Liverpool expect to command the same match-day revenue as Chelsea when their expanded main stand opens next year - a £25m a season uplift which they believe can ultimately help them to compete more strongly with the London club in the transfer market.
Suggestions that Brendan Rodgers is ready to head back into the transfer market for Ezequiel Lavezzi this month are thought to be wide of the mark and any hopes Liverpool might have to show more purchasing ambition are now limited by Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regime.
Chelsea – whom they meet in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg next Tuesday - spent heavily before the new breakeven rules kicked in. Revenue from the new stand – which Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre anticipates will generate £20m from the additional £8,500 seats and £5m from a naming rights sponsor – would allow the club to spend without falling foul of Uefa, who are currently investigating the Anfield outfit and six other clubs for possible FFP breaches.
Ayre has reiterated to FC Business magazine the point he made to this newspaper and others six weeks ago – that Liverpool, a club with a traditional working class support, could not afford to be squeamish about corporate seats forming an important part of the stadium development.
“Corporate hospitality revenues are essential,” Ayre said. “If we had increased capacity by 8,500 general admission seats only, it would have taken a ridiculous time to pay back the investment, meaning revenues into the team would have been affected. But the large corporate increase means we will pay the debt back quickly and not be saddled with debt, while quickly increasing revenues into the playing squad.”
Liverpool remain a huge distance behind Manchester United and Arsenal in terms of match-day revenues. Latest figures from the 2012-13 season revealed that United's match-day earnings were £109m, Arsenal's £93m, Chelsea's £71m and Liverpool's way behind at £45m, just ahead of City.
The Main Stand expansion will take Anfield's overall capacity to around 54,000. But the club is still wrestling with the best way to exploit the outline planning permission it has secured to expand the Anfield Road End by a further 6,000. Only when that second phase is complete will Liverpool be able to compete with Arsenal on match-day income.
The Anfield Road development is more difficult because it will not include the corporate hospitality element which will deliver two-thirds of the income needed to pay back the loans being extended from the cash reserves of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the American sports investment company.
Ayre – who insisted that FSG had no intention of selling Liverpool - said that the club wants a return on their investment over five to six years, though some commercial benefits before then. The possible £5m-a-year potential naming rights revenue is based on market value. “We didn’t think that looking for a naming rights deal on a stadium as iconic as Anfield made sense, but there are real value and benefits to be had around a naming rights deal on the new stand,” Ayre said. Liverpool also anticipate a £10m uplift when their current Standard Chartered shirt sponsorship deal expires in 2016.
Making up the huge commercial advantage United have established remains a colossal challenge, though. Private equity specialist Phillip Hall, who represented FSG on their 2010 Anfield takeover yesterday said that the Glazer family had built United’s finances hugely, despite the controversy surrounding the debt they loaded onto the club when purchasing it. United is “a very self-sustaining and profitable commercial enterprise that, I think, is five to 10 years ahead of their nearest competitor in the Premier League,” Hall said.
Independent News Service