Belfast Telegraph

Anfield extension benefits Liverpool and brings hope for residents

By Ian Herbert

For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, today's official opening of a £115m extended Anfield Main Stand with 8,000 new seats represents "more power" for his team, though for those whose homes neighbour the stadium it offers the hope of a modern district at last.

The area north of Anfield has been in a desperate state for years, with many houses boarded up - a consequence of community disintegration on a huge scale, in a city where unemployment has bitten hard. The approach to Anfield has been an embarrassment in recent years, as urban decay has been juxtaposed with the vaulting wealth of the Premier League.

Over time, it has been the misfortune of the residents of Walton Breck Road, Back Rockfield Road and others to be neighbours of Liverpool, as the club and the council have waited for each other to make the first move in either expanding the stadium or building a new one.

Under the ownership of Fenway Sports Group, the two have finally started working together and ahead of the long-awaited launch of the stadium, plans were this week presented to Liverpool City Council which show how the high street next to Anfield could be transformed with shops, commercial units, homes and apartments.

Business units won't fill themselves and private investment will be needed. But if, as likely, the district can be transformed, it will be a rare example of the football machine having a direct economic benefit on a place where the game has been followed for years.

"Hopefully it can be a catalyst," Jay McKenna of the Spirit of Shankly organisation said.

"The residents have had to put up with decades of wondering whether something will or will not happen. It is to the club's credit and the council's that in the end they reached an understanding and worked together."

Though the stadium expansion will have a huge visual impact, it remains to be seen how it will affect the atmosphere within Anfield.

Though the capacity is extended to 54,000 for tomorrow's visit of champions Leicester City - an increase of 8,500 - fewer than half the new seats are part of general admission. There will be 14 new executive boxes, allied to substantially improved banquet and conference facilities.

Liverpool need the additional matchday revenue - an extra £20m-£30m a season as they hope to get closer to Arsenal and Manchester United's £100m and £90m per season respectively. Theirs has lagged at £59m.

Boss Klopp said: "It's really, really impressive, what they have done there. It's an outstanding job.

"I have no idea how somebody could do something like this but when you stand in front of it, it's really amazing.

"This is a good place and a good opponent (on Saturday). The champions (Leicester are) coming, we celebrate them all. It's another season.

"It's our first home game with 8,000 more in the stadium. That's more power and we should use this and start now with our first home game. It's a wonderful opportunity."

The people of Anfield hope that applies to them, too

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