Back to the future for Liverpool


It was as far back as 2000 when Liverpool Football Club announced their intentions to leave Anfield in favour of building a new stadium in the middle of Stanley Park, and it's eight years since the City council first granted the planning application.

2007 was the proposed date of completion for the Reds' lavish new home, the beginning of a new era, following the move away from one of the most iconic grounds in the game's history.

Eleven years on, that catalyst for regeneration seems nothing but a distant memory, and at present couldn't be farther from reality, as Anfield continues to play host to its millionaire players and all the other trimmings that go hand-in-hand with the sport's nouveaux riches.

The cliched saying of 'one step forward, two steps back' could hardly be more fitting for a club that five years ago ripped up its initial stadium blueprints, and under the stewardship of ex-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, a second proposal was formulated and also given the go-ahead.

However, three boardroom upheavals and three chief executives since initially expressing their desire to move home, and Liverpool now find themselves back where they were in 2004, when ex-Chairman David Moores first decided to sell the club.

The future looks considerably more rosy under the ownership of Fenway Sports Group who have provided investment in the team since buying the club back in October 2010, and having adopted the original stadium plans, construction can begin once they have secured the finance to do so.

The end result? A 60,000-seat stadium at a cost of around £300million, and funded by a lucrative naming rights package as the club looks to raise sponsorship to cover at least half of the overall outlay.

John W Henry has worked through a variety of options to establish how to solve Liverpool's enduring stadium problem since buying the club, and originally wanted to redevelop Anfield.

But after a year of tirelessly working through the planning issues, and the cost of buying the nearby derelict residential properties, it was accepted that this would not be feasible.

Fenway Sports Group has since been working with Manchester-based architects AFL - the firm which first submitted designs when Liverpool announced their intention to move to Stanley Park.

The AFL plans were first introduced by former chief executive Rick Parry, but were later abandoned by Hicks and Gillett shortly after their ill-fated takeover in 2006.

FSG were left a shambolic inheritance by their predecessors, and if they underestimated the scale of the problem when they bought the club they are still coming to terms with it.

The owners are eager to end the legacy of false promises, but are still unable to offer any timescale to residents or supporters as to when work can begin, and as a result have avoided making any pledges of their own since day one.

And after adopting the original, 2003 architects designs of AFL, they have at least ensured that technically, Liverpool could start building a new arena on Stanley Park tomorrow morning.

There is at least a promise, of sorts, to cling onto. Now they just need the money.

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