Anfield, as a stadium and what it represents, is incredibly important to both Liverpool supporters and the local community. It matters to so many people – be it those who attend football matches, those who work there or those who live within close proximity. This week, the Liverpool Supporters’ Union have submitted an application to Liverpool City Council to have Anfield, and the immediate area surrounding the football stadium, designated as an asset of community value. What this means is that Anfield the stadium would be prevented from being sold without supporters having an opportunity to purchase it. Given that any sale of the stadium would feature as part of the sale of the football club, it would provide the Liverpool Supporters’ Union with a window of opportunity to put together a suitable bid for the stadium should we wish to do so.
How would this work?
Part of the 2011 Localism Act is the Community Right to Bid. The Community Right to Bid for Assets of Community Value was introduced with the aim of keeping valued land and buildings, including football stadiums, in community use and to give communities a fairer chance to prepare and bid to purchase them when they come up for sale. Applications are made to local councils who then make a decision themselves on whether to list an asset as being of community value. It does not matter if these assets are in public or private hands. In this instance, that group is the Liverpool Supporters’ Union and the asset is the stadium, held privately.
An asset can be listed provided it meets the requirements of the act which states that any “asset can be listed if its principal use furthers (or has recently furthered) their community’s social well-being or social interests (which include cultural, sporting or recreational interests)”. The use of Anfield as a sporting venue, which supporters attend as recreation, as well as the stadium’s history and heritage, fulfil these requirements.
Local authorities are required to keep a list of all of these ‘assets of community value’. If an owner of a listed asset wants to sell it, they have to notify the local authority. The local authority then, in turn, has to notify any interested parties. In this instance, the local authority is Liverpool City Council.
If the Liverpool Supporters’ Union is then interested in purchasing the asset (the stadium) we would have a six week period to make clear our intentions on whether we intend to bid. If we declare our intentions to bid, the six week period is extended to six months, allowing time to prepare the bid.
The successful listing of Anfield as an asset of community value does not serve as a guarantee that the asset would be sold to the Liverpool Supporters’ Union should it become available for sale. However, what it will ensure is that we would be notified of any sale and given the opportunity should we wish to do so to bid.
More information on how this works can be read on the UK Government website and on the Locality website.
Why have we done this?
Safeguarding the long term future of the club is vitally important to us. This application provides us with an opportunity to influence any future sale of the club by being part of that process. Having been witness to a sales process that left us in a precarious financial position and reached the High Court, we know all too well the importance of this. It also ties in with the Union belief that football clubs are of vital importance to their local community and are best protected in the hands of their supporters. We are not the first football supporters’ organisation to pursue this route and we have worked closely with Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) in the past few weeks as they too have submitted a similar application for their stadium to be designated as an asset of community value.
What happens next?
Liverpool City Council has eight weeks to make a decision on our application and to notify us of their decision. If successful, Anfield will be recognised as a community asset and the above will come into force. We see no reason why our application should fail and will keep members updated of the progress of our application.