By Liam White • Dec 14th, 2009 • Category: Interviews, News |

This is the first installment of a series of interviews and articles on FollowEverton.com on all that makes the ‘Everton Family’.

The Everton Family obviously covers many things, but the most important part of the Everton Family has to be the supporters and one of the major supporters groups in recent years has been KEIOC a group who have been active during the issue that has dominated Everton in recent years, the stadium debate.

I put several questions to Colin Fitzpatrick of KEIOC.

Q. Firstly can I ask about the name, KEIOC, would you say that your campaign is based around the boundary issue as your name suggests?  Do Everton belong in the boundaries of LCC or could Everton have a future in Knowsley or along side that other great Liverpool sporting institution Aintree in Sefton?

A. The name was indeed taken in reaction to moving out of the city but doesn’t reflect the boundary issue; although any location the club proposes to move to will always be significant. For example, Manchester United play in the borough of Trafford but that’s only two miles from Manchester City centre and it has all the transport facilities you would expect.

Kirkby is nine miles from the city centre, further than any other premiership ground from its regional centre, and doesn’t have, nor would it ever have had, the infrastructure to deal with a massive influx of people. If Kirkby began at the rotunda and that was the site of the proposed stadium nobody in their right mind would argue that Everton should remain exclusively within the city of Liverpool.

It’s the location that’s important, for the benefit of the current fans and the ability to generate additional revenue streams in the future from non-football events, so whilst i wouldn’t rule out moving outside the city boundary local geography dictates that only Sefton could provide an alternative.

Q. As you were set up to oppose Destination Kirkby and to find an alternative in Liverpool you must have needed help.  What sort of assistance have LCC and your supporters offered you to help you achieve this?

A. The door of Joe Anderson’s office and Warren Bradley’s has always been open as far as we’re concerned; we haven’t just sat back and demanded that the council provide Everton [a private company] with a solution to their problem; we’ve attempted to promote specific issues, they have looked into these and have either accepted them or explained why they wouldn’t be possible.; for example a stadium on the Clarence dock site was discussed with Warren Bradley, he took this to the chairman of Peel Holdings,  John Whittaker, and he dismissed it as it didn’t fit into their plans for Liverpool Waters.

The supporters have been fantastic; the campaign has cost tens of thousands of pounds and we’ve received donations from right across the broad spectrum of support; from guys sitting in the St End to those watching games from the comfort of the platinum suite. We’ve also been assisted by numerous people from every walk of life, literally, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers; we’ve had politicians, accountants, painters and decorators, lawyers, QC’s, OAP’s, environmentalists, planners, you name it we’ve had them help, they all had one thing in common, they were all Evertonians.

Q. What do you think of the council’s efforts to find a new stadium?

A. I’m always at a bit of a  loss over this; what responsibility do the council have for solving Everton’s stadium problem? They didn’t solve Liverpool’s, they [LFC] went to the council with an outrageous plan to build within the park, LFC set up a team and delivered the proposal. Everton hasn’t done that, they expect someone to come along and when Tesco did it was with a plan that suited Tesco, not Everton. If Everton want to deliver their next attempt they’d better learn quickly how to handle the council.

Q. The key problem highlighted by the club has been affordability, whether through the enabling partnership in Kirkby or effectively selling parts of the stadium at the Kings Dock Everton have needed to find some form of external funding.  Have KEIOC come up with any alternatives for funding for a new stadium?

A. Yes we have, there’s a whole raft of proposals one of them being a financial product known as Equity Seat Right, we’ve been promoting this for over a year now and it has recently been chosen to generate  £120m for Tottenham’s new ground. Everton, for geographic and demographic reasons, wouldn’t be in a position to generate anything like this figure but 50% should be a realistic target according to the representatives we have spoken to from the company promoting ESR.

We’ve introduced other innovative ideas; these are currently with the club. It should be remembered when discussing enabling funding that what we were receiving from Tesco was value, not cash, despite what Everton have and embarrassingly continue to claim. In November 2007 Tesco informed radio Merseyside that their contribution wasn’t cash but was derived from the value of the project overall. The public inquiry subsequently heard that it was derived from the uplift in the land value that Everton would obtain on a peppercorn rent 999 year lease; Tesco having purchased this land at a heavily discounted price from the council.

Q. The main stadium issue on the agenda now seems to be the shared stadium, what are the views of KEIOC on the prospect of sharing a stadium with Liverpool FC?

A. My own view is that perhaps the shared stadium issue is worthy of debate and that whilst perhaps the environmental, technical, commercial and cultural problems could always be overcome there could be a much better solution for all parties.

Q. The preferred solution for most fans seems to be redeveloping Goodison.  How does KEIOC feel it can be achieved and of course is it affordable?

A. Yes, it would have to be a phased incremental redevelopment, probably starting with the park end; there’s an early suggestion on our website at the moment; the ultimate solution would be to have the stadium as part of a much larger development which could then bring in additional funding and income for the club to use on the field of play; this is what all fans are ultimately interested in.

Q. What sort of plans do you hope to see coming out in the future for a new Everton stadium?

A. We’d hope to see a return to the original concept for Kirkby, world class, iconic, 50,000 seat stadium with improved facilities for fans and staff alike. If the funding is in place we could achieve everything we needed; easier said than done but not impossible if the vision and the will is there to deliver it.

Q. Obviously there have been problems with the exclusivity agreement, but what sort of contact have you had with the club and what sort of communication would you like to see between yourselves and the club in the future?

A. It may surprise people the contact we have with the club; admittedly it was non-existent in Keith Wyness’ day, at that time we received the usual bullying tactics of legal threats and such but they found we weren’t about to be shaken by such nonsense. Today we have what I can only describe as cordial contact with those running the club but we still encounter the lack of professionalism from one or two individuals, those who are responsible for the split fanbase.  It must be galling for them that a group of unpaid football fans, having stuck to their guns, have unfortunately been proven right; Kirkby would be called in and planning permission would be refused because the application went against all local, regional and national planning guidelines. The decision to follow the DK route has wasted four years of valuable time, a time when the team was punching well above its weight; what needs to happen now is for the whole club to get behind the solution to our problems and we’re happy to do that.

Q. Now that Destination Kirkby is dead and buried and the main motivation for initially setting up the campaign is gone what do you see as being the role of KEIOC in the future?

A. Kirkby isn’t dead and buried because of anything KEIOC did specifically, although it would be amiss to say we didn’t pressurise and make certain individuals and groups aware of what was going on; it failed, as I have said, because it was always going to. We never KEPT Everton in our city but we’d like to hope that we could help towards KEEPING Everton in our city, for the good of the fans, the community and the city as a whole. We’ll be shortly embarking on holding a series of road shows around the supporters clubs; we hope to increase the support for our vision of the future for Everton Football Club.

Q. Moving away from the stadium issue, KEIOC has been a major supporters group for the past few years.  What are KEIOC’s opinions on any potential supporter’s trust or council being set up in the future?

A. We’re big fans of supporters trusts, in fact we included such a scenario in the proposed alternative funding mechanism in our evidence to the inquiry; we see it as an opportunity not just for the ordinary fan to make their voice heard but to having a section of the ground that Evertonians will aspire to and know they’re helping the club reach the higher levels we all desire. What KEIOC’s role in delivering this would be open to discussion; we certainly have the people who aren’t shy at tackling the pertinent issues surrounding the club performance off the pitch.

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