Stadium downgrade revealed, but no finance as yet

Despite hopes from many Liverpool supporters that DIC would step in and buy the club off current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, before they committed to a new loan which could quite easily cripple the club in the event of even just one poor season, the 25th of January looks like being a black Friday in Liverpool’s history. Although in typical Hicks style, it might be a black Saturday or Monday instead.

Two announcements were expected to be made today by the owners. One was to confirm that they had increased Liverpool Football Club’s debt significantly; the other was to try and soften that devastating blow with details of the latest plans for the new stadium, which will become the third version submitted for planning permission.

It was expected that both news items would be revealed at the same time, but instead the first announcement to come was that on the new stadium.

Perhaps it’s easy to read too much into things, but although the announcement appeared on the Liverpool FC website, it was not worded as being an announcement from Liverpool FC, or for that matter Hicks and Gillett. When Hicks and Gillett took the club over last year, they actually used a holding company they’d created, Kop Football. They owned the holding company; the holding company owned the club.

George Gillett, unheard of since before Christmas, his son having seemingly fled the country two weeks ago, isn’t even mentioned in the announcement. Tom Hicks is quoted in the release, but only by name. It’s normal practice to describe the position of anyone quoted in a press release, be it director, owner, manager or custodian, but not in this instance.

Here’s the announcement:


Paul Eaton 25 January 2008

Kop Football (Holdings) Limited, (“Kop”) the owner of Liverpool Football Club, is pleased to announce the confirmation of the selection of the architectural firm HKS, Inc. as designer of the Club’s new stadium at Stanley Park.

Confirmation of the selection of HKS was based on the firm’s successful development of an improved stadium design that meets the objective of a cost-effective, supporter-friendly design.

The new stadium, scheduled to open in August 2011, will ensure that Liverpool Football Club and its supporters get the much-anticipated groundbreaking iconic design at a capacity of approximately 71,000 seats, significantly more than is currently available at Anfield.

The new stadium will feature enhanced amenities for the Club’s supporters while preserving the history and traditions of Anfield and the Club itself.

It will be anchored by an expanded 18,500-seat standalone KOP, an increase of more than 5,000 seats.

Kop also announces the appointment of KUD International as project manager for the stadium. KUD, which will establish a Liverpool office to oversee the project, has developed projects globally, including Silvertown Quays, a large-scale mixed use scheme in London, as well as collegiate and professional stadiums in the United States including the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field and the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park.

Laing O’Rourke, the largest privately owned construction firm in the UK, has also joined, and provides further depth of experience to, the project team. Laing O’Rourke is currently working with developer Grosvenor on The Paradise Project in Liverpool – Europe’s largest city-centre regeneration scheme.

Tom Hicks said: “HKS has developed a more efficient design that, at the same time, is just as stunning as its original design.

“Liverpool supporters should have high expectations for the future: a premier sporting experience at their new stadium at Stanley Park and a winning Club on the pitch for years to come.”

Liverpool supporters’ expectations weren’t very high a year ago; but even those expectations were never met.

At first glance the images of what Rick Parry described as a “downgraded” set of plans do indeed seem to show a stadium that at least cosmetically looks very close to the earlier design. See for yourself here, including some side-by-side shots of the July 2007 version compared to January 2008. But can the club afford to build it?

Planning permission will need to be obtained for this latest variation on the plans, especially given the quoted increase in capacity. Hicks and Gillett will need to convince the city council that the area will be able to cope with such an increase in match day traffic, almost 50% more traffic than a home game would attract today.

Official details of the estimated cost weren’t revealed in this announcement, although figures as high as £300m were quoted this week from some sources, with the lowest figure quoted being £210m.

The refinancing deal due to be announced today will reportedly last for 18 months, and will be split between Liverpool FC, Kop Football Holdings and a small fraction on guarantees from Hicks and Gillett. The money released will pay off the £298m loan from last year, and should also allow a start to be made on the stadium, if it gets planning permission.

Opposition from supporters towards Hicks and Gillett has not decreased, and isn’t likely to with any of the announcements made today. There’s even a rumour going around that Hicks wants to show his commitment to Rafa by signing Javier Mascherano on a permanent deal.

Well we were supposed to get a new stadium – that was a condition of the takeover – so hardly anything to celebrate there, especially given the continuing uncertainty over its cost, how it will be funded, and if it will even be granted planning permission. As for Mascherano – well given the fact that the owners have yet to spend anything on transfers that couldn’t have been spent without their arrival on the scene, his signature should have been the minimum we could expect from them. His deal sounds expensive, £17m, but that was to be paid over five years. And as Hicks will no doubt realise, he’ll have no problems at all selling him on at a profit if he so chooses at a later date, which may become the Liverpool way in the future.

The BBC sports editor Mihir Bose says that £60m of the new finance package will be put into getting the stadium building underway, although with there only being £52m left over after the existing loan has been paid off it’s not too clear how that can be. He said: “Liverpool are very keen for the announcement of this package to be presented as a good news story from Anfield after weeks of strife.”

Bose has a mixed reputation when it comes to being in the know: sometimes he is, sometimes he isn’t. But he seems to report in the same way regardless. He said: “I’m told by my sources in Dubai that DIC is still very keen and has been selling assets to make sure it has the necessary money. It was not keen on this re-financing because it feels it puts up the price of Liverpool. But DIC is still in the wings, and I wouldn’t be surprised if something happens on that front, maybe not just now but in the next year or so.”

The Echo’s Tony Barrett reported today that although Hicks is confident the finance deal will go through, and that it’s only being held up by paperwork, “sources close to the deal” have said that George Gillett’s still not stumped up his share of the money, effectively a deposit, required by RBS and Wachovia before the deal can be done.

Of course at the time of the writing of this article, the US is just rising from its slumbers, which may not have been exactly peaceful for Hicks and Gillett. But it does mean that there is time for Hicks to make the announcement, no doubt to some kind of fanfare.

DIC aren’t seen by all fans as the answer to all the club’s problems, and a large number of fans would have preferred we’d not been sold at all, and perhaps tried to expand Anfield bit-by-bit instead. But most fans agree that DIC can’t be any worse than Hicks and Gillett, and many of those hope that DIC would at least be professional in their control of the club, and that they would understand that the customer, the supporter, is an asset the club needs to look after.

The LFC Supporters Network‘s recent surveys showed that the majority of supporters asked would be prepared to change their spending habits when it comes to the club, to reduce the money the club takes in from supporters, their votes showing overwhelmingly that they felt the club was in the wrong hands. Moving on from that the group encouraged discussions amongst fans using internet messaging boards. These discussions have already thrown up some excellent ideas which will hit the owners in the pocket, both here and overseas, and will also attract a lot of publicity to the cause. Any other ideas are most welcome of course, and will be discussed at a meeting next week organised by LFCSN. The meeting will be attended by existing supporters’ groups, by fanzine editors, by website owners and by others who are prepared to do what they can to see the club gets back on a path closer to where it should have been.

One of those who’ll be there is John Mackin from RTK, who said today that Hicks and Gillett have a pretty tough, if not impossible, task ahead of them if they want to gain the trust of the supporters again: “Unless the owners come out and say they are giving Rafa Benitez a new deal, they are going to support him extensively in the transfer market, and that none of the money to fund that will put the club in debt, they have got no chance of winning us over. Such is the level of disquiet among the fans that a meeting is to be held next week when we will discuss the next phase in our ongoing protests against the owners.”

As John says, building work should have commenced last spring and yet we are still waiting for even token activity on the project: “We have seen pretty pictures of stadium designs before and we’re still waiting for a single spade to go into the ground at Stanley Park, something Hicks and Gillett promised would happen within 60 days of takeover, so it’ll take a lot more than a new picture and a major PR offensive for us to be won over.”

Liverpool fans will not be lied to, as we’ve proved before. Gillett and Hicks have not kept their promises so far, and so nobody who wears a Red scarf with pride, rather than for publicity, will be holding their breath that anything will improve at the club under their stewardship. With Gillett in complete hiding and Hicks hiding behind PR agencies, the owners clearly don’t intend to try too hard to win back our trust.

8 thoughts on “Stadium downgrade revealed, but no finance as yet”

  1. To LFC Supporters Network,

    I have been on before ranting against the DISGRACEFUL way the owners have been running our club. However i’m not going rant at them today. Instead I want to concentrate on letting Rafa know how much we want him to stay and how much he means to us and the future of our club. There is no doubt that Rafa will consider leaving in summer due to relationship with the American tw@ts. LETS NOT GET TO THE SITUATION WHERE WE END UP LOSING THE BEST MANAGER WE HAVE HAD IN YEARS!!

    THE IDEA- Lets start a fund online to finance the making of a massive rafa flag for the kop. Designing is not my strong point but i’m sure between us we can come up with a solution to show our unwavering support for the choice of the people. Rafa’s head on a red/ white/ red background.

    How could the Yanks ignore that when its televised across the pond? (because lets face it they’re never at the games )

    Stupid idea OR Genius idea I dont know? But one thing is for sure I’m not willing to sit around and do nothing. This club means too much to me for that

  2. Look it’s done now. No turning back. Only thing we hope for is to have the stadium completed. The chaos is over for now so we need Rafa to get things going on the pitch.

    Building a cheaper – cost effective stadium is ok with me. Cheaper stadium will perhaps mean cheaper tickets later. One of my friends told me that the plastic seats in Arsenal Stadium was from Malaysia and Malaysian plastic is comparable to global standards – only cheaper. So this “cheaper” is fine with me when quality is not compromised.

    I’m not saying I like the USA but with DIC in, they may restart the whole process again and waste another year or so before the stadium even start work.

    In my head, I’m just thinking about the stadium and the sooner it is built – whether it’d built by the Devil himself, I don’t care. The sooner it’s there, the sooner we can compete with the big 3. DIC or USA, whoever, doesn’t matter to me anymore. This whole farcicle on USA is getting boring to me and the tabloids must be having fun with the news everyday. I don’t think DIC will do a Roman style on us. They are crude investors and only invest on things they see fit.

    But first things first, Mascherano is a MUST!!! Come end of season ppl to leave will be Kuyt and Voronin (Unless Kuyt starts scoring winning goals for us in Old Trafford and Emeriates and Stamford Bridge.

  3. We are F**KED. Have you seen the news today Mascherano is Hicks gift to us.Are we supposed to be grateful?But get this……..its on the condition we sell Sissoko, and Mascheranos fee of £17m includes his wages so its a straight swap and we are supposed to be content with that. Its also been reported we wanted Walcott on loan!!!!!!! Can you believe that we are reduced to having the Gooners cast offs.
    Thanks Mr Moores you have certainly done the best for our club haven’t you and Parry you bootlicking piece of crap.All this misery for a few extra bucks per share.
    We have become a laughing stock.Owned by Yank parasites that don’t even attend our games.We had better get used to the likes of playing Havant because thats where we will be heading soon seeing as it looks like we will have to meet yearly interest repayments of £30 million.
    Sleep easy Mr Moores
    Sleep easy Mr Parry
    Youv’e f**cked us good and proper!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Kong the news of the refinancing does not mean DIC won’t bid for us it just means the hillbillies have more time to consider any offer.
    Maktoum brought a boeing 747 to transport his horses do you really think they wouldn’t invest in the team? The more successful we are the more we are worth.We have to be owned by someone and most would prefer DIC.

  5. Hicks Holdings
    100 Crescent Court
    TX 75201 USA

    Tel 001 214 615 2300

    For anyone fancying any direct action!

  6. know one believed that under Rafa we would be back amongst Europes Elite, so much so that teams we would never had had a hope in beating (Barcelona away for eg) dont fancy playing us at all. We are Liverpool! and that is down to Rafa! i cannot believe the Lies we have been fed by these two ass clowns! the only thing they understand is money…so hit them where it hurts…boycott the KOP for one hiogh profile match!! let the television pictures speak a thousand words!

  7. Rafa= Reina, Alonso, Mascherano, Torres and Gerrard, who would have gone but for Benitez. Quite simply, back him or F* off across the pond! the best manager since Dalglish, its only a matter of time before we get the league. No Rafa= player exodus, £6 million compensation, a new manager with a new five year plan, millions spent on new transfers, no hope no future.

  8. I didn’t think they would get the money, but they did. That means that we’re stuck with them for another while at least.

    So what does everyone do? Do we all continue to whinge and cry about the owners or do we all get on with what we do best.. being the best team in Europe.

    On a personal level, I’m no renewing my LFC e-season ticket, bt that’s as far as my protests will go. I will still go to Anfield. My wee man will get any kit that’s going and I hope to stop talking about money and concentrate on football.

    I think Hicks and Gillette should learn from this experience. It can only get better for them as far as the supporters are concerned and they should now know a lot more about what it means to own a football club like Liverpool. Maybe they’ll sell, maybe they won’t. If they have any sense they’ll hold unto Rafa for as long as the fans want him. But, they must give Rafa a fixed budget, say 40m per annum so that he knows where he stands. Whether it’s adequate is another matter but the man needs to know where he stands.

    The team needs to stand up and be counted too. In all fairness, the last few weeks can’t be solely attributed to the ownership issues. The team have been brutal and have merely gone through the motions. That’s not enough at a club like Liverpool and the fans are entitled to expect more from the team. You don’t need a team of superstars to draw with Wigan, Luton, Middlesboro or to lose to Reading. They need to buck up and get on with playing football.

    Stevie G needs to behave like a captain. Stop whinging about where he wants to play. Stop cracking stupid shots from 50 yards out, stop getting in the way of the strikers. He should play on the right with Alonso and Mascherano in the middle. If its good enough for Ronaldinho and Ronaldo it should be good enough for Gerrard. He could learn a lot from Carra in terms of his attitude. If you think of it, if Gerard was sold we could buy Alves, Molouda and still have enough for a good striker.. so let him not think that the team must be built around him. He has to play for the team, and forget his own ego.

    As for Rafa. Rafa’s job appears to be secure. The least he’s entitled to now is certainty regarding his budget. Tell him what he has to spend and let him get on with it. Let him take in a decent assistant manager to help. If he get’s that he will be in as good a position as most top European managers. It will be up to him to motivate the team and to get them back to winning ways. There’s nothing he can do now about the owners so like everyone else he’ll have to make the most of his lot.

    We’re different at Liverpool. We won our league titles when money wasn’t the factor it is now. We won because we were better at what we did than the other teams. We’ve got to keep ahead. We shouldn’t be dependent on simply buying new players. At the end of the day, for all their money, United and Chelsea can still only play 11 men.

    We can stil win the Champion’s league. We can win the cup. But for those recent draws we’d be in pole position for the league, but everyone needs to stand up and be counted from now on – glory in adversity.


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