Is Liverpool FC’s Anfield redevelopment the best option?

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Some stadiums across the globe are hallowed ground.

Exactly how they reach that status can be determined by a whole host of factors, but they just have something special about them that sets them apart from the rest. A certain smell, an aura as you walk through the gates and an atmosphere that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Liverpool Football Club’s Anfield home is one of those iconic sporting venues across the world. That’s exactly why the decision to expand the capacity at Anfield rather than build a brand-new stadium in the suburbs is the right option.

On Wednesday morning American owner John W Henry gave an update on the Premier League sides planned redevelopment of their 122 year home, and believes work will start soon.

“We are making good progress,” Henry said. “There are a lot of different groups working very well together and that’s the key to a big project like this happening, when everybody is on the same page. When everybody is on the same page, we move forward.”

Henry, Liverpool FC and locals have been trying to hammer out a deal for quite some time and this saga looks to be coming to an end. The big obstacle to overcome is buying the remaining houses that are located directly next to Liverpool’s stadium as they need to be demolished as the current Main Stand and Anfield Road end are extended. However should a new ground be built to add extra infrastructure and allow Liverpool to expand the capacity even further in the future?

You only have to look at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium to see what a huge commercial success that has been. Despite the huge costs up front, the Gunners are now benefiting from attracting 60,000 fans a week and could expand further with endless possibilities.

(MORE: Liverpool plan Anfield expansion, but will it be enough?)

But the idea is to make Anfield into a 60,000 seater stadium, so only Manchester United would have a bigger capacity in the entire Premier League.

Most of Liverpool’s fans are anxious to see the plans pushed through after almost a decade of failed stadium attempts under several different ownership groups. And just like he did with the redevelopment of Fenway Park as owner of the Boston Red Sox, Henry has promised that Anfield will be upgraded tastefully and funds will be available for the project.

“I think we were clear at one point that what made financial sense was going in this direction – and this is the direction that makes financial sense for the club for a long time,” Henry said. “Obstacles are being overcome. We have always said you have to have certainty with regard to the properties because of the height of the stand and all of the issues regarding that. So that’s been the biggest issue.”

I definitely agree with this approach to safeguard Liverpool’s home at Anfield instead of building an entirely different stadium that would totally lose the character and historic vibe that Liverpool’s home exudes.

Previous American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett couldn’t get the funding to build a brand new stadium but if they had been successful huge levels of debt would have put Liverpool in a perilous situation. The decision by Henry and Fenway Sports Group to add 15,000 seats to Anfield and increase the capacity to 60,000 is a win for nostalgia and fans of the beautiful game.

Seeing stadiums like Highbury and Maine Road demolished were sad, but needed in the case of Arsenal and Manchester City who simply couldn’t renovate further. Liverpool’s decision to kick on with the renovations of their historic home should please all soccer fans.

One of the most inspiring stadiums in world soccer is here to stay. Or so it seems.

New York Red Bulls introduce space at RBA for autistic families

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls
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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) The Red Bulls have announced plans for a permanent sensory-friendly space at their stadium for families impacted by autism.

Formerly executive offices, the space overlooking midfield is a calm area that is free from the crowds and the noise of Red Bull Arena during matches. Families can use it for free.

The team announced the new space on Saturday before the Red Bulls were set to host the Chicago Fire. It was Autism Awareness Night at the stadium.

“Families deserve to feel welcome and comfortable each time they step foot into Red Bull Arena, not just one night a year,” Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre said in a statement released by the club. “We hope all sports teams and entertainment venues are inspired to take similar action to provide comfort for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.”

League Two game restarted in empty stadium after fans storm field

Photo credit: BBC Sport / Twitter: @BBCSport
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LONDON (AP) An English soccer game restarted in an empty stadium after a pitch invasion led to the crowd being told the fixture had been abandoned.

There were five minutes remaining in Leyton Orient’s fourth-tier game against Colchester on Saturday when a sit-down protest was staged on the pitch by Orient fans against Italian owner Francesco Becchetti.

It forced the referee to take the players off the field. The protests lasted for more than an hour before the crowd was told the game had been abandoned and the stadium eventually cleared. The teams came out and finished the game.

Leyton Orient lost 3-1 a week after its relegation from the English Football League was confirmed after 112 years.

“A decision was taken with the police to announce that the game had been abandoned as it was felt this would help clear the pitch, which proved correct,” the EFL said in a statement. “However, it was deemed appropriate that the game needed to be played to a conclusion in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.”

La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid hold serve in tight title race

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: Super-duper Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of top 7 ]

Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Barcelona are doing all they can do — win — in their bid to usurp Real Madrid in the race for the title. While they entered the weekend — and still are — ahead of their El Clasico rivals based on head-to-head results this season, Los Blancos still have a game in hand which will surely decide whether Madrid claim their 33rd top-division title, or a 25th for Barca.

On Saturday, Luis Enrique’s side had more than just the title at stake — also at stake: the Derbi Barceloni, against fellow Catalan side Espanyol.

For 45 minutes, the home side held firm and refused to break, but once Luis Suarez put the Blaugrana ahead in the 50th minute, that was all she wrote. Ivan Rakitic doubled the advantage in the 76th minute, and Suarez completed the scoring 11 minutes later.

Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia

By the time the derby kicked off, Madrid had already applied the pressure and gone three points clear with a 2-1 victory that was a whole lot closer than the final score indicates.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and Zinedine Zidane’s side was well on its way to victory. Ronaldo followed up his opening goal with a missed penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half, and Daniel Parejo pulled the visitors level with a sensational free kick just eight minutes before the end of regular time. Points looked sure to be dropped, and the door opened wider for Barca, but Marcelo was prepared to play the part of hero on the day, and the Brazilian left back bagged one of the season’s more improbable goals, a right-footed strike from the top of the box, in the 86th minute.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Las Palmas 0-5 Atletico Madrid
Real Sociedad 2-1 Granada

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Osasuna vs. Deportivo La Coruña — 6 a.m. ET
Real Betis vs. Alaves — 10:15 a.m. ET
Eibar vs. Leganes — 12:30 p.m. ET
Celta Vigo vs. Athletic Bilbao — 2:45 p.m. ET

Monday’s La Liga schedule

Malaga vs. Sevilla — 3 p.m. ET

Championship Focus: It’s all about the playoff places now

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With Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United having already clinched the Championship’s two automatic promotion places, all eyes turn to the four teams behind them still jockeying for playoff positioning…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s coverage of the Championship ]

3rd — Reading — 82 points, +2 GD
4th — Sheffield Wednesday — 81 points, +16 GD
5th — Huddersfield Town — 81 points, +1 GD
6th — Fulham — 77 points, +27 GD

First of all, the Championship remains the least sensible league in the world. Disagree? Just try to explain the above wildly varying points totals and the corresponding goal differentials. Go ahead, I’ll wait

As for the weekend’s results, Reading and Wednesday did themselves major favors in the race for third with victories over Wigan Athletic (1-0) and Ipswich Town (1-0), respectively, while Huddersfield, who entered the weekend in that top playoff place, played 67 minutes with a man advantage against Birmingham City, and lost 2-0. All three of Reading, Wednesday and Huddersfield have clinched their place in the promotion playoffs, which begin two weeks from Saturday, on May 13.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview — North London derby, plus 6 of the top 7 play ]

Given Leeds United’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City, a win would have clinched the fourth and final playoff place for Fulham, but the Cottagers dropped a pair of points themselves in a 1-1 draw with Brentford at Craven Cottage. Still, Fulham are all but into the playoffs with a three-point lead on Leeds, and a goal differential that’s 13 goals better.