Liverpool begin work on new stadium: can owners afford it?

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Liverpool have finally begun work on their new £350m stadium, the club announced on Tuesday. But it remains to be seen if co-owners Hicks and Gillett will be able to afford it.

The Reds have been allowed to proceed with the construction process under license until September, while talks over the 999-year lease deal continue.

In a statement published on the official Liverpool FC website, co-owner Tom Hicks said: “I’m pleased the club have received full planning permission and it can commence with enabling works.”

He then went on to mutter something about “recognising the importance of a new LFC stadium as part of the wider regeneration of the local area.”

Sure, it will be good for the community, but we all know this is about getting more fans into the stadium and generating funds to compete in the transfer market. In recent seasons, Man United’s gate receipts have left Liverpool trailing in their wake.

Co-owner George Gillett, who recently spoke of the need for him and Hicks to put their personal battle aside and concentrate on helping Rafa in the transfer market, said: “I am delighted that the design got full planning consent and that we are on site. This is first tangible evidence for fans that a new stadium will be built.”

Liverpool had been granted approval for a 60,000-capacity stadium, adjacent to their current Anfield home, in May.

Accountants and fans alike will be hoping that further planning permission will be granted, allowing the stadium to accommodate up to 73,000.

The stadium is scheduled to open in August 2011, and will feature an 18,500-seat single tier stand for the Kop.

Despite the pomp and circumstance surrounding the announcement, many fans will be left wondering whether Hicks and Gillett have the financial clout to see the construction through. Only two days ago, the Liverpool Echo reported that Hicks and Gillett ” are facing a major credit crunch backlash“, and are struggling to raise money to fund construction of the new site.

Will Hicks and Gillett be in the directors box, quaffing bubbly, cheering the Reds on, when the stadium finally opens its doors? I don’t think so.

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