10 February 2011

Sixth in the League. Eighth in the World

Before becoming the slightly more enlightened Liverpool supporter (a legacy of Messrs. Hicks and Gillett’s time at the club) that I am at present, I’ve always wondered why the powers that be at Liverpool have always been obsessed with either a new ground or increasing Anfield’s capacity. At a maximum capacity of 45,362, it’s not the largest of grounds in the country but with an average attendance not exceeding 44,000 in even the best of recent seasons, it just didn’t make sense to increase capacity any further. So, I conveniently brush it aside as more of a mine’s-bigger-than-yours ego type thing between clubs.

Well, the latest financial results certainly provide a different picture. According to the newly released Football Monely League 2011 report (you can download the full report here), although Liverpool are still part of English football's so-called Big 4 in terms of revenue earned, if one were to dig deeper into the figures, some worrying facts are revealed.

Note: All figures quoted in millions (just in case there was any confusion!)

One of those facts is Liverpool's Matchday takings which fall well short of the other three rival clubs. Even Chelsea, whose ground is more comparable to that of Anfield in terms of capacity generate £24.3m per annum more than Liverpool. Of course, that's ignoring the fact their fanbase is completely different to that of Liverpool's which allows the London club to charge exhorbitant amounts for its tickets. As an increase in ticket prices is never going to be viable permanent option, Liverpool need to look into different ways to increasing Matchday revenue. That's the root of the new ground/increased capacity obsession.

I hate to admit this but the reality of it is, the aim for the current management team must be to achieve the type of numbers United are currently getting (it probably is as John Henry can't seem to stop going on about it). At a whopping £57.3m more than that of Liverpool, it's not surprising why United are so strong in the transfer market, when they need to be. Ignoring the interest payments on their debt (thankfully no longer a problem at Anfield these days), United can basically acquire an additional Suarez-Carroll combo every single season. Scary thought isn't it?

But why expand capacity or build a bigger stadium when we won't have anyone to fill it (see average attendance above)?

Well, to start off, averages are just that. They don't reflect the periods of high demand for seats. Imagine a European night at Anfield or a derby match or even a match against our rivals. Surely, demand for those games exceed Anfield's current capacity. And then, if I took an educated guess at the whole issue, I'd say Liverpool are losing out on millions from the corporate, prawn-sandwich eating and glory-hunter brigade (loads of those over at Old Trafford by the way).

Yes, in an ideal world, we wouldn't need to fill our ground with the type of "fans" mentioned above and turn Anfield into a library but that's the reality of football these days. Who knows, those not-so-ideal fans might just get converted and come good one of these days. If they don't, I'd be happy to take their money off them anyway...

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