Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre is not convinced that the further expansion of Anfield at a cost of £60-70m would represent “a smart investment for the business.”
Liverpool received planning permission to redevelop the Anfield Road end of the ground by 4,800 in September 2014 as part of its application for the recently completed redevelopment of the new main stand. However, the club has always stated that it needed to balance the need for an increased capacity with commercial reality.
Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owner, funded the £114m construction of the main stand with an interest-free loan. The owners can repay that loan within six years due to the high proportion of hospitality seats among the new stand. Approximately half of the new 8400 seats were dedicated to corporate and hospitality guests.
In a meeting with Liverpool Supporters’ Committee, Ayre explained the difficulties in expanding Anfield.
“A stand behind a goal doesn’t have the benefit of hospitality that would go a long way to meet the redevelopment costs,” said the chief executive.
“If you consider the redevelopment of Anfield Road from a purely general admission perspective, building, say, 6,000 extra seats to take the capacity up to 60,000 would cost somewhere between £60m and £70m. At £12,000 to £13,000 per seat, it would take approximately 15 years to pay back, which is not a smart investment for the business.
“Therefore the club needs to find a rounded solution that’s in the best interests of the football club.”
It was suggested at the meeting that Liverpool supporters could invest in the £60m-£70m costs of a new Anfield Road. Graham Smith, who represents Merseyside-based fans, said: “There are people who would think a 15-year return would make sense, and that’s the supporters. The supporters would fund such a development upfront if the club made an appeal for financial support.”
While insisting he could not speak for the club owners, Ayre said Liverpool should consider the idea of supporter involvement.
“We should have that conversation,” the chief executive added.
Following the opening of the new main stand in September, the current capacity of Anfield is 54,074.