It was announced yesterday that work on the replacement stadium for Anfield will begin in Stanley Park, Liverpool, next month. Liverpool fans, of course, are legitimately concerned that the atmosphere of Anfield, and, in particular, the atmosphere of The Kop end will be lost. Tony Evans raises the question in today's Times that The Kop may just be "a metaphysical idea, merely being a manifestation of the intensity of purpose Liverpool fans bring to their support."
On the contrary, I would suggest that the atmosphere produced by Anfield and The Kop end, has a lot to do with physics. It is the quality of the sound at Anfield which makes it so special, and this is a consequence of the fact that Anfield is so compact and enclosed. A new, more open stadium, designed for architectural appearance rather than quality of sound, will lose the acoustic quality which makes Anfield special.
The quality of sound heard by an audience in a building is largely a function of that building's reverberation time, the time taken for reflected sound to decay to inaudibility. Now, three-quarters of the intensity of a sound will lost in one-tenth of the reverberation time. After this length of time, the human ear and brain is capable of distinguishing a new sound. In a good concert hall, for example, the reverberation time is 2 seconds, and this means that a new sound can be distinguished every 0.2 seconds. That makes for 5 new sounds each second, which is approximately the rate at which notes are performed in many forms of music. In contrast, a good lecture theatre has a reverberation time of 0.5 seconds, given that a human speaker produces new sounds every 0.05 seconds.
The reverberation time for a building is determined by both the size and shape of the building. If the reverberation time is too long for the type of sound being produced, then different sounds become confused. Conversely, if the reverberation time is too short, then the smooth flow of sound is lost. It is also important that the intensity of the sound decays smoothly with time. (Info. on reverberation times from John Barrow, 'The Artful Universe', p227-229)
I can personally attest to the fact that the reverberation time at Anfield is just right. 'You'll never walk alone' seems to reverberate very pleasantly off the roof of the Anfield Road grandstand, and the roof over The Kop. The design of the new stadium needs to pay very careful attention to the physics of acoustics, and moreso than the aesthetic sweep of the grandstands.