Liverpool F.C.’s planned expansion to longtime home Anfield comes after the club scrapped plans to build a new stadium on Stanley Park ; Liverpool City Council is currently attempting to purchase neighboring homes, but as the Guardian’s David Conn explains, many locals are “filled with anger and heartbreak at the area’s dreadful decline and at the club for deepening the blight by buying up houses since the mid-1990s then leaving them empty” (“their resentment is compounded by the fact that they are being forced to move so that Liverpool, and their relatively new US owner, Fenway Sports Group, can make more money)”.
Residents’ bitterness derives from when the club started buying houses in Lothair Road, without saying they were doing so or making their intentions clear. The club used an agency to approach some residents, while some houses were bought by third parties then sold on quickly to the club. That left residents with the belief, which has endured ever since, that Liverpool were buying up houses by stealth, to keep prices low.
The club have never publicly explained in detail what they did, and declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about their historic behaviour and current plans. Neighbours, many of whom have lived in Anfield for decades, remembering a vibrant, flourishing area, believe Liverpool bought and left houses empty to deliberately blight the area, intending it would prompt people to leave and drive house prices down.
Fenway Sport Group’s current plan envisages expanding the Main and Anfield Road stands, with both sides of Lothair Road, and one side of Alroy Road, demolished. A hotel is proposed behind the enlarged Main Stand on the footprint of Lothair Road’s even side and Alroy, because a commercial property does not have the same right to light as homes. A development, probably bars and restaurants, with training promised for young people, is proposed opposite the corner of the Kop and Centenary Stand. With Liverpool having purchased a whole row on Anfield Road, they have already knocked those houses down, so there is no obstacle to enlarging that stand.
James McKenna, chair of the Spirit of Shankly supporters’ union, says the fans have sympathy for the club’s neighbours. “The stadium expansion is all about the club making more money, and fans will have to pay more for tickets,” McKenna says. “To do that, Liverpool have played a part in derelict houses, streets boarded up. It’s a blot on LFC’s record.”