Bigger stadiums for Liverpool, Chelsea a step closer

Liverpool's famous Anfield Stadium has formally started a massive expansion project while architects of Beijing's Bird's Nest have been reported to be remodelling the Chelsea ground in London.

IANS| Last Updated: Jan 07, 2015, 16:57 PM IST
Bigger stadiums for Liverpool, Chelsea a step closer

London: Liverpool's famous Anfield Stadium has formally started a massive expansion project while architects of Beijing's Bird's Nest have been reported to be remodelling the Chelsea ground in London.

The face of English top-flight football is changing, with work starting on the expansion of the Anfield Stadium. Meanwhile Chelsea is reported to have hired the architects behind Beijing's famous Bird's Nest stadium to remodel their London home at Stamford Bridge, reports Xinhua.

The two grounds are 320kms apart, but share one thing, they are landlocked by surrounding urbanisation.

Despite the constrictions of expanding or reshaping stadiums on an existing footprint, fans of both Premiership clubs are more than happy to stay in their current homes rather than move elsewhere.

The respected British publication Architects Journal this week report that the Swiss-based architectural practice behind Beijing' s stunning Olympic stadium is said to be working on designs to revamp Chelsea's stadium. 

Herzog & de Meuron is working on the Chelsea project with another architectural practice, London-based Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.

The story is in keeping with reports a few months ago that Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich wants to see the Stamford Bridge ground expanded from its current capacity of just under 42,000 to almost 60,000. He ruled out switching to an entirely new location in the capital for Chelsea, such as Battersea Power Station.

The problem is that Stamford Bridge is surrounded by railway lines, the busy Fulham Road and highly expensive real estate making expansion an architectural and logistical challenge.

Later this month the Chelsea Pitch Owners, who own the freehold of the stadium, hold their annual meeting when more details may emerge of the future plans. The pitch is owned by a legal company, Chelsea Pitch Owners, specially set up to prevent the stadium from ever being purchased by property developers.

In Liverpool a solemn ceremony took place Tuesday to enable work to start in expanding Anfield from around 45,000 spectators to around 54,000.

An eternal flame at the stadium commemorating the loss of 96 fans in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy has been moved to a chapel in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. It will continue to burn there until it is returned to Anfield in 2017 when work on the multi-million dollar project is finished.

Family members of some of those who died in what was England's worst football tragedy were at the ceremony when the flame was moved to its temporary home.

When construction is complete at Anfield, the Hillsborough Memorial will move to a new location in a specially designed colonnade, accessible from the Main Stand.

Liverpool had won planning permission to build a brand new stadium in nearby Stanley Park, but the club's American owners, like Abramovich, have opted for an expanded home.

Liverpool will continue to play matches at Anfield while expansion work continues. The big question in London is whether Chelsea will have to move to a temporary home while the place it has called home since the club was founded in 1905 is converted.