Everton optimistic over move to new stadium

Alex Livesey

Notes from the recent Everton Shareholders Association meeting reveal that the club remain in discussions over a new ground and could move "very quickly" should funding become available, though there appears to be little tangible progress on the issue.

The Everton stadium question has hung over the club since the early 1990s, when the Toffees began to upgrade the stadium in the wake of the Taylor Report, produced following the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy in 1989.

Goodison promptly became all-seater but an opportunity was missed when the new Park End stand, constructed in 1994, only had one tier and minimal corporate facilities.

Two years later then-chairman Peter Johnson revealed his vision of a Toffees superdome on the outskirts of the city, but the doubts were raised over the move when it was scrutinised and eventually shelved when Johnson was forced out in 1998.

The turn of the Millennium presented Everton with the greatest opportunity for a new ground in the form of the Kings Dock development on the banks of the (Royal Blue) River Mersey.

Sadly, despite being preferred bidders for the development Everton were forced to pull out due to a lack of funding - many have not forgiven Bill Kenwright for spurning that opportunity.

Seven years later the club once again tried to move Everton out of the city to a new ground alongside a retail park in Kirkby. A supporters vote gave blessing to the move, but suspicions of the validity of the plans gave rise to the 'Keep Everton in Our City' group, who revealed serious flaws in the project, which was later scuppered by the Government following a public enquiry.

The silence since then has been deafening and despite the real progress being made on the field Goodison - still one of the Premier League's more atmospheric arenas - also remains a millstone round the club's neck.

It has too many obstructed view seats and the corporate facilities lag behind even that of some Championship sides. Sadly it also appears that a sympathetic, gradual reconstruction of the 'Grand Old Lady' is not possible due to the massive cost it would incur.

Bespoke materials would be needed for each stand and with three sides of the ground hemmed in by tightly-packed Victorian terraced housing, space is at a premium and any attempts to free up land a logistical nightmare.

That leaves a move to a new ground within the city boundaries. This latest revelation by chief executive Robert Elstone to the EFCSA at a meeting in December reveals that the club are in talks with the council over a new ground:

Mr Elstone explained that discussions and high level planning continues with up to one and a half days per week of his time being spent on this. Operating to a high-level brief to create a stadium that would provide for the "most atmospheric home-end in world football" he explained that consultation with the Council and finding a preferred site means this is an evolving project. Nonetheless the work is sufficiently progressed that if funding was available the Club could move very quickly.

Mr Elstone described the current work as a ‘phenomenally exciting scheme’ with council buy-in and providing a significant amount of regeneration in Liverpool. He also explained that this was on the agenda for the forthcoming Board Meeting.

Source EFCSHA website

Now, the cynical part of me heads straight towards the phrase "if funding was available". Lets face we would all move very quickly if we had several hundred million in our back pocket.

We can produce all the "phenomenally exciting schemes" we like but until someone comes along with cold, hard cash then Everton are stuck where they are.

The council will help all they can (I hope, even if they haven't appeared to in the past), a sponsor would contribute and the sale of Goodison should also be taken into account.

But we also have to ensure the ground is worthy of the Everton motto and not what Kirkby threatened to be - a cheap, soulless flatpack hunk of metal clamped onto a retail park in the middle of nowhere.

This revelation thrusts the stadium issue back into the public eye and Everton's head of communications Alan Myers, a real breath of fresh air since returning to the club last summer, may come under pressure to at least elaborate on what the club are doing about a new ground, seen as the key to a stable and successful long-term future for the club.

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