Kop That

July 26 2007

Plan of Liverpool's new stadium in Stanley Park

Whatever your thoughts on Liverpool’s new stadium design (revealed yesterday in a planning application submitted to Liverpool City Council), you can’t deny it’s distinctive. Which makes for a very refreshing change.

Too many new football stadiums built in the UK suffer from a distinct lack of character. Even impressive structures like Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium lack the quirks that give a place personality. People often wonder why teams that have recently moved into a new stadium struggle to turn it into a ‘fortress’ right away, but it must be difficult to feel any sense of ownership over a ground that could have been built anywhere and that says nothing about the club it represents.

Of the twenty clubs competing in the Premiership next season, eight (Arsenal, Bolton, Derby, Man City, Middlesbrough, Reading, Sunderland and Wigan) will be playing in stadiums opened in the last twelve years. And although these stadiums are, on the whole, slick and modern and purpose-built, none of them boasts an atmosphere comparable with that of Highbury, Burnden Park, The Baseball Ground, Maine Road or Roker Park (although the atmosphere in Sunderland’s Stadium of Light comes close).

The problem with these new stadiums is that they’re built with such little imagination. Their designers may boast that certain features evoke the traditions of the club’s by-gone glories, but it doesn’t change the fact that they all look pretty much the same – huge, hulking monolithic ‘bowls’ sitting in the middle of out-of-town car parks as if they’ve just landed from outer space.

So credit must be given to Liverpool’s American owners for scrapping the club’s original plans in favour of something strikingly different. The steep, single-tier 18,000-capacity Kop has been designed purely with the fans – and the stadium acoustics – in mind, and that’s how it should be.

The team behind the plans has also dispensed with the typical ‘bowl’ structure in favour of a far more irregular – and thus far more distinctive – shape. It may take a little while to get used to, but Liverpool’s players will undoubtedly benefit. When they step out onto the pitch for the first time they will do so in a stadium that is already uniquely theirs.

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