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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Dave Powell

FSG chief Sam Kennedy hints at future Liverpool stadium plan after £80m Anfield Road work

Fenway Sports Group are targeting the continued expansion of Liverpool's Anfield home in the future as the ownership group's commitment to the long-term project with the Reds remains fully intact.

When FSG arrived at Liverpool as owners in 2010 one of the first major decisions they had to make was to either pursue a new stadium build or invest heavily in Anfield to raise its matchday offering and revenue potential considerably. Talk of a new stadium across Stanley Park came and went, as did the idea of a dual build with Everton which had been floated in the mid-2000s by Liverpool City Council as a solution.

The decision was taken to follow the same path that they had done with the Boston Red Sox in 2002, committing to keeping the at their storied stadium and investing in bringing into the modern era.

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In 2016 the £114m Main Stand redevelopment was completed, the capacity increasing by 8,500 seats and a new matchday experience and significantly enhanced corporate offering helped Liverpool grow revenues considerably.

In the 2015/16 set of financial accounts published by Liverpool, matchday revenue stood at £62.4m. The following accounting period, 2016/17, saw matchday revenues at £73.5m, an increase of almost 18 per cent year on year. According to forecasts for the 2021/22 accounting period by analysts at respected sports business website Off The Pitch, the matchday revenues could reach as much as £89.7m. That represents a 44 per cent rise since the Main Stand's completion.

The year FSG took over the matchday revenue stood at £40.9m, meaning that it has more than doubled over the last 10 years against a capacity increase of around 18 per cent.

Presently the Reds are in investing in another redevelopment of the stadium as the Anfield Road End increases capacity at the stadium to beyond 60,000 with the addition of another 7,000 seats to help service huge demand. The £80m project, which will be completed ahead of next season, is set to see the Reds break the £100m barrier when it comes to matchday revenues in the coming years.

As a member of the FSG senior leadership team when the firm acquired Liverpool in 2010, Sam Kennedy has since become President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox as well as the CEO of both Fenway Sport Management and FSG Real Estate. His role as the lead on FSG Real Estate sees him play a key role in the development and redevelopment of stadiums and land around where their teams, of which Liverpool and Boston have more recently been joined by the Pittsburgh Penguins, operate.

Speaking at the Sportico Invest in Sports conference in New York on Wednesday, Kennedy said: "We found an unbelievable facility, a venue that means so much more than football to the community. It is literally a place where generations have shared memories and made connections and bonds unlike anywhere else in sport if you think about what Anfield means in Liverpool.

"That said, when we arrived it needed some significant investment. There was no premium offering to speak of, not a lot of focus on food and beverage, and gameday experience to say the least.

"There had been talk of maybe a dual build with Everton and maybe building one venue for both clubs. I can assure you that was a bad idea, it would have been a bad idea for us to come out in support of it for reasons that may seem obvious now to people who understand global football.

"We made the decision to do exactly what we did at Fenway Park, preserve Anfield, protect it and expand it. We have invested several hundred million pounds into the facility, we have created a new main stand, an Anfield Road stand that is coming online, all inside the venue to bring people to the games earlier and to enhance the experience that they have there.

"It is obviously a lot more difficult when you are managing the design and construction when you are 4,000 miles away, so we opened a commercial office in Liverpool and in London to manage the process.

"I think it has been received well. We are still small in the Premier League in terms of the size of the venue and there is still a lot of frustrated demand for tickets and access, but we think that's OK given how special the venue is."

In Boston, FSG are actively pursuing the redevelopment of over two million square feet of land over eight acres in the streets adjacent to Fenway Park. In August FSG opened their $150m MGM Music Hall across the road from the famous stadium, acts such as Bruno Mars helping to raise the curtain on a venture that adds more revenue potential to the business.

The redevelopment of land around Fenway Park will include retail, hospitality, hotels, entertainment venues and other space with the Reds owners currently quite a way down the tracks with the City of Boston Planning Authority with regards to having it come to fruition.

In Liverpool the opportunity for something similar isn't really there given the residential surrounding. But Kennedy revealed that further redevelopment was on the agenda in the future, albeit likely focused on the stadium itself.

"We'll see what ancillary development might be possible," Kennedy said.

"As residential as Fenway is, Fenway is zoned for entertainment, hospitality, retail and other types of activities. Anfield is a residential neighbourhood so we have to be mindful of that and respectful of that. You'll probably see us focus more inside than outside in the future."

He added: "When we go and look at investments we are making in sports, whether it is Liverpool or, more recently, Pittsburgh, we are always looking at the real estate and the first question that we ask ourselves is 'is this a place when grandmothers or grandfathers pass away would you like to sprinkle their ashes at this venue? Is this venue that important in this community?' If the answer is yes then it becomes more of a no brainer for us. We think we have that in Pittsburgh and we definitely feel we have that at Anfield and at Fenway Park.

"Our job is to protect those experiences and those venues and enhance them with ancillary development in all three areas."


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