Q&ABilly Hogan provides update for fans on Anfield Road Stand project
Liverpool FC chief executive officer Billy Hogan has today provided an update for supporters on the status of the ongoing Anfield Road Stand expansion project.
Billy, you said when we last spoke that you were committed to keeping fans updated on the new Anfield Road Stand project, and obviously a lot has been happening since the last update. Can you just tell us first what steps have been taken since Buckingham Group filed for administration?
Absolutely. As you said, it has been important for us over the course of the last couple of months, especially given the issues that we’ve had, to be as transparent as possible about the project and as you said, keep everybody up to date along the way. As I mentioned when we spoke last, obviously when Buckingham Group filed for administration, that impacted people’s livelihoods, people’s jobs so I do want to make sure that we just remember that and mention it, and I do want to thank everybody who has worked on the project and all those that are currently working on the project. And I certainly want to thank all of our supporters for their patience and understanding while we navigate through the situation, which as I mentioned has been incredibly challenging over the last few months.
So, kind of going back, obviously when we got the news back in mid-August – August 17 – when Buckingham effectively said it was their intention to formally go into administration, we had about three weeks during that period where no work could happen on the site and where we effectively had to wait until they formally went into administration. They went into administration on September 4. Essentially, during that kind of three-week period we were working in the background to try to address as many different issues as the possibility of an administration would raise.
And then once Buckingham did enter administration we quickly moved to appoint Rayner Rowen Construction as the new contractor, as well as a number of other sub-contractors, to resume the works as quickly as possible. That was on September 4, we actually started work and were able to get back on the site on September 5. Essentially what that process has involved over the course of what’s now been about five weeks has been to fully assess where the construction programme was at the time, and then also allow Rayner Rowen to work with our internal teams and gather all of the relevant necessary information to make an informed decision around what would be a revised project completion programme.
And in order to maintain consistency on the project, we kind of mentioned this earlier, working closely with Rayner Rowen we’ve been able to place orders from over 80 per cent of the remaining work needed to complete the stand with those sub-contractors who had previously worked under the Buckingham Group. So, all of this effectively has been helpful in Rayner Rowen having the opportunity to gather the vital information as well as continuing with the outstanding work in all the various areas of the project to come up with what is ultimately a revised project completion programme.
It sounds like the site is fully operational again, which is good, with work progressing. Do we have the revised construction timeline now?
Yeah. So, at this point, as everyone knows, what we have effectively been operating with is the lower stand being open over the course of the early part of the season, which is allowing Rayner Rowen to continue the analysis of the project. However, what I would say is over the course of the last few days it has become clear that in order to complete a thorough assessment of that project completion timeline, it’s going to take longer than really we first thought. Ultimately, what that means for supporters is that until we have visibility of all the information needed, we’re going to have to maintain the status quo for the remainder of the calendar year, essentially meaning capacity at Anfield will remain the same as for the previous home games that we’ve seen this season. The lower tier of the stand remaining open and the upper tier remaining closed until the end of the calendar year. Ultimately this is a decision that was made in order for us to give time for ourselves, for, as I mentioned, external consultants as well as for Rayner Rowen to continue with the assessment of the project and ultimately to finalise the project timeline.
In the previous update it was anticipated that the upper tier could be open for the upcoming men’s Merseyside derby…
Yeah, that’s right – and as I said earlier, we want to try to be as transparent with the supporters about this project as possible. Maybe to go back a bit, in July, at the time when we knew there was going to be an initial delay at the start of the season, the schedule we had worked to and the schedule we had been told was that ultimately the upper tier would be open in some capacity for the Everton game, which is ultimately why we went ahead with the ticket sales from the Everton match on. That was ultimately based on the information that we were provided at the time. The reality is, we’re just really now beginning to get a clear understanding of what the reality of the delays are.
So, as more work has progressed and with the more information that we’ve had over the course of the last couple of weeks since Buckingham confirmed that they went into administration, essentially we now know that’s just not the case and we’re not going to be able to open in time for the Everton game or any home games for this calendar year. Obviously on a project of this size, information on all the aspects of the work is critical to move the project forward. And what’s become clear in the last few days is there’s just more work to be done in order to get a full project completion plan for the stand, which means unfortunately as I said that the upper tier is not ready to partially or fully open until the end of the calendar year.
So what happens to the fans who have bought tickets in the upper tier of the Anfield Road end for these upcoming home games?
Obviously firstly, we are really disappointed to have to deliver this news and really sorry for all those supporters who are impacted. You can see the games coming up on the fixture list, not just the derby but as you run through it to the end of the calendar year. And we know every match at Anfield is important and we know that it means so much to our supporters. It means ultimately we won’t be in a position to be able to provide seats for those fans who have purchased those tickets in the upper tier. Our team has identified who those supporters are and they will be reaching out directly to those supporters next week.
I realise this is of little solace, frankly, but those supporters who have purchased these cancelled tickets will not lose their credit for that purchase. Even though I know this is incredibly frustrating, I would ask that supporters not reach out directly to fan services. Our fan services team will be in touch directly, they have every supporter’s information and contact information and they will be in touch with those supporters directly as it relates to each match in the run-up to the end of December.
Lastly, this is a really complex and deeply frustrating situation. We’re all really disappointed to have to deliver this news, we know the impact of this news on many supporters. But our team here and the consultants, as well as Rayner Rowen, are working incredibly hard to ensure that we’re doing everything that we possibly can to progress the project as quickly as possible.
So the capacity remains the same for the rest of this calendar year. Is there a plan for the New Year?
Yeah, it’s a good question, it’s a fair question. Rayner Rowen really needs the time to complete the information gathering before we commit to any new project timeline. There’s a lot of different, various factors that are going into this discussion and into this review, so many pieces of the jigsaw that we need to pull together so it’s just not possible at this point to put a new timeline in place. And, frankly, we don’t want to set the wrong expectation. So, we are continuing to work closely with all of those different stakeholders but ultimately we need to give them the time to gather all that information and come up with what is a realistic project completion programme. And we are certainly committed to keeping supporters up to date as much as we possibly can. And, again, I recognise how incredibly frustrating and disappointing this news is.
As I said previously multiple times, I know how disappointing this news is. I want to ensure our supporters that everyone is working incredibly hard to bring the project to a successful completion. It is a huge and important project for Anfield, obviously we’re incredibly excited about having 61,000 at Anfield and so as soon as we have additional updates we will certainly share that with supporters. Not having the upper tier open for the remainder of the calendar year is clearly significant, which is why I wanted to share that news directly with all of our supporters today.