Yesterday I decided it was time to clear out some of the junk from my bedroom cupboard. Amongst the junk and stray Subbuteo goalkeepers I found two books: Aerofilms football ground guides, aerial photos of all 92 football league clubs with brief travel and stadium information. I had been given these as Christmas presents a few years ago, the first was from 1994 and the second from 2000. Flicking through the books it was obvious to see the many changes that football stadiums have experienced, most as a result of the Taylor Report, but more recently changes were implemented as a result of the 90's football boom.
But what I found more surprising was the number of new football grounds that have sprung up. From the 2000 guide, of the 92 football league grounds detailed, a total of around 20 were newly built grounds.
In 5 years time this figure is likely to have increased quite considerably to around 50. Since the 2000 guide, the likes of Southampton and Leicester have moved into a new ground, and even Division3 clubs have followed the trend with Hull City recently moving into "The Kingston Communications Stadium", and next season Darlington will move into a new 25,000 seater stadium - and this is a club with an average gate of 3,000. Manchester City will of course be leaving Maine Road to play in an Athletics stadium.
The following clubs have also made plans to move to new grounds, or have at least looked at the feasibility.
And of course, Liverpool. I don't know for certain whether the above clubs still plan on moving, at least half of them do, but with the financial situation of many clubs its obviously going to be a big risk.
You canít move forward by standing still - sorry to insult your intelligence. But are we destroying a part of football history by leaving behind our old traditional stadiums? The stadiums where football started.
Football today has been ruined by money. People will say sky TV has done wonders for the game - it hasnít in my opinion, but thatís a different story. The top Premiership clubs have to be in the Champions league; financially itís a must. The Premiership itself is where every club wants to be, some may say need. Relegation from the Premiership is unthinkable.
As a result clubs need money - to 'compete'. How do they get this money? By filling the stadiums. The bigger the stadium, the more money a club can make - and the more successful they will become - or not. Just look at Sunderland, since moving to a new bigger stadium they got promoted to the Premiership and flirted with the top six sides in the country - they now of course have been relegated to Division One and have no money.
But having a big stadium isnít enough. Stadiums now have to cater for the modern fan. The days of standing on a terrace while its pissing down are long gone. Given the choice most people would rather sit under cover! Stadiums canít have obstructed views anymore - the fan doesnít want that. They want to see the entire match and be entertained. And the club canít charge full price for a seat directly behind a pillar.
Businessmen need to entertain their new client. They get a hospitality box or a top spec seat at their local Premiership football club. They can entertain guests in the restaurants and bars, they can sip champagne in the comfy surroundings of the hospitality lounge. And this of course is big money for the hosting club.
Football stadiums are suited to the fan. Attract fans -> Make money -> Be successful. The idea seems simple enough.
And as such the stadiums of old are no more. They just arenít good enough for the 21st century. The likes of Roker Park are now housing estates, or are modern shopping centres. And thatís not a bad thing as the stadiums are far bigger and better. But to me, they are life-less bowls. The Stadium of Light, The Madjeski Stadium, The Riverside, Pride Park, St Mary's. The Britannia Stadium, Walkers Stadium, the list goes on. And they all have so much in common - they look the same. In fact, most were probably designed by the same architects. They are all in the middle of nowhere - which makes sense, the land is cheap. And so many are named after the clubs sponsors. And whenever plans for new grounds are released the lack of originality is again demonstrated. While the clubs want to move to a new ground, they want to do it for as little money as possible.
People can say how great they look and how well equipped they are, but they look like they've been mass-produced in the same manner as the cheap flags you see in the crowd at Old Trafford.
There is one exception - the Millennium Stadium, and we've seen enough of it to know! I canít think of a better location for a football stadium. The Stadium itself was built for relatively little money yet its still looks fantastic and has still some character. Most modern stadiums are designed with one stand that is joined together all the way around the ground, rather than four separate stands - which is why they look the same. There is nothing unique about them. Bolton and Huddersfield's new grounds are different. Described by some as space age. At least theyíre slightly unique, but were the architects just taking the piss? I've been to both in recent years, and while theyíre a different design from Pride Park and The Riverside, the overall feel is still the same - cheap and plasticcy. If the new stadium boom continues, investing a few quid in a Perspex company might not be a bad tip!
You donít get grounds like Filbert Street anymore where the away turnstile was in the middle of a row of terraced houses! In twenty years time when I start taking my children to the match there wont be anything unique about visiting an away ground. It'll just be like visiting any other. I go to Liverpool games with my dad, and most away grounds we go to he has a story to tell, and itís like 'the good old days' for him.
The great grounds with history and character will be soon be gone. Highbury, Maine Road, even Goodison Park, Craven Cottage and almost certainly Anfield. They might not be as comfortable as the new grounds but for me they are real grounds. Restricted views, being close to the pitch and old-fashioned turnstiles. We donít even have that at Anfield now, the main stand has hardly changed in the last 40 years but the other three stands are pretty new. These grounds have seen great players and great matches for over 100 years. Is it right just to throw it all away?
There is probably only one stadium that will never be replaced - Old Trafford, they can expand that with ease, as the location of it is perfect. Unlike most other old stadiums it isnít in the middle of a run down area of town surrounded by terrace houses. Its been redeveloped massively over the last 3 years.
I could go on and on about why we should stay at Anfield, but it is probably not going to be worth it. It is pretty much inevitable that we will be moving to Stanley Park sometime in the next five years - and we are going to have to accept that. I've read other peoples views and talked to people about it and there is very little we can do to stop the move.
What worries me though is that we move and end up in a lifeless bowl like all the other clubs who have moved to new grounds. I would hate that. To move to such a stadium would really hurt. I donít think spending £100m + on a new ground is worth it just for an extra 10-15,000 seats. Long term the clubs income would increase, but I just donít think extra ticket sales leads to guaranteed success. When I hear people at the club talking about us having to 'compete' it really annoys me. Thankfully we have a good chairman and a good chief exec who seem to know what they are doing, but other clubs have suffered from over spending on stadiums. I would hope we would never compromise spending on the team just to be able to move to a slightly bigger ground. Those of you reading this who find it hard to get tickets, you might not be too bothered about how the new stadium looks and younger fans might not understand what Iím rambling on about! But donít just look at the new stadium and see it as an easier way of getting tickets. 'You have to look at the whole pie' (© David Brent, The Office 2002).
If the new stadium we move to is anything like the Riverside etc, it would be a tragedy. Not just for Liverpool Football Club, but for football. Anfield is one of football's great homes. Forget your 'Theatre of dreams' and 'Venue of legends'. The name Anfield speaks for itself. Itís a ground bathed in history and football culture. The Spion Kop is world famous. Even the new Kop 'grandstand' is famous. Its still a stand players want to perform in front of. It can still deliver the colour and noise which made it so famous, and still display great sportsmanship seen no where else.
Anfield has changed, but is still a legendary stage. Liverpool Football Club is a club like no other. No other club, certainly in England can compare to what we have achieved. On our day, Liverpool supporters are the greatest - and if ever we move to Stanley Park we deserve the greatest stadium.
Whether we have any input into the development I donít know. But if the club went ahead and built a cheap plastic stadium Liverpool Football Club would never be the same again.
If a new stadium is absolutely necessary, please letís have something we can be proud of.
We donít want a lifeless bowl - we want a real stadium. A stadium that relates to our history. It doesnít have to be fancy with extreme architecture, Iíd prefer the new ground to be as smiliar to the current ground as possible. With one similar sized stand standing on its own - a modern Spion Kop.
Four different stands all enclosed with a tight fitting roof designed to keep the noise in as much as possible. Stands close to the pitch. One thing I would like to see is a copy of the old main stand roof, with the arched bit of the roof with the words "Liverpool Football Club". The Carlsberg stand would not be welcome! I also think itís vital that a new stadium has the potential to be expanded. Moving to a new ground that only has a maximum capacity of 60,000 would in my eyes be a complete waste of time and money. The present Anfield could be increased to that size, it would just be more costly and difficult. The way a lot of new stadiums have been designed means they canít be expanded. Maybe in years to come we'll see teams like Bolton moving into a newer stadium! Safe standing isnít an option, but I think we should work with the club to make sure that if we do go ahead with a new stadium its the best in the world. We can't change the past, but we can influence the future.
The day Anfield is demolished it will be the end of a fantastic era, but the Anfield at Stanley Park could mark the start of a new era.
But who knows? I don't want to imagine the state of football in 20 years time when the real homes of football have all gone. If we do have to move, lets not compromise heritage and tradition for a cheap soulless bowl. I cant see there being many stadiums which capture what football is really about and capture the historical importance of football. Our stadiums are our cathedrals, lets not turn them into cheap nasty money-spinners.
I just hope that we do not regret ever considering leaving. Liverpool Football Club, please donít let us down.