Name: Anfield Stadium
Address: Anfield Road, Liverpool, L40TH
Last renovation: 1998
Total capacity: 45,370
Record attendance: 61,905
Home team: Liverpool
Anfield – The greatest place
Anfield Stadium and its world-famous Kop have traditionally been Liverpool’s greatest strength but now the arena has become its greatest weakness as the club looks to the future. Liverpool’s historic home was a renowned backdrop as the club dominated English and European football in the 1970s and 1980s, but now, despite the fond memories, even the most hardened traditionalist will agree that Anfield is holding the club back.
With a capacity of just 45,370, Anfield accommodates 30,000 fewer fans than Old Trafford – home to arch-rivals Manchester United – on any given matchday. This has hit the club where it hurts — in the pocket -and explains why the club’s American owners are seeking a new home. It is
estimated that matchdays at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Unitcd’s Old Trafford yield revenues three times higher than those of their Merseyside rivals, which means that every season these clubs earn £50 million more than Liverpool simply because they play in a bigger stadium. “At the Emirates, Old Trafford and Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge in particular, there is much more corporate hospitality than at Anfield, which can’t meet demand these days,” Liverpool legend Graeme Souness told FIFA magazine in an exclusive interview. “These people are not so much supporters as an audience, which is a downside, bur Liverpool must latch onto this trend in order to keep up because modern stadiums generate so much money and make Anfield seem like a first or second division ground. Of course, they’ll lose something when they build a new stadium but that’s the price on
the ticket. It’s progress. It’s how the game’s evolving.”
Anfield was originally the home of Everton, who beat Earlstown 5-0 in the first game staged there on 28 September 1884. However, a rent dispute with leaseholder John Houlding saw Everton move to Goodison Park, and Houlding subsequently formed Liverpool Association Football Club. Liverpool’s first match saw Rotherham Town beaten 7-0 on 1 September 1892, and a year later Lincoln City were beaten 4-0 in the club’s first league game.
Liverpool went on to win the Football League Championship twice in 1901 and 1906 and then the Kop came into being after a new stand was erected along Walton Breck Road. It was named the “Spion Kop” by Ernest Edwards, sports editor of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, after a hill in South Africa where a local regiment suffered heavy losses in the Boer War as the British attempted to take a strategically Important hilltop.
“For me, Anfield was the greatest place for football in the world,” added Souness, a former Liverpool captain who helped the Reds win five League Championships, three
European Cups and four League Cups between 1978 and 1984. “It’s a very special place, above all on European nights. When teams were visiting for the first time they were beaten before the ball was kicked because of the reception when they emerged from the tunnel. It was so intimidating. It frightened the life out of most of them and the referee was placed under intense pressure. It still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end when I hear the fans singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, especially on European nights. It’s universally accepted as the no. 1 football anthem in the world. The supporters standing in the Kop made it an extraordinary atmosphere. They understood football better than anybody else. They had great belief in the side. Even when we were a goal down or not playing well they never allowed any frustration they felt to creep on to the pitch.”
The Kop used to hold 30,000 partisan supporters but nowadays it only has space for 12,000 fans, having been redeveloped following the Hillsborough Disaster and the subsequent Taylor Report, which demanded the introduction of all-seater stadium. Despite many changes through the years, the Kop has still been treated to thrills and spills, especially during European ties at a ground called the “coliseum” by celebrated BBC journalist Stuart Hall.
Highlights include a 3-1 semi-final first-leg win in 1965 over Italian giants Inter and a 3-1 quarter-final victory in 1977 against French side St Etienne when David Fairclough lived up to his “Supersub” nickname
with a crucial late goal to help his team on their way to clinching their first European crown. More recently, Steven Gerrard scored the most dramatic goal of his career when he struck a late thunderbolt against Olympiakos to keep the Reds’ Champions League dreams alive.
That atmosphere was eclipsed by a 1-0 semi-final victory over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2005 when a wall of sound helped the home side and paved the way for the so-called “Miracle of Istanbul” when AC Milan were pipped to the pinnacle of world football’s elite club competition. “I felt the power of Anfield, it was magnificent,” then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho reflected afterwards. “I felt it didn’t interfere with my players but maybe it interfered with other people and maybe it interfered with the result.”
Anfield is a ground with plenty of room for sentiment, as shown by the Shankly Gates, which pay homage to their legendary Scottish manager, and the Hillsborough disaster memorial. The ground has strong religious
connotations – after 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives at Hillsborough, Anfield was turned into a shrine to the victims.
The celebrated “This is Anfield” sign in the players’ tunnel is meant to unnerve opponents and ensure good fortune for Liverpool players who touch it with both hands as they head into action.
Anfield will continue to play home to Liverpool for the foreseeable future after proposals for a new £350-miilion 60,000-seater stadium in nearby Stanley Park were shelved by co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who have also ruled out a ground-share with Everton. “Our commitment to building a new world-class stadium is undiminished,” a club spokesman said. “Like many other major development projects, we are affected by global market conditions and the project will be delayed in the short term. We will use this period productively and revisit the plans to increase its capacity to 73,000 seats.”