Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Cost of Anfield stadium expansion not a problem, says Liverpool owner John W Henry

Liverpool have cleared virtually all the obstacles to the expansion of Anfield
Liverpool have cleared virtually all the obstacles to the expansion of Anfield

Liverpool's principal owner John W Henry has pledged that finance for the club's proposed £150m stadium expansion will be in place when the final logistical hurdles to the development are overcome.

The roots of the Anfield club's struggle to compete with Manchester United and Arsenal, who have vastly superior matchday income, lie in the failure of Henry's predecessors – Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr – to raise the required capital, having famously claimed it would take only 60 days after their takeover in 2007 to begin work on a new stadium.

 

For Henry's Fenway Sports Group, lucrative naming rights are a non-starter for a stadium to be expanded from 45,000 to 60,000. But Henry said that the money would be found and that the mistakes of the previous era, when planning went ahead without the cash in place, would not be repeated. "They [Hicks and Gillett] were talking about going out and borrowing an enormous amount of money for an enormous facility," Henry said. "One of their problems is they weren't able to get financing. That's not what we are doing here. When [the planning permission goes in], that won't be the problem."

 

Liverpool have cleared virtually all the obstacles to the expansion, with the city council having bought all but eight of the 30 privately-owned houses needed to undertake a wholesale demolition and clear the way for the enlarged stadium, which the club has said is its preferred way of expanding capacity. The eight remaining properties – five of which are derelict – are in the ownership of four private landlords, who are holding out for the best price available. The council will compulsorily purchase them if necessary ahead of a planning application going in – possibly by February.

 

"The number of properties is being reduced," 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."

 

The club's new London-born defender Tiago Ilori has said he would consider an offer to play for England, though lining up for Portugal remains an ambition, having represented them at youth level. "I think I'd like to stay loyal to Portugal as I've played in every age group for them," Ilori said. "But I would never close any doors. If I have the choice then it is not a bad choice to have."

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