New Stadium Debate

By • Nov 19th, 2009 • Category: Fan Articles |

Before you read this (if you can be bothered, I do go on a bit) and complain about any inaccuracies or disagree with anything, I’m not going to claim what I’m writing is the gospel, I’m writing my opinions, and if it creates a debate then great.

For the past decade or so there has been huge debate over a new Everton stadium, whether that’s through the Kings Dock, Kirkby, on the Goodison site or elsewhere. The issue has seen some great optimism, great disappointment and controversy. Over the coming days a decision on Destination Kirkby will be made, but what are the options open to Everton, and are they really that viable?

Shared Stadium

Possibly the most controversial suggestion that has been made, and a suggestion that simply won’t go away, is the suggestion that Everton and Liverpool share a stadium, apparently a move that would benefit both clubs.

Having two major clubs investing in the stadium would cut the costs down for each club, as would the fact that Warren Bradley would then consider using public money for the scheme. There would also be a great potential for sponsorship deals, especially naming rights, which would very likely generate more money than if the clubs did it separately. Of course in Italy the two Milan teams share a stadium, as do Roma and Lazio, and all of those are successful clubs. So basically both clubs would get to share a world class stadium and the city would have a fantastic sporting venue, sounds great. However nothing is ever that simple.

Before a spade is put into the ground a stadium design and costing plan has be made, and compromises would have to be reached. Liverpool and their corporate international fanbase would want as many seats as possible and scores and scores of corporate boxes to satisfy their wealthier fans. Everton on the other hand have a local working class fanbase who simply want a decent seat and a stadium of 50000 would rarely be filled. The needs of the two clubs go together like chalk and cheese, Everton would not want to pay half for a 60000 or 70000 seater stadium, that would more often than not have over 10000 seats empty, nor would they pay for corporate facilities far greater than Everton could fill, likewise Liverpool would not take out their corporate facilities and knock 20000 off the capacity to suit Everton’s needs. Of course Liverpool could agree to pay more for the added facilities, but would they be happy to have an equal stake if they paid more? And if not, would Everton be happy giving Liverpool a controlling stake in the stadium? The issues of design are far greater than the colour of the seats as some have suggested.

Even if the ground was ever to be built there would then be problems with splitting of revenues. Naming rights for example could cause problems, Liverpool would no doubt claim it is their increased exposure that would account for most of the naming rights money, and would demand a greater share. The non-matchday facilities, in particular the corporate suites, would also be a source of disagreement, one club would most likely suggest that it is them who is attracting wedding bookings or conferences for example, a simple 50/50 split would be very difficult to agree on. If stadium revenue was as simple as the money made on matchdays being given to the relevant club then great, but it isn’t, it’s far more complex than that.

And of course there’s the benchmark, the often quoted examples of how two big clubs can share a ground, Inter and AC. In Italy no club owns their own ground, they’re all rented from local authorities, so the culture regarding stadiums is very different, and of course both clubs are now desperate for their independence, as are Roma and Lazio. And to compare Everton and Liverpool to AC and Inter is to show a lack of understanding in the rivalries, in Milan the clubs are split between middle class and working class, in Manchester it’s East and West, in Glasgow it’s protestant and catholic, these divides can not be blurred by a shared stadium, but when the split is not set in stone, when the divide is in the same households, between people from the same backgrounds with histories that at times have overlapped, then this rivalry can become far more blurred and can be far more fragile if the two sides shared a stadium and lost the visual element of their identity, their own grounds.

A New Everton Stadium

Of course we can forget about those over the park and go it alone. The problem however is funding. At the Kings Dock Everton effectively gave up huge chunks of the stadium to other investors, with other people owning the rights to the concerts for example, whilst at Kirkby the club has used a basic design and gained reductions in cost due to receiving use of the land at below market cost amongst other things as Everton at the moment are unable to fund a stadium alone. So even if we did go it alone with Liverpool, some form of partner would most likely be needed to in some way subsidise the funding.

Unfortunately we’re not like Arsenal who have raised £172.4million from the sale of property on Highbury so far, with only 2/3 of the apartments being sold, so they could potentially see £240million from the sale of Highbury by the time all property is sold, they can also boast £100million in matchday revenue due to 60000 sell outs and huge numbers of corporate boxes and a £100million naming rights deal. Everton on the other hand will be lucky to get £15million for Goodison, would struggle to sell 47000 tickets and will never get near the Arsenal demand for corporate boxes, whilst a naming rights deal would be nearer the £30million mark than £100million. So the funding limitations are quite significant.

Unless someone with more money than sense comes along and becomes the first foreign investor to pay for a new stadium in the Premierleague era, then the club has the choice between effectively giving up equity in its stadium or making the design as basic and cost effective as possible.

Redeveloping Goodison

I’d imagine most people would prefer this option. The obvious benefits would be that there would be minimal disruption to the match day routines of fans and although it would have to change appearance beyond recognition, and maybe even have to be moved slightly, it would still in some way be the same Goodison Park to many fans and the Park End could probably be expanded with minimal disruption.

However if we’re talking about a complete redevelopment then significant costs come in to play. Without funding from the sale of Goodison and naming rights, though Goodison Park has a bit of a ring to it, then there would be less funding available for any redevelopment. If we want to remove all the obstructed views and improve corporate hospitality and other facilities in the stadium to bring it up to 21st century standards then a simple lick of paint and a new roof wouldn’t be enough. The three remaining stands would, I believe, have to be demolished, or at least most of the stand would have to be, to remove all obstructed views and bring facilities to modern standards. I also believe that the property around Goodison would have to be bought up, even if we could rebuild Goodison on the current blueprint, because I don’t believe any planning inspector would allow such a large scale development to happen literally two feet away from someone’s front door. It would undoubtedly be very costly, lengthy and in parts complex, but then again what price would put on the chance to stay at Goodison?

To be honest after reading through this to spell check it (I don’t trust the paperclip) I realised that I’m a negative **** so I’m sure that someone with more rose tinted glasses than me may take offence or try and rip it apart, so feel free.

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