Rick Parry today confirmed that Liverpool had indeed abandoned the futuristic new stadium plans unveiled back in the summer. Reports and rumours the US design commissioned by the owners had been dumped hit a peak at the weekend. This prompted a carefully-worded statement from the Liverpool Chief Executive which at first glance suggested the reports were false – but in fact confirmed indirectly that the plans had indeed been scrapped.
Today, in the wake of the clear-the-air talks between the owners, and Rafa Benitez, Parry was finally ready to start talking in a more open and transparent way. He told the Liverpool Echo: “We are now considering two schemes but the stadium will be a 70,000 seater. The new stadium will be a significant improvement on the original plans and a slightly downgraded version of the new ones.”
The stadium planned by the US owners and unveiled to much delight from Liverpool fans was always planned to ultimately hold near to 80,000 fans, but had been shown on plans as holding 60,000 fans to help with the planning permission process. The figure of 70,000 suddenly mentioned on Saturday stood out like a sore thumb. Alarm bells rang for most Reds, including those who’d assumed this was just another piece of stirring by the press in advance of a big fixture.
Parry knows that Liverpool fans will be disappointed with the dumbing-down of the plans, although fans who’d previously stood by him will be more disappointed when they realise how he’d effectively tried to mislead supporters in Saturday’s statement. It certainly casts doubt on previous statements made by the club, and confirms supporters must read between the lines and be on guard for weasel words.
Liverpool supporters were ready to accept the earlier plans until the owners produced the dramatic design in the summer. With some more honesty – and perhaps apologies for misleading supporters – Liverpool fans will no doubt come to accept these plans, which he says might not be as good as we had expected, but are still very good: “It will be a massive improvement on where we were 12 months ago, if not quite as dramatic as the plans unveiled in the summer. The single tier Kop remains fundamental to the design and we are not expecting any delays – it should be on schedule for 2011.”
Delays are what have seen the stadium spiral in price from the £70m first mentioned all those years ago. The Echo were asked to point out that the reason for ditching the plans was due to spiralling costs rather than the credit crunch in America, something the owners seem worried about having themselves associated with.
If the change of heart is due to spiralling costs, this will be acceptable to most Reds. There comes a point where the costs will be such that the increased revenue is cancelled out by loan payments, and as the costs rise there is more risk of reaching that point. In that case staying at Anfield would be better. Parry says there are no delays expected, but work should have started already, and they still – according to him – haven’t decided on which of two schemes to go for.
Reports of Gillett backing Rafa at the Legend’s Christmas party last night need to be backed up by statements on the official site confirming that this is the case. Communication problems have surrounded Parry for some time now – notably when he single-handedly came close to losing Steven Gerrard to Chelsea – it’s time they stopped.
Perhaps in light of what’s gone on in the past few weeks they’ve shelved their plans to sack Rafa too.
It’s not wrong to have a change of heart, but trying to cover it up with lies or with words intended to mislead will erode the supporter’s faith in the owners and the board to the extent that it might never be fixed again. It’s certainly going to be harder to trust anything Rick Parry says.
An anecdote was spreading last week that at the airport on the way back from Marseille, the metal detector went off as Parry passed through it. Quick as a flash a Liverpool supporter shouted, “No wonder you won’t play the numbers game Rick, that’s the lie detector test failed already!” to which various Liverpool players creased up with laughter. Parry was said not to have been amused. It may well not be true, but it acts as a further example of how much Parry has lost respect from Liverpool supporters.
This might be his last chance to earn a little bit of respect back.