John W Henry, Liverpool's principal owner, has said there will be no repeat of the stalled stadium projects of Tom Hicks and George Gillett because Fenway Sports Group has the financial backing to redevelop Anfield.
Liverpool announced last October that plans for a new stadium on Stanley Park had been scrapped in favour of refurbishing the club's historic home into a 60,000-capacity stadium, costing approximately £154m. Henry insists "good progress" has been made by Liverpool city council in purchasing the few remaining privately owned properties around Anfield, although a planning application will be submitted only once those deals are complete.
Tom Werner, the Liverpool chairman, held further talks with council officials during a visit to Merseyside last week and the club hope a breakthrough is close in the long-running, controversial stadium saga. FSG's predecessors, Hicks and Gillett, prolonged the delay during their near-ruinous tenure by scrapping stadium designs and then failing to secure funding for their preferred project. But Henry insists the finances are in place for FSG to redevelop Anfield, believed to be via the club's own banking facilities, and there will be no detrimental effect on Brendan Rodgers's transfer budget once work begins.
Henry said: "They [Hicks and Gillett] were talking about going out and borrowing an enormous amount of money for an enormous facility. That's not what we are doing here. One of their problems is that they weren't able to get financing.
"When this [project] happens, that won't be the problem. We just need certainty with regard to these properties. The number of properties is being reduced. The city council is doing everything they can and that's all we can ask. Not just the city council but Your Housing [a social housing developer] and everyone associated with this are all on the same page. The regeneration as well; we're all on the same page."
No plans have been unveiled for the refurbished Anfield, although it is understood to involve a new main stand and Anfield Road end being built behind the existing structures to minimise the impact on revenue. Asked if the work would have an effect on team rebuilding, Henry responded: "No, because it will pay for itself. It's actually a positive. It's one of the reasons we are doing it. It still provides excess cash. This is the direction that makes financial sense for the club in the long term." Liverpool initially hoped to apply for planning permission this spring but a handful of home owners have not agreed a deal with the city council and Your Housing.
"That's why we are where we are," confirmed Henry. Compulsory purchase orders remain an option, should the impasse continue, but legal disputes would add to the stadium delay and FSG want a resolution soon.
"We are making good progress," added Henry. "We have a lot of different groups working very well together and having everybody on the same page is the key to a big project like this happening and pretty much everyone is on the same page. The obstacles are not completely out of the way but we seem to be moving in that direction. The obstacles are being overcome. We don't have all the houses but we are making progress."
Liverpool's principal owner insisted he could not place a timeframe on a planning application for Anfield. He 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. We need certainty on that.
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