration project for the Anfield area, being run in partnership with the council and social housing provider Your Housing.
He told the Liverpool Daily Post: “They [Hicks and Gillett] were talking about going out and borrowing an enormous amount of money for an enormous facility. That’s not what we are doing here. One of their problems is that they weren’t able to get financing.
“When this project happens, that won’t be the problem. We just need certainty with regard to these properties. The number of properties is being reduced. The city council is doing everything they can and that’s all we can ask.
“Not just the city council but Your Housing and everyone associated with this are all on the same page. The regeneration as well -- we’re all on the same page.
“We are making good progress. We have a lot of different groups working very well together and that’s the key to a big project like this happening, when everybody is on the same page -- and pretty much everyone is on the same page.”
Asked if the redevelopment would have a negative effect on the club’s transfer budget, Henry said: “No, because it will pay for itself. It’s actually a positive. It’s one of the reasons we are doing it. It still provides excess cash. This is the direction that makes financial sense for the club in the long term.”
Liverpool are refusing to say when they will be in a position to apply for planning permission, with Henry explaining that it depends on how quickly the council can agree a deal to buy the remaining houses next to the ground.
A handful of homeowners have yet to agree to sell up, with compulsory purchase orders an option for the club if no other resolution can be found.
Henry said: “We’ve always said you have to have certainty with regards to the properties because of the height of the stands and all the issues regarding that. That has been the biggest issue. We need certainty on that.”