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Henry: Financing in place to refurbish Anfield, but obstacles remain

Sep 11, 2013, 4:03 PM EDT

FBL-ENG-PR-LIVERPOOL-EVERTON Getty Images

John W. Henry made it clear. Financing will not be a problem. Although his predecessors in Liverpool’s ownership box, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, couldn’t get the money to build a new stadium or refurbish the current one, financing will not be an issue for Henry and his ownership group.

Instead, property issues around Anfield are the only things that stand in the way of the $243 million refurbishment of Liverpool’s current home, with the city and a local housing authority making progress toward securing the land needed to start the club’s much-anticipated project.

Those properties are still in private hands, and until deals can be negotiated with their current owners, Henry and LFC remain in a holding pattern.

From The Guardian’s reporting:

“We are making good progress,” added Henry. “We have a lot of different groups working very well together and having everybody on the same page is the key to a big project like this happening and pretty much everyone is on the same page. The obstacles are not completely out of the way but we seem to be moving in that direction … We don’t have all the houses but we are making progress.”

The planning application for Anfield’s modifications will only be submitted once the city has secured all the necessary properties, leaving the exact nature of the changes unknown. The Guardian, however, is reporting a refurbished Anfield will include a new main stand as well as a buildup at the Anfield Road end.

None of which, Henry stressed, will affect what the club is able to do on the field:

“… it will pay for itself. It’s actually a positive. It’s one of the reasons we are doing it. It still provides excess cash. This is the direction that makes financial sense for the club in the long term.”

The key point in all Henry’s comments, however, was the financing. Troubles securing a way to pay for their projects not only undermined Hicks and Gillett’s attempts to solve the Anfield problem but also undermined supporter faith in owners who’d staked their credibility on securing a new stadium. Henry’s never made such promises but inherits the legacy of his predecessor’s errors.

That’s why he wants to make it clear – funding the project is a non-issue:

“They [Hicks and Gillett] were talking about going out and borrowing an enormous amount of money for an enormous facility. That’s not what we are doing here. One of their problems is that they weren’t able to get financing.

“When this [project] happens, that won’t be the problem. We just need certainty with regard to these properties.”

Forgive Liverpool fans, walked down this road before, if they withhold optimism. They may not want to jinx it. It does, however, sound like progress has been made, plans are ready, and only the details remain. You don’t want to trivialize those details, since they involve people’s lives and property, but if the question is how much closer we are to a renovated Anfield, the answer is ‘closer than ever.’

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