In a carefully-worded statement issued on the official website, Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry tried to deflect criticism away from the owners regarding their latest piece of backtracking.
When the owners took over at Anfield the plans for the new stadium consisted of a 60,000-seater bowl-shaped stadium, similar to most other stadia built in recent years. These plans were seven years old, designed at a time when the cost to build would have been something like £70m. Costs increased dramatically as the club dithered over possible takeover candidates.
Hicks and Gillett did not like the plans – they didn’t like the look of the stadium and they didn’t like the proposed capacity. So they decided to brief architects in the US to produce something special. These plans were special, an impressive and unique stadium that would be capable of eventually holding 78,000 supporters, a figure that Rick Parry claimed it would hold from the day it opened.
These plans were introduced to the world at a high-profile briefing in August.
Earlier this month stories started to emerge that the owners had briefed the original architects of the bowl-shaped stadium to tweak their plans to allow for a larger capacity. The figure they were working towards was 70,000, and this – like the earlier 60,000-seater plans discarded as inappropriate by the owners – could never be increased after the stadium was completed. At that time there were two sets of plans – the reworked identikit bowl and the unique stadium hyped up by Tom Hicks. The owners are now in this country, and have agreed to ditch the impressive stadium in favour of the bowl.
The board know that in the wake of the (yet-to-be-denied) Rafa-sack stories that scrapping the owners’ original plans for the new stadium is not going to be popular. It’s another promise broken, and another sign that they do not care even a small amount for what they took over. A statement today telling the truth about the stadium, without hiding it behind words designed to deflect readers from the truth might have been able to help them a little in what will be a battle to win back support from the fans. But instead of being straight, they repeated their approach to the truth about Rafa and skirted around the truth.
The statement was headlined: “PARRY: WE ARE COMMITTED TO NEW STADIUM”. Well whatever its form, the stadium that replaces Anfield will be a new stadium. But the word “The” before “New Stadium” suggests that special unique design we were promised earlier this year, the design which allows the Kop to be the “symphony stage” Hicks had spoken so – we thought – fondly of. Unfortunately Parry is talking about the big bowl.
The statement read:
“Following press speculation on Saturday morning concerning Liverpool’s new stadium in Stanley Park, Rick Parry today said: ‘We remain absolutely committed to the building of a new stadium which will improve on the original design’
Chief Executive Rick Parry told liverpoolfc.tv: ‘We remain absolutely committed to the building of a new stadium which will improve on the original design inherited by Tom Hicks and George Gillett when they came into the club.
‘It will have a capacity of around 70,000, be higher quality and have a substantially increased Kop which will form the centrepiece of the new plans.
‘Ever since the original designs were unveiled, we have been continuously revising and refining with the intention of delivering the best possible solution to our future needs.
‘The situation in the credit markets has not affected our design, programme, or implementation of building our new stadium. The priority has always been to build a winning team on the pitch and everything else we do is geared towards that.'”
Breaking that down, Parry immediately confirms that the new stadium is not the 61,000-seater stadium announced in August, with the ability to be increased in capacity to 78,000. This is the 70,000-seater reworking of the bowl. He says it will “improve on the original design inherited by Hicks and Gillett” – in other words, it is a tweaked version of that 60,000-seater design from seven years ago.
When he talks of “higher quality” it remains to be seen exactly what that quality increase entails. It certainly won’t include the large glass sides that were in the plans we were promised earlier in the year. There is a possibility of a single-tier Kop, which would be one improvement on the designs from seven years ago, but this is not the Kop which was carefully designed with acoustics in mind by the US architects.
As more and more supporters have started to open their eyes to the new owners perhaps not being what most thought they were when they took over, various excuses have been wheeled out by fans who simply can’t believe what’s happening. One of those excuses is that the owners are feeling the pinch financially due to the world’s credit crisis, and that they have to downgrade their plans because they can no longer afford to stick to their promises. But Parry refutes this: “The situation in the credit markets has not affected our design, programme, or implementation of building our new stadium.” So why have the owners downgraded their plans? What is it that made them go back on their word? Hicks claimed at the unveiling of these plans that he wasn’t concerned at the increased costs, so why have they gone for this option that they clearly thought was inferior when they took the club over?
A lot of questions remain unanswered by the owners, but it’s clear that what they promised repeatedly in past interviews – both in terms of on-field and off-field spending – is not going to happen. “Snoogy Doogy” didn’t arrive, because Rafa was given no more money in the summer than he’d have got under David Moores. The new stadium that was planned before they took over was not exactly loved by supporters, but had become accepted. They then promised better, showed us the prize, then took it away.
We’ve a match to win tomorrow, where Rafa’s team will try to answer questions about their title credentials on the pitch. But in the stands will sit two wealthy Americans, perhaps not as wealthy as they were when they first sat there, who need to answer a lot of questions about their credentials for taking Liverpool forward in the way that Liverpool should be taken forward. As things stand, with their threats to Rafa and their lack of honesty, they stand to build a stadium they might just struggle to fill.