Liverpool's bid to move into new stadium on Stanley Park moved another step closer today when the club were handed the lease for land they need on the park.
Under the terms of the plan the club will move the few hundred yards to Stanley Park and the land where Anfield is now will be handed over for use by the public. The lease is a 999-year-lease and was approved by council leaders today.
Leader of the council, Warren Bradley, said after the lease had been granted: "It's all systems go. All we need now is the club to confirm the funding. If Liverpool have the funding in place, they can start on the site from January."
Despite the gloom reported by some, there's little chance of Liverpool being unable to secure the funding for the project. The only issue is exactly how that funding is raised. Finding an investor who has the club's best interests at heart may prove impossible, meaning that the club may instead seek to borrow money.
According to the BBC the club have until the end of September to prove they can come up with the money, the Liverpool Echo meanwhile has taken a more aggressive approach to the story, saying LFC have a week to inform the council whether or not the money is there.
The BBC say the estimated cost of the project will be £215m, with Liverpool expected to find £180m of that. The first figure includes the costs of building new facilities for the community, which will be funded by grants.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, the whole project has faced political barriers since it was first announced, with jealous Everton fans opposed to Liverpool getting a third of the park, and jealous politicians using the stadium issue as a way of doing what politicians do best – fighting each other!
The idea of giving Liverpool until the end of next week rather than until the end of the month comes from councillors who have been stirring up trouble in recent weeks with regards Objective One funding. An image is trying to be put out that Liverpool's board are sitting around daydreaming about getting the money together, when clearly this is not going to be the case. The club have spent a fortune already in investigations, planning, legal consultations and financial consultations. They aren't going to throw that away.
One of those who seems fond of making Liverpool sound complacent and disinterested is Councillor Flo Clucas. Of course her job is to ensure that the city of Liverpool don't lose out on the money from Objective One and she's probably desperate that it starts being spent soon before someone takes it away again. She seems to be always willing to give a quote to the press attacking Liverpool, the latest came today in the Echo: "The stadium is regarded by our European colleagues as absolutely vital. Without it, there will be no European funding. That has been said loudly and clearly to the club."
Confirming what she's told us time and again, her frustration is that LFC are not dropping everything to get ball rolling on the project: "If the club does not come forward with its funding, this regeneration project does not exist. We are waiting for them to say what they will do, because everything else is in place. They will need to come forward with their funding in the next week so reports can be ready for the committee. If they do that, we will be in a position to proceed."
So the money doesn't need to be in place by the end of next week at all then. Ms Lucas just wants it to be there by then so she and her colleagues can get the paperwork and presentations done.
Another body with cash handouts waiting to be put to good use by LFC is the North West Development Agency (NWDA). Their chief executive is Steven Broomhead, who had this to say: "Any decision on our potential investment remains dependent on Liverpool securing the necessary funding to take this scheme forward. We need to be certain that all the money is in place and that the stadium is going ahead before we can formally approve any funding for the scheme."
Nothing different there then.
There were even some protestors outside the town hall today, complaining about the potential loss of green space. They want to see the Anfield area left pretty derelict with some green space on the park, rather than have the whole area regenerated and alternative open space provided where the famous stadium is now.
The current target for completion is for the start of the 2009 season, just three years away.