Friday, September 18, 2009

Hicks optimistic about new stadium

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks says too much money has already been spent for the team's proposed new stadium not to be eventually built.

Hicks believes replacing the outdated Anfield due to its 45,000 limited capacity and restricted commercial possibilities is central to cementing the Reds' status as one of the world's top football clubs.

Construction on the new site was frozen in August 2008 just before the world sank into a deep economic depression, and Hicks acknowledges he doesn't know when the stadium will be completed.

'When we get to the point where the global market settles down and we bring pieces together to finance the stadium (then we can again start building),' Hicks said.

'It's certainly not anything we have changed our mind on. I don't know about the dates because of the global financial markets, but I know the markets will settle down and get better.

'I'm an optimist. I've been through lots of cycles, although none as severe as this in my lifetime. It's a dynamic world.'

Hicks is believed to have had financiers scouring the world for minority investors to help fund the stadium for the past year.

After buying Liverpool in 2007 with George Gillett Jr., Hicks wrote off 10 million pounds by ditching existing plans to replace the crumbling Anfield so architects from his native Texas could design a more spectacular stadium in the adjacent Stanley Park.

The subsequent economic downturn forced the new vision to be scaled down but it will still hold 15,000 more seats than Anfield, which has few amenities to generate extra revenue.

'We have spent a lot of money and we have a fully designed stadium,' Hicks said. 'We have every permit in place, all the city councils' approvals, the judicial reviews on a national basis - everything is done. That's a great asset to have just to wait for the markets to open up and be able to do anything. Certainly it will happen.'

Liverpool's financial situation was boosted this week by a new primary sponsorship deal with British bank Standard Chartered that will start before next season. Hicks expects that deal, along with a new one with Carlsberg, to generate 26 million pounds a year.

Hicks says the new stadium will attract global interest in naming rights and help the Reds in their rivalry with Manchester United, which beat them to the Premier League title by four points last year to match their record haul of 18 English championships.

'We think that the stadium is one of the biggest opportunities for Liverpool to be truly one of the top clubs in the world,' Hicks said.

'Liverpool was a famous club around many parts of the world before Manchester United became strong in the last 20 years, and that's a heritage we want to build on and try to get to be as strong as possible. The club's in the best shape in many, many years.

'(Manager) Rafa (Benitez) has put together an outstanding group of players over the last two or three years. We can always have more, but I think we're doing very well and I think we will have great success on the pitch this year.

'Transactions like this week's new sponsorship agreement can only help to give us the resources to compete right there with the other big guys in the world.'

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