NewsAnfield Road update
Liverpool FC chief executive officer Billy Hogan has today issued an update on the development of the Anfield Road Stand.
Billy, Anfield Road Stand contractors Buckingham Group recently made the club aware that it has filed for a notice of intention to appoint administrators. Can you update us on what this means for the project?
Yes, sure. Given the events of the last week we felt it was important to keep supporters updated on what’s happening with the project. Clearly it’s a hugely important project that’s transforming Anfield and we just want to make sure that we are keeping the updates coming as we can provide them. So, to start with, first off I want to thank everybody who worked so incredibly hard, particularly over the course of the last week or so given the events and the announcement that we got in the middle of the week, to get the lower tier open for that first match against Bournemouth last weekend. Terrific to see the lower tier operational – of course, as we’ve said in the past, we would have liked to have had the full stand ready but given the complex nature of the project that obviously wasn’t possible.
So, just referencing the announcement that we got on Thursday morning, essentially Buckingham put their notice in for their intention to file for administration, so that came just a couple of days before the Bournemouth match. We already had plans at that point to open the lower tier which again, we obviously executed safely for the game so I just want to thank everybody again for their commitment and dedication in making that happen. It’s inevitable that if Buckingham do enter into administration, and that is something that we’re waiting to see, then they will have a number of creditors. Obviously there will be a ripple effect on all of their employees, the various contracts, suppliers, sub-contractors, so due to the uncertainty surrounding Buckingham’s future we absolutely recognise the effect that this is having on people and their jobs and people’s livelihoods so obviously our thoughts are also with the employees at Buckingham, their suppliers, sub-contractors who, like we do, face a level of uncertainty, not just for their livelihoods but their families as well.
Have Buckingham’s workers now left the site and what happens next from your point of view?
Yeah, that’s right. So effectively major work stopped on the site on Thursday morning after the announcement so clearly that impacts all of our planning. Timing, obviously, is incredibly fluid right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty around where we are and obviously in time that will become more clear. It’s important that we don’t want to set any false expectations. We wanted to make sure that we provided an update. We announced a couple of weeks ago that we were going to be working through a phased opening [and] that plan remains, obviously. We will continue to provide updates as we have them and we will be able to provide more clarity over the coming weeks on the timescales to complete the project. Just to speak plainly, we are in a bit of a holding pattern right now based on the news that we got on Thursday and that needs to reach its conclusion before we can truly start to take the next steps. But if Buckingham does enter into administration then we’ll need to address any delays that may arise from completing the new stand as a result of that.
Obviously we will of course work with Buckingham and any other contractors who may be appointed in the future to retain as many of the existing jobs and expertise which have been a part of the project all along. So, I guess to be clear, everyone, myself included, is looking forward to getting the stand completed and fully open but we are doing everything that we possibly can to make sure that happens and that also means working with a multitude of stakeholders behind the scenes effectively over the course of the last several days and we will continue to do that, just to make sure that we have the right expertise to get the stand completed, get it opened safely and professionally and that is ultimately our priority.
The intention was to have it completed in October, is this going to have an impact on those timings that you had in mind?
Well look, to be clear, our intention was to have the stand open for Bournemouth and we realised in the weeks and months leading up to it that, as timelines started to slip, that we weren’t going to make Bournemouth, which is why we put that announcement out last month about where we were with regard to the phased opening and at that time, we identified that it was going to be a phased opening over the first couple of matches of the season. So, that’s still our intention. Obviously we talked about having the stand fully open in October, clearly we have discussed the uncertainly that this announcement creates. We are still aiming for October but what we’re working through now is to put a plan in place. As I said, [there is] an unbelievable amount of work going on in the background, literally since we were made aware of Buckingham’s intentions, to make sure that we have as little impact on that timeline as possible. So, again, I don’t want to set false expectations but we do have to have, obviously, a schedule that we need to work towards. It’s hard to set that schedule based on what is happening immediately, but we are working through it having digested the announcement on Thursday and working over the course of the last several days and then any subsequent administration of Buckingham and what that means with regards to our contract with them and then the strategy and programme that we put forward.
Aston Villa are the next team to visit Anfield on September 3. Is there any update on what you expect the capacity to be for that game and what supporters can expect to see differently to what they did at the Bournemouth match?
Yeah, I’m sure a number of people are wondering what is happening for Villa. So, based on the current situation, we will run the Villa game exactly the same as we did against Bournemouth. The capacity will be around the same, so about 50,000. Obviously without the second tier on Anfield Road that does have an impact on the overall capacity so just the lower tier will be open and we are working through the same programmes to manage the match as we did and obviously at the same time, as I said there is a lot of work going on in the background to manage the long-term plan to complete the stand. And effectively by having that reduced capacity for the Villa game, that will mean some reductions in allocations across the stadium but we’re really working and looking to make the impact minimal: [we will] still be able to accommodate all season ticket holders and those with 13+ credits as we did for the Bournemouth game. We will be updating supporters with all the details of the Aston Villa game over the course of this week so look out for more information coming out from the club in the days ahead.
Let’s finish with a message for the supporters – what would that be?
That’s the reason we felt it was important to try to address the issue. I guess, frankly, I would just like to ask that everyone please bears with us as we work through these issues. We’re really disappointed with the news that we received last week and since that moment I can assure you that internally we have been working as hard as possible to get everything as well as possible planned for whatever the eventuality might be. We are in a bit of the unknown right now so we certainly are sorry for any inconvenience that this delay has had on people, we recognise that it hasn’t been easy for our supporters as well. But please be assured that we are doing everything we can, as I said, in the background. I know there are frustrations, we share them, which is why we have got a great team of people here at the club working on solutions.
So, I do want to take a moment to recognise that this is, as I said at the beginning, a really exciting and important project for the club, for Anfield, adding over 7,000 seats and getting capacity to 61,000. I think if you do step back and you look at this project over the course of what has been almost two years – we started in September 2021, you will remember when Jürgen put the spade in the ground in that ceremony – [we have] played a record number of men’s home games, we have hosted three LFC Legends matches which have raised £2.5 million for local charities and LFC Foundation, we have hosted a women’s derby, we have had sold-out concerts, all without reducing capacity. So, I do think it is important to take a moment to thank everyone who has worked so hard on this project over the course of the last almost two years and once we’re complete the stand is going to create an additional 400 jobs. It’s going to take our matchday workforce to about 2,800 people with 95 per cent of those directly employed from the local area. So, I know this is incredibly disappointing and frustrating but I do think that is important, to also remember the positives about this and we share those frustrations, we share that disappointment, but this is a really impactful project for Anfield and we can’t wait to see it completed, we can’t wait to see 61,000 inside Anfield. We’re looking forward to that and we will make sure that we continue to keep people updated as much as we possibly can over the weeks ahead.