Liverpool given new stadium go-ahead
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez has hailed the latest step towards the Anfield club being able to build their new stadium after the city council confirmed the leasing of land for the scheme.
Liverpool City Council's executive board today rubber-stamped an early committee decision to allow Liverpool a 999-year lease on an area of the nearby Stanley Park to start work on the ground, now considered to be costing the Anfield club £180million.
Benitez said: 'It is very important that we have this new stadium to have more room for our fans.
'It will help us provide very important extra funds for our future, and it will help us to compete with clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, the latter who have just opened their new stadium.
'We have fantastic support at Liverpool and the Kop is a very special place, but our capacity is just 45,000. It would be even better for everyone if we had 60,000 fans in the ground.'
Benitez's views though do not touch on the true dilemma for Liverpool, who now must provide evidence by the end of the month they have the private capital to build the stadium.
If they do not do that they are in danger of losing European and UK Government grants of around £15million that will help build the infrastructure around the new stadium and help regenerate the north Liverpool area, a key component in the council's decision to grant them their lease.
Warren Bradley, the council leader said: 'This is the last piece of the jigsaw as far as the city council is concerned, and it leaves the door open now for the football club to move forward with their stadium proposals.
'The council have signed over the land on a lease to the club, and a joint venture agreement with them.
'We would then expect the club to go on site probably in January to start building the new stadium with the expectation that by September 2009 we will see them in a new stadium which is good news for Liverpool and news for the Anfield community and good news for the city.'
As far as the council is now concerned, the last political hurdle has been overcome and the onus now is all on the club to show they have the money, a major stumbling block for the past five agonising years of negotiations.
Bradley added: 'Liverpool Football Club is one of the best known and most successful in the world yet it stands in one of the poorest areas, not only in the city, but in the country.
'We can now provide a new home for the football club fitting for their status as one of the world's best, and at the same time use their success to spark a dramatic revival of the Anfield and Breckfield areas.
'For the past five years we have worked with the Anfield-Breckfield Partnership Forum on the strategy to regenerate the area and every consultation with the local community has shown overwhelming support for this scheme.
'This is a golden opportunity for north Liverpool to be transformed.'
The football club have constantly assured the council they will come up with the money, but the price has spiralled over the last few years, despite the club securing planning permission over a year ago.
The council have now made it clear they have done all they can to assist Liverpool's plans and the ball is firmly in the club's court.
Senior councillors were told the Liverpool board must come up with concrete evidence quickly, assurances some claim are needed by the end of next week.
That will give European and government officials enough time to decide if they will hand over taxpayers' money at a crucial meeting at the end of the month.
A package of grants will pay for the regeneration of the community around Stanley Park, without which Liverpool will not be allowed to build a stand-alone stadium.