Saturday 18 August 2018

Liverpool owners reach crossroads which gives them opportunity to prove doubters wrong

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: John Walton/PA Wire

Simon Hughes

Its sheer size dominates every other structure in the area, meaning there is less protection from the sharp winds that blow in from the Irish Sea.

And so, some supporters sitting in the top tier of the main stand complain that Anfield has much become a much colder place - even if they can see a vapour trail left behind by Mohamed Salah and then contrastingly, as far as Widnes, merely by raising their heads a little.

Yet clearly, results revealed by Liverpool yesterday show the club's economic potential is gradually being realised and may benefit Jurgen Klopp (right) as he bids to land that elusive league title.

The new stand earned Liverpool an extra £12m in its first season, with overall matchday revenue rising to £74m.

Though Liverpool still trails Manchester United and Arsenal by roughly a quarter, the gap in theory would narrow again if the option to raise the Anfield Road stand's capacity by 6,000 was taken up.

It is a significant factor that today's impressive figures are largely down to the popularity of hospitality suites at home fixtures.

With a Champions League campaign that at the very least will surely involve a quarter-final tie this season, accounts for the year 2017-18 will look even better.

Potential

What Fenway Sports Group choose to do next has the potential to divide opinion and it explains why they are taking their time considering the options, with more than 50 designs being evaluated.

Debate around what should happen with the Anfield Road comes at a time where supporters have raised concerns about the availability of tickets for junior fans, those who in better circumstances would attend together and make an almighty din but aren't able to, having been priced out due to rising costs - though in the Premier League Liverpool are not alone in that sense.

There is a belief that a younger, working-class support would help Anfield get closer to the 'famous atmosphere', that the club is so willing to push as unique - particularly towards sponsors.

Thus, they say, it would help the team achieve better results on the pitch, something that surely would be beneficial to off-the-field performance as well.

It is true that businesspeople at the club's city centre offices on Chapel Street have spreadsheets that estimate 'projected yields per-seat' which means Liverpool have an idea of how much someone is likely to spend when inside the ground.

This leads to an impression Liverpool might prefer to have a tourist in the Kop than a local who by tradition will congregate outside and take his or her custom to nearby shops and pubs rather than drink warm beer in concrete concourses or, rather more lucratively from the club's perspective - splash cash in the enormous retail store just behind the famous stand.

It is true also, however, that Liverpool are attempting to establish an accurate demographic amongst their 26,000 season-tickets holders because there has long been a culture of passing tickets between families from generation to generation, meaning that tickets which might become available for younger fans disappear.

On average, 2,737 seats inside Anfield remain empty at every home fixture despite tickets being bought in advance.

Though security measures were put forward as a primary reason for a season ticket amnesty launched last month, with a promise that tickets will not be taken away from fans, the scheme will inevitably allow Liverpool to assess more clearly who is really watching.

Damaging

Though historically they have only learnt through damaging mistakes, Fenway are getting better at striking healthier balances.

They will recognise that the financial success of the main stand has been largely because of its corporate hospitality facilities.

Inevitably, they will be anxious investing again on another new development which merely by geography is unlikely to have the space for as many boxes.

They should recognise too the potential of rail seating like at Celtic Park, though club officials say they would never install them without the approval of the families affected by the Hillsborough disaster.

Fenway, then, will soon arrive at a crossroad of choices that have moral, sporting and financial considerations. Undoubtedly, it is a clear opportunity to prove doubters wrong when it is argued they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

(© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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