Paul Higham was given a behind-the-scenes tour of Liverpool’s new Main Stand ahead of the hammering of Hull City – and feels it could be a catalyst for success.
As exciting as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team have been on the field, what’s happened off the field over the summer may just have an even bigger impact on the club’s future.
For years Liverpool have been trying to keep up with the big boys, both in terms of stadium capacity and matchday revenue, and now finally we have the all-new Main Stand at Anfield that can rival anything around English football.
On a recent visit for the game against Hull City I got a first-hand view of the structure both my team and local area badly needed, for matters both on and off the pitch.
The double act of former owners Gillett and Hicks promised us a new stadium as soon as they took the helm but that sadly never came and even when their drawn-out exit was completed, new owners Fenway Sports Group decided against a brand new facility.
Fans were divided on whether to move to a new stadium, but after sampling the new Main Stand for the first time I have to admit they were right – keeping the Reds at Anfield is the right thing to do, but it needed to be brought up to modern standards and they’ve done that in spectacular fashion.
I’d grown up no more than a five-minute match walk away from the Kop, and over time the place had undergone several changes: the seating of the Kop, the redevelopment of the Kemlyn Road stand into the Centenary Stand, and the frankly laughable sliver of an extra tier on top of the Anfield Road end.
Nothing has given Liverpool such a leap forward, however, as the new Main Stand.
I’m probably, in essence, still a pub and chippy kind of supporter than one who revels in the modern ‘matchday experience’ – but it’s hard to fault it around Anfield these days, with music and food outlets outside the Main Stand followed by the plethora of lounges and bars actually inside the stadium.
The £115million behemoth that now dominates the local Anfield skyline finally gets this great club back to something approaching a decent capacity crowd at just over 54,000, which is a bare minimum when you take into account the size of the fanbase, the season ticket waiting list and general scramble for tickets which goes on for every single game.
Moving to a swanky new stadium is great on paper, but in practice often proves difficult. The Emirates for example is a fantastic facility but fails to generate a decent atmosphere, and just ask any West Ham fan what they now think of their London Stadium after a few games. So it’s also brilliant that Liverpool are making these strides while remaining at Anfield – a proper old ground.
So far a 4-1 thumping of champions Leicester and a 5-1 battering of Hull have been fitting ways to open the new Anfield, and these extra fans will only help Jurgen Klopp’s men when bigger tests arrive.
As a local the other major hope for the new Anfield is that the area around the ground gets a much-needed redevelopment. The planned hotel next to the ground and the increased capacity and hospitality has offered up a host of new jobs.
LFC was always at the heart of the community when I was a kid and the hope is that it becomes that again – providing jobs and upgrading the local facilities as part of the overall Anfield expansion plan can only help in this.
Actually getting to the ground early for a drink in the Anfield Beats Lounge bar is definitely something new, but also shows another way of increasing the matchday revenue, which is something they desperately need to do to keep pace with the Premier League big spenders.
So the revenue generation is one thing, the more impressive looking Anfield another and the increased capacity a third thing that all ultimately get the club prepared behind the scenes to achieve success on the pitch.
And the early signs are certainly good. From the lower tier of the new Main Stand there have been great views of the Reds ripping teams apart and of the mesmerising Klopp bouncing on the sidelines, beating his chest and rousing the legions of fans now rising up into the distance directly behind him.
There is a gladiatorial showmanship to Klopp’s management style and it’s hard not to get carried away. Liverpool are far from the finished article but if the players can maintain playing with half the energy their manager shows on the touchline, they could go a long way this year.
With the addition of Liverpool’s Main Stand then, the owners have delivered something special to improve attendance, revenue and noise at Anfield, now it’s over to Klopp’s men to get those new thousands of fans out of their vastly comfier seats!
By Paul Higham, aka @SportsPaulH on Twitter.
Thomas Cook Sport, the official Match Break supplier of Liverpool Football Club, can guarantee an official match ticket, overnight hotel and access to the brand new Anfield “Beats Lounge” all from £119pp.
Visit www.thomascooksport.com or call 01733 224 834 for more information.