Footie fans caught short; a half-finished roof and YouTube whispers: we need to talk about Anfield
Liverpool’s construction curse wreaks havoc
Dear readers — if you have two eyes and a pulse, it’s likely you’ve read about what appeared to be a sturdy investment in one of the city’s football stadiums collapsing this week. In today’s story, Abi unpacks the Anfield Road stand saga and asks: will Liverpool ever break free of its construction curse?
But first, your Post briefing — including more dog attacks in Merseyside and immediate intervention at a private boys school.
A three-year-old boy has been seriously injured in Wirral after being bitten on the face by a dog. This marks the second dog attack on a child in the region in just a week, with a three-year-old girl mauled by a Pit Bull Terrier in Kirby town centre on Saturday. Merseyside Police have confirmed that the dog responsible for the attack, a Huntaway Cross breed, has been destroyed, and a 22-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman have been arrested. A year ago, we published a piece on the dog attack crisis in Merseyside — read that here.
School inspectors have pushed for immediate action at a private boys school in Crosby after a report found that "ongoing inappropriate behaviour" was making pupils feel unsafe. The report on Merchant Taylors' Boys' School — for boys aged seven to 18 — revealed younger pupils did "not feel safe in certain areas of the school" due to the "ongoing inappropriate behaviour of older pupils", and that "respect was not promoted with regard to the protected characteristic of sex, as set out in the 2010 Equality Act". Action points have been drawn up to address these failings, but this is not the first time the school has come under fire. Back in 2019, the school received an official warning from the Department of Education over "serious regulatory failings" found during an inspection. If you know any more about this story, please do get in touch with Abi on email@example.com.
A judge has now been appointed in the Lucy Letby inquiry, tasked with investigating the murder of seven babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital. Described as “one of the country’s most senior judges” by health secretary Steve Barclay, Lady Justice Thirlwall was the judge in the 2013 case of Mick and Mairead Philpott and Paul Mosley, who together plotted to set fire to their home in Derby, killing six children. Details about the structure of the inquiry are now being finalised, with more information released in the coming weeks. The investigation into her time at Liverpool Women’s Hospital remains ongoing — read more about that here.
By Abi Whistance
Update: Liverpool FC have now appointed Rayner Rowen Construction, along with a number of other contractors, to resume the final works on the project.
Let’s start with a confession: I know nothing about football. I’ve never played it; been to a game, so much as watched a game. So it may seem counterintuitive that in recent months I’ve become gently obsessed with the goings on at Anfield Road. But who wouldn’t be? Initially, it felt like a soaring, triumphant sort of story. The home of Liverpool FC, Anfield Road has been undergoing an £80-million refurbishment, adding an extra 7,000 seats via a new stand at the stadium; increasing total capacity to 61,000. This seemed like great news for fans, who (as Jack enlightened me) often wait decades for so much as a whiff of a season ticket, and shell out hundreds of pounds each year in memberships and passes. More seats, more tickets. And as such, better odds of getting a seat at each home game, giving lifelong LFC supporters a greater chance to see their team live.
If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ll know, at this point, things took a sharp downwards turn. The new stand was set for completion for the 2023-2024 season, but that deadline has whistled past us. The contractor behind the stand, Buckingham Group, found itself in rather murky financial territory in August, and while both Buckingham and LFC appeared optimistic that baby, they could work it out, this week it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t a break, but a breakup.
Buckingham Group has officially filed for administration, marking the biggest contracting collapse in the UK since the monumental undoing of Carillion in 2018 (one that saw their own finance chief given an 11-year company director ban, no less). A total of 446 jobs across the entire company have been lost, with the future of the Anfield Road stand now up in the air.
So what went wrong here? Back in 2021, contractor Buckingham Group began building a new stand at Anfield Road. Buckingham was somewhat of a goliath in the construction industry at the time; having scored a role in HS2’s development and successfully built the £93-million Falmer Stadium for Brighton and Hove Albion FC. It seemed they were the perfect fit for Anfield, and all was rosy.
Well, for a moment, anyway. Bit by bit, doubts started to emerge over whether the new stand would be completed by August 2023, the original deadline for the project. “The past 12 months it’s been really noticeable, the work has slowed down,” Mister Drone tells me — he’s a YouTuber that’s been following the progress of the stand, filming videos of Anfield Road since July 2021. He has nearly 30,0000 subscribers on the platform, all of whom rely on him for weekly updates and exclusive drone footage from the stadium. He tells me that the limited progress of construction has been a “constant question” in the comments section of his videos, where people would debate whether or not the stand would be ready for the 2023-2024 season. “It was quite evident that people were picking up on it,” he says. “There was hardly anyone on site, so how are they going to finish if there's nobody working?”
By May this year, he’d started to receive “inside information” from a source working at the stadium who told him the stand was at least three months behind schedule. Soon after receiving this tip off, Liverpool FC released a statement saying only the bottom tier would be ready for the first match of the season in August, confirming a phased opening of the full stand and shifting the deadline for completion to October.