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With momentum building for a redevelopment of Liverpool's iconic Anfield stadium, managing director Ian Ayre went to work today to reassure fans that despite sponsor interest the name would remain the same.
Fenway Sports Group had always said that naming Liverpool's home would only ever happen if there was a move to a new stadium, but with talk of an £150 million Anfield redevelopment gathering steam and only 15,000 new seats likely, some will have found themselves worried over the last few days that news of a sponsor's name being appended to that of the stadium was only a matter of time. Especially given FSG and managing director Ian Ayre's love of maximising the potential of new and existing commercial revenue streams.
The good news today, then, is that despite having suitors for it, the club's owners are sticking to their guns on the issue. At best, it's an encouraging move that serves to counter at least some of the disenchantment many felt with Liverpool's current guardians following a disappointing close to the summer transfer window that left the club dangerously understaffed in attack—a problem that has now, inevitably, developed into a crisis for manager Brendan Rodgers with Fabio Borini suffering a broken foot while on international duty.
And at worst, it's at least a sign that said owners have enough of a feel for how the club's fans—and especially the local support—feel to know when it's issue they simply wouldn't be able to get away with.
"There won’t be a naming rights deal for Anfield," Ayre told the Liverpool Echo. "It was only something we looked at when we were assessing the option of a new stadium. Naming rights was a difficult process but we weren’t without our suitors. We have had and still have interest around it.
"A new stadium would never have happened without it but that was only one part of it. We had to balance the two possible options. It was about finding the best solution for the club and we feel very strongly that this is the right one."
Also a potential source of comfort was Ayre's insistence that unlike Arsenal, who have seen their transfer dealings turn a net profit since work on the Emirates began and a project meant to give the club the ability to compete financially with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea instead led to an era of austerity, the club would be able to find a way to finance the redevelopment that wouldn't hurt their transfer dealings in the short term.
"This whole initiative is designed to generate additional revenues," said Ayre, "so the ultimate solution has to be one that increases the overall output through the process rather than decreasing it."
After sales and wage savings, the past summer's investment in the transfer market was minimal, and that followed on from windows under FSG where the club's seemingly free spending ways were heavily subsidised by outgoings. And while it will always be easy for Ayre and the club to talk of having the resources to compete with anybody in the world of football, the only real proof at the end of the day will be in their actions.
Still, for now encouraging words for the fans are about the best that can be hoped for as the club begins to move forward, and talk of keeping Anfield's name unchanged and of there being no negative short term impact to the club's transfer dealings is about as encouraging as things can get.