Very recently, an expansion to Anfield’s main stand was completed, adding over 8,000 new seats and increasing the capacity to just over 54,000, but the expansion may be halted due to protests over the price of tickets.
As I’m sure you are all aware, there were plans to expand the Anfield road end by around 5,000 seats some time in the near future. Principal owner John W Henry, however, suggested yesterday that these plans may no longer go ahead.
“I don’t know if there is a next step because ticket prices are an issue in England. That may foreclose further expansion. We’ll have to see,” Henry told AP, via the Mirror, at Yankee Stadium.
He was most likely referring to an incident back in February this year, when Liverpool fans organised a 77th minute walkout in the game against Sunderland over proposed new ticket prices; these included tickets costing up to £77 in the new main stand and, for the first time ever, a season ticket over £1000.
The plans were consequently scrapped, and many fans accepted that Fenway Sports Group were willing to change and face their mistakes. These recent comments, though, could provoke a negative reaction from the fans, who may see it as an indirect dig at them from the owner. Did he go back on the plans because he had no choice, or because he saw the error of his ways?
With the new ticket prices lowered, our owners are still on course to get back the £114 million they spent on the new stand from naming rights and increased income due to more fans being able to go to games.
But Henry’s comments make it seem as though he thinks another expansion would not be worthwhile for FSG. It seems strange that something such as lower ticket prices would lower income to the point where it is no longer worth expanding; surely they would only make a small fraction of what naming rights/sponsorships would?
At a time when TV money in the Premier League is at its highest ever, it seems implausible that the club would be unable to afford to expand again, especially when we actually made a profit in the transfer window this summer.
Liverpool CEO Ian Ayre commented on the situation in an interview published in FC Business magazine, via the Mirror.
“The way we managed the Main Stand expansion was great and we will continue in a similar vein to be cautious and not promise anything until we are ready to deliver.
We will come along with planning if and when we have the right design and economic model. Once we have these parts in place, we will let people know.”
Will this second expansion happen with FSG in charge? With rumours of new investors (although very quiet in recent weeks) always floating around, perhaps not.
Have your say in the comment section below. Is it time for someone else to take the club forward? Is John Henry greedy, or just a sensible businessman?