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Anfield upgrade: Liverpool plan partial reopening vs Manchester United

Liverpool FC's iconic and world-famous Anfield stadium has been operating at a reduced capacity since the start of the 2023/24 season, but we're now one step closer to a new record-breaking capacity on Merseyside after the club's latest announcement.

The site of some of the most famous matches in European history, countless managers have spoken of Anfield's atmosphere, and the supporters’ ability to turn matches on their heads.

But this season, the stadium has been operating at a reduced capacity. A redevelopment of the Anfield Road stand stalled early this season, and the new upper tier has closed to supporters.

The club have now announced the next stage of the Anfield upgrade – they plan to partially reopen the stand in mid-December when arch-rivals Manchester United make the 30-mile journey along the M62 to Anfield.

Here’s everything we know about the reopening…

The new Anfield Road stand with upper tier | Anfield upgrade delays continue into December 2023
The new Anfield Road stand with its additional upper tier | Photo: Liverpool FC

New update on partial reopen date for Anfield Road expansion

Liverpool are planning to partially reopen the Anfield Road stand for the fixture against Manchester United on the 17 December. Several thousand seats are expected to be available, which means the stand will be approximately half-full.

This is subject to an internal emergency conditions test, as well as a public test event, which will take place in the week leading up to the Manchester United game.

If successful, additional seats will also be confirmed for the following three home games, against West Ham United, Arsenal and Newcastle United. Ticket sales for all four fixtures will prioritise supporters who had their tickets cancelled for the Merseyside derby last month, when the club mistakenly believed they would be able to open the stand.

The club said the fact that they are able to partially open the upper tier of the stand ahead of their previous schedule “is testimony to the commitment and hard work of everybody connected with this complex and ambitious build project.”

When will the Anfield Road stand open fully?

Liverpool say that “there is still more work to be completed before the stand can be fully operational and able to welcome 61,000 fans to Anfield on a matchday.”

It has previously been mooted that the stand would open at full capacity in time for the Manchester City game on the 9 March 2024, but this has not been officially confirmed by the club.

Why has the Anfield Road stand been partially closed?

Liverpool have been redeveloping the stand to increase capacity, and this work was initially scheduled to be completed before the beginning of this season. However, Buckingham Group Contractors, working on the redevelopment, entered administration in August, prompting a staff walkout and a pause to all works.

This means that capacity at Anfield has been reduced to 50,000, which is 4,000 less than it was before the work began. The University of Liverpool’s Kieran Maguire estimated that the club are losing £750,000 for every game that the Anfield Road stand’s upper tier is empty.

Liverpool will have played 11 home games before the planned partial reopening against Manchester United, which means the club will have lost more than £8 million by that point. On the plus side, opening at half-capacity for these four fixtures would mean that the club loses £1.5 million less than they would have previously expected.

What does the full Anfield upgrade include?

The £80m redevelopment, which has now been taken over by Rayner Rowen Group, will upgrade Anfield’s capacity from 54,000 to 61,000. This significant improvement will be achieved by the addition of the upper tier to the Anfield Road end.

This 7,000 leap in capacity would make Anfield the fifth-largest stadium in England, and the fourth-largest in the Premier League.

Jamie Barton

A freelance football writer and podcaster, Jamie has appeared on/in the BBC World Service, PA Media, Charlton Athletic FC and Empire of the Kop, among others. He's attended matches all around the world, from Tranmere to Tokyo, and once had his bus home from the 2022 Champions League final in Paris delayed by 28 hours.

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