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Liverpool set to submit Anfield expansion plans

ESPN staff
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The planned expansion would raise Anfield's capacity from 45,500 to 58,800 © Getty Images
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Liverpool are set to submit plans to expand Anfield this summer - and hope to start work in early 2015.

The plans, which include extending the Main Stand and Anfield Road End at the club's stadium, would ultimately raise the capacity from 45,500 to 58,800.

Liverpool have released, for the first time, detailed proposals to show what an expanded Main Stand would look like, as part of a public consultation exercise. The extended stand would house an additional 8,500 seats, taking its capacity to nearly 21,000.

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If Liverpool are successful in getting planning permission, work on the stand could start before the end of next season, with the aim of completing it by August 2016.

In addition, the club have revealed outline proposals to extend the Anfield Road End, increasing its capacity by 4,800 seats. Documents produced by Liverpool City Council in late January suggested that work could be completed by 2018.

The expansion of the stadium is part of a £260 million programme - a partnership between the football club, the council and local social housing group Your Housing - to regenerate the Anfield area of Liverpool.

It was first announced in October 2012, when Liverpool's American owners, Fenway Sports Group, confirmed their intention to redevelop the ground rather than push ahead with plans for a new stadium in neighbouring Stanley Park.

Before submitting their plans for the ground to the council, Liverpool are holding two public exhibitions over the next week to explain the expansion in detail, and are inviting residents, fans and local businesses to give their views on the project.

Managing director Ian Ayre said: "We started this journey just over 18 months ago and a lot of work has already been done, there is still an incredible amount to do, but good progress has been made so far and we are proud to be able to unveil our plans."

Part of the issue with the expansion is that Liverpool's ground is hemmed in by housing, which the city council has led negotiations to buy so that those homes can be demolished to make way for the expansion.

While the council has succeeded in buying most of the houses that it needs to, talks are still ongoing with a handful of owners. However, the council said that those talks were "progressing well."

Joe Anderson, the mayor of Liverpool, said: "This is another important step in our ambitions to transform the Anfield area, bringing new jobs, investment and housing.

"The overall regeneration of Anfield will see £260m invested in the local community and will deliver hundreds of jobs - Liverpool Football Club's proposals for the stadium are a key part of this.

"We are all committed to delivering a brighter future for Anfield and the club's exhibition is a clear signal that real progress is being made with all our plans."

The last significant expansion of Anfield resulted in the opening of the Centenary Stand - replacing the old Kemlyn Road Stand - in 1992, although the Kop and Anfield Road stands were also rebuilt during the 1990s.

Liverpool first went public with plans for further expansion in 1999. Then-chairman David Moores was reluctant to risk the club's future by taking out a £200m loan to pay for the redevelopment, though, instead deciding to find a buyer with the funds to do so.

That resulted in American businessmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett buying the club and attempting to pursue the Stanley Park stadium, but they did not have the money to fund the plan and were eventually forced to sell Liverpool to Fenway Sports Group in October 2010 as debts mounted.

John W Henry, who has been the club's principal owner since then, has always preferred the idea of remaining at Anfield. He has pursued a similar business plan with his baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, choosing renovations to Fenway Park over replacing the 102-year-old ballpark.

Henry has said previously that the money is in place to pay for stadium expansion once planning permission is secured.

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