Hicks to abandon symphony stage Kop plans?

Liverpool’s current owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, are said to be not only intent on sacking manager Rafael Benitez before the start of next season, but are about to announce they’ve gone back on their word regarding the new stadium.

The exciting plans for a 61,000 capacity stadium, to be possibly extended to a 78,000 capacity by the time it opened, are now looking likely to be shelved. In their place comes a slightly adapted version of the unpopular anonymous bowl design that was first revealed seven years ago. It’s said those plans have been adapted to a 70,000 seater version, which if true would require further planning permission to be applied for before building work could commence.

The new owners, it seems, are running out of money and not only want to take money away from transfers, but want to produce a stadium which won’t meet Tom Hicks’ description: “The Kop is the symphony stage and it needs to play to the rest of the hall.” The Kop will be one end of the bowl, not a unique part of a unique stadium.

It’s not long ago, August, that George Gillett was last heard speaking about the club. He’s been silent since, amid rumours of him falling out with co-owner Tom Hicks. The credit crunch seems to have hit the plans the pair had for the club, and the downgrading of their stadium plans is said to be above Rafa’s future in the agenda during their rare visit to the club this weekend. In August Gillett was enthusing about the supporters he now seems happy to disregard: “I’d never seen anything like it,” he said of the Champions League semi against Chelsea, “The noise and the energy – just amazing.”

Hicks said at the time that this noise and energy was what inspired the designs that are now looking like staying on paper: “The architects came to the Barcelona match and they got it right away because that night the fans were so loud and they knew they had to keep the Kop. They said ‘we get it’.” Then that famous quote: “The Kop is the symphony stage and it needs to play to the rest of the hall.”

Gillett even said that the new stadium was a big part of the decision the pair had in taking our club from us: “The stadium was a critical element in our decision to come here. It’s a necessity. We are in a sport without a salary cap. And if you are going to remain competitive, and Liverpool’s fans deserve to have a club that remains competitive, we have to have a larger stadium. We don’t have the economics of London so we have to have size.”

If the reports are true – and they’ve been rumoured now for a couple of weeks, slowly gathering momentum but hitting a peak now the new owners are in town – then the size will still be there. If they get the planning permission, which requires changes to the local infrastructure before it can be considered, the new stadium will hold 25,000 more supporters than the current stadium. But it won’t have the impressive looks that were promised by the duo with all their razzmatazz in August. Fans will be frustrated because it’s another sign of the way the owners have lost interest in their new toy.

Hicks showed in August that either he doesn’t understand how the transfer market works in football, or that he thinks the supporters aren’t capable of doing sums. Rafa wasn’t given any more money than he’d have got had David Moores stayed on as owner of the club, and had to rip up his first list of targets. He got the players on his second list, including Fernando Torres for £8m less than is usually quoted in the press. Hicks tried to make out he’d given Rafa everything he’d asked for, which wasn’t true: “I can’t go into any of the three stadiums I own without thinking how much people are paying to be there,” he said, quickly adding: “We want to give them value for money. We want to win the Premiership. Before we arrived we were a team that could do well in Europe but not in the Premiership. We now have the depth to do that. We have brought in the players Rafa identified.” Those words must have made Rafa choke.

At the time Gillett was still enthusing about Rafa, in particular Rafa’s work in bringing in players for the future: “Rafa believes in youth and we share that philosophy. That’s why Tom and I are so comfortable with him. He’s a very responsible man. He’s not a slash and burner. He said we needed four or five new players to be competitive and we went out and got them.” Again Rafa must have been shaking his head on hearing this.

David Moores and Rick Parry’s version of how the DIC deal collapsed differs from the story told by DIC in the aftermath. David Moores was made much richer by accepted the American offer rather than the DIC offer, and he accepted with amazing haste.

Gillett spoke of how he and Hicks “love sports” at a time when their spin was still working on many Reds: “The American invasion of the Premiership is a misnomer. Seven foreign groups have come into the Premiership and only three of them are American, and all three have been involved in sports before. It’s been presented as some kind of capitalist invasion, but I don’t think that is an accurate representation at all. We are different to the Glazers and the Glazers are different to the Lerners, but we love sports.”

Maybe they do love sports, they certainly have a lot of financial stakes in sports, but do they love sport more than money? Back in October Hicks claimed that refinancing for the new stadium – financing that also took all debt from their purchase of the club away from them and back onto the club, effectively giving them the club for free – was thirty days from being tied up. It’s still not been tied up.

The reversion to the amended older plans could save over £200m in building costs. As snippets of the story behind the change of heart leak out bit by bit it’s been suggested that loans for the other version of the stadium would have cost more than the owners felt would be viable. Not everybody is ready to lend money as readily as they might have been a year ago, and so their choices of lenders were restricted. The lower stadium costs for the generic-style stadium allow them more choices of lenders, and more attractive terms.

This story will be in Saturday’s press, and it will be interesting to see what kind of instant response Tom Hicks arranges this time. He was quick to get Rick Parry to deny he’d fallen out with Gillett recently, and quick to tell the press that Rafa had a month or so to even talk about possible transfers in and out of the club. He wasted no time in denying he was about to sell his share in the club. Will he be as quick in denying the stadium stories? Will he use the Echo to put his story out?

Oliver Kay’s report in The Times includes the following:

“Hicks and Gillett are back on Merseyside this weekend and it says much about the present difficulties at the club that their overdue peace summit with Rafael Benitez, the manager, is no longer top of the agenda. The word from Anfield over the past 48 hours has been that the club’s proposed move to a new stadium on Stanley Park is on the rocks again. With the global credit crunch forcing a rethink over their plan to take the club £500 million into debt, Gillett and Hicks are being forced to reconsider the jaw-dropping plans that they revealed in July. A minimum 60,000 capacity is a must, but the club are now looking to scale down those designs.”

As for Rafa’s future, the manager is still a sitting duck according to various sources. The owners are still said to be planning to oust him the first chance they get. They’ve still not denied that particular claim.

It’s time they put their cards on the table and admitted to the supporters exactly what they’ve got up their sleeve, unless they plan to become even greater absentee owners. Liverpool fans like honesty; they’d rather hear the bad news than some lies that hide the bad news in the short term. If the owners want the support of the fans in the long term they need to start earning some respect from them. More and more fans are becoming disillusioned with the mess David Moores made of the sale of the club.

12 thoughts on “Hicks to abandon symphony stage Kop plans?”

  1. what on earth is happening to this huge club?,all the talk that hicks and gillett gave us when first arriving on the scene right up to today has it seems been utter trash,the final straw with these YANKS is if they ignore the many 1000`s of loyal liverpool fans as well as current first team players such as torres and alonso and sack rafa,if that happens they better cash in on their very short time as joint oweners of this huge club because they will never be welcome in this club again,another question is what the hell is mr rick parry doing,he has hid in a corner like a lost lamb for the past number of weeks while rafa has been gettin it big time from everyone from the press to the owners of the club,with treats of the sack over his head he has still managed to keep us on caorse in all competitons including our best start to a league campagne we have seen in many years as well as bringing us back from the dead in the money spinning champions league,this man is a living legend and deservs a lot more thanks than he is currently recieving,my message is to leave this great club alone and for the YANKS to tell us the truth for a change,we after all deserve the truth as loyal fans

  2. If this is true which I doubt, The Americans should have never bought the club because this club and it’s supporters deserve nthing but the very very best. However is toying around withus doesn’t knowhwat he is playing about with! beware.

  3. Don’t believe this for a second. I don’t know much about the stadium plans but I stopped taking the article seriously as soon as I read:

    “Liverpool’s current owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, are said to be not only intent on sacking manager Rafael Benitez before the start of next season”

    More media crap.

  4. “Liverpool fans like honesty” … As long as they don’t have to provide it themselves.

    Heysel … Michael Shields … etc etc

    Roll on the ‘Begging Bowl’ then – a Rafa-free zone.

  5. This is just a load of hooey and I don’t believe a word of it.

    First, Hicks and Gillette have reconstructed major sports franchises for the last 20 years. Simply, they know what they’re doing and would not have started this if there were any chance of such an elementary problem inherent in the franchise.

    Second, Hicks & Gillette have always been successful and honest in their dealings with management and the fans of all sports franchises they have owned. They have always listened to fan opinions because they understand the worth of doing so. They know the club is nothing without it’s fan base.

    Third, they are way to connected and intelligent to be surprised by the “credit crisis”. They are world class businessmen with entire companies of financial analysts at their disposal. This didn’t “sneak upon them”.

    Fourth, every single time LFC is set to play ManU, a bogus story comes out to try to distract the team from the game. Go back and look at the dates. These kinds of stories always happen right before we play ManU.

    Fifth, going from 80M to 500M is not a simple miscalculation, and is not a budget overrun that is anywhere near believable. Are they idiots? If I were buying a house and someone told me the price was 1/6th of the real price, I’d notice, and these guys have company after company, building after building, each with original architecture. I don’t buy it.

    Sixth, they have no plans to sack Rafa and are much too smart to do something so grandiose and stupid. At worst they will sit down with him sometime this month and sternly tell him not to air dirty laundry in the press. They know the value of this manager/ they know his record, his plan for the future, and his popularity with the players and fans.

    Seventh, just because they are American does not mean they don’t understand the institution that Liverpool FC is and they would not disrespect it just as they didn’t disrespect the Montreal Canadiens; an extremely storied NHL franchise. They are not going to risk sullying the reputation and good name of LFC.

    Eighth, this entire article was written with a slant towards dislike of the owners and so shows a distinct bias towards believing the very worst. It would rather take the word of unnamed rumour sources than the words of the owners themselves.

    Ninth, the article insults Hicks by making fun of how quickly he responded to allegations he was ready to sell, as if responding quickly were a vice not a virtue. He nipped every bad rumour in the bud, but the author dismisses this as if he must be lying for acting so quickly.

    Tenth, the writer gives no evidence at all. He says “If the reports are true – and they’ve been rumoured now for a couple of weeks” . Oh really? from where? whom? I know a lot of rumour sites that say everything from Gerrard is going to Madrid to my mothers best friends aunties seamstress works in the LFC offices and …[insert idiotic rumour here]”.

    This is a wind up pure and simple. If the author has some proof, be it so very slim, I CHALLENGE HIM TO BRING IT FORWARD. As I started so will I finish. This is simple bull disguised as “insider information” and is written simply to discredit LFC and distract us all from the game this Sunday.

  6. Any actual credible quote, simply saying reports are coming out…means rumours created by the media to sell papers.

    If you can justify where you got your story you may even be able to call it a exclusive!

  7. Quote: Third, they are way to connected and intelligent to be surprised by the “credit crisis”. They are world class businessmen with entire companies of financial analysts at their disposal. This didn’t “sneak upon them”.

    Im pretty sure Gillett nearly lost everything a few years ago so this is complete nonsense no business person is immune for being caught out when a recession hits.

    Another remark is the articles slant against the Americans well surely thats a touch hypocritical as according to Nevermans article the sun would appear to shine out if their backsides.And as for nipping every bad bud where the hell have our clubs owners been whilst this has been going on?? Sat over the pond why haven’t they set the record straight instead of letting this snowball.Then the press wouldn’t have anything to report.Unless of course the sun doesn’t shine out of their rears and maybe there is some truth behind all the reports we are getting.

  8. The cost of the new stadium will not be as massive as all our “enemies” would have the gullible amongst us believe. The price of buying the club in the first place included £200 million for the new stadium. For such an iconic structure and the fact that it represents the biggest name in world football will ensure that sponsors will be queueing up to purchase the naming rites.
    If an insignificant club like Arsenal can get £100 million for selling the rites to their rather dull looking effort a successful Liverpool (and we will be successful because we are LFC) can at least double that amount.
    With Liverpool FC the sky is the limit both on the pitch and in the market place. These new custodians are not fools they are businessmen and sports lovers, when they invested in LFC they were aware that they were buying into a religion and the stadium is our cathedral,( Anfield at the present time and new Anfield in the future). What I see now is that they have done nothing wrong, apart from the fact that it is taking an awful long time in getting ” the shovels in the ground”. So we should be giving the Yanks and Raffa our total support and we should ignore all the bitching coming out of Manktown and that foreign city called London, it’s always been the same, jealousy but it has never kept us down in the past and it will not put us down now. UP THE REAL REDS!!!

  9. Neverman, are you Foster Gillett in disguise? You seem to know exactly what Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett are thinking. Is daddy keeping you up to date? He should tell you how to spell your own surname though.

  10. Fred – The Red, to the first point, what I’m saying is that everyone saw this coming. This credit problem has been in the works since long before the purchase of the team. This was not a surprise to them as it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that practices simple day trading.

    As far as the slant on the story, I think it’s obvious reading the story that it takes very loose “proof” to weave the story the writer wants. It’s a sensationalist story written to feed the ire of those Liverpudlians that are angry that their team was sold to those across the big pond. In your case, it gives you a reason to be angry with the American owners.

    As far as the sun from their backsides. I never got close enough to find that out myself. Maybe you and Claude can take a look yourselves and write an equally slanted story about the glare.

    In writing my response to this story I took the history of these men into account. As far as them being good or bad “people” I make no judgment. I look only at their history of responsible sports ownership to try to allay the sense of dread most of the LFC supporters are feeling after reading the story. I support the owners because they have been very successful in the past and have never done something so monumentally stupid before. I take their side because they earned a little trust in my eyes. If not for their prior work with other businesses and sports franchises, then I need only look at the summer transfers to see they are going in the right direction. For those distrustful English who may dislike any American owners, this story is for you. It asks you to throw out your innate sense of reason and believe a load of hogwash.

  11. Excellent retort Neverman to a ridiculous and unfounded article . Its the short-sighted reactionist approach of some Liverpool supporters that are an embarrassment to the club. Every point very well made. Media rubbish. Every word that is spoken can be taken out of context. We are lucky to have these owners and David Moores ensured he was leaving the club with people he trusted. More good times are round the corner.

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