Everton reveal plans to move to new stadium

Alex Livesey

Everton’s 20-year search for a new ground may be coming to an end - but it would mean they would be come tenants, not owners.

Chief executive Robert Elstone revealed at the club’s AGM on Tuesday that they were working closely with Liverpool City Council over a new ground on an as yet undisclosed location.

It is widely believed a site on Walton Hall Park, which is about a mile from Goodison Park, is the preferred option for a 50,000 capacity stadium. The redevelopment of Goodison was again ruled out due to the prohibitive cost.

The new ground would also form part of a wider regeneration project that would benefit the city as a whole.

Planning is believed to be at the advanced design stage and a final decision about any possible move may be achieved in the next few months.

Financing such a construction is of course the biggest stumbling block and Elstone confirmed the club would need substantial funding from the council as well as a naming rights deal to foot part of the cost. It is believed that potential partners have been found but chairman Bill Kenwright would not reveal any names.

Elstone says that Everton cannot borrow the majority of the money in order to pay for the stadium, which is the case with Arsenal at the Emirates stadium, as the extra revenue gained would not be enough to pay the loan back.

Instead Elstone highlights Manchester City, who became tenants in the City of Manchester Stadium in 2003, as the example to follow.

The stadium was publicly funded initially for the 2002 Commonwealth Games before city moved in a year later, paying rent to the council.

The shiny new stadium was seen as a key reason why Sheikh Mansour decided to plough his billions into the club, helping them win the Premier league title in 2012.

The hope is that with a new ground of their own alongside a talented playing squad and progressive manager, Everton may also be able to attract fresh investment, even if they don’t own their own stadium.

Speaking at the AGM this is what Elstone had to say about the new ground:

"We're not ruling out any of the sites that we've identified and that the council has presented to us but there is one site that's getting more attention.

"It has been getting more attention for a number of months, it's been worked on very carefully and diligently, not only by Everton but by the council, planners, architects, advisers, cost consultants, regeneration experts, solicitors and so on.

"There is a lot of work going into something that we're excited about and we hope it comes to fruition. If it does come to fruition we think it would be something that the city will be very proud of and we're certain our fans will be very proud of but we have to reflect that in our case it's quite a different economic model to some of the clubs who have moved historically. When they've moved they have had big shortages of capacity and big waiting lists and in that sense the economic model has been relatively compelling and if they build it then they'll fill it and it will pay for itself.

"In Everton's case that's not quite as cut and dried. For us it's as much about future-proofing, it's potentially about attracting new investment, but the business case on a day to day basis is less than compelling which is why the board is currently looking not only at this opportunity but also the associated risks and the debt that the club might have to take on to deliver it which may or may not be the right thing for us to do.

"That's exactly where we are in terms of the project and that consideration is ongoing by the board. We will need a collaboration with a number of partners, the principal partner being Liverpool City council, but there is a degree of optimism, perhaps cautious optimism, but definitely optimism and we wouldn't be investing in what we're doing without thinking it had a chance of success.

"We need the council to be supportive, financially and entrepreneurially, and at the moment there are signs that they are being that and that has to be welcomed, we are delighted with that.

"As a case study you can present Manchester City as a great example of what can be achieved through a sporting led regeneration and that's a tremendous blueprint that we hope we can follow."

The club also confirmed that their finances had been given a real boost over the past year, mainly due to the bumper new TV rights deal.

Turnover this season has risen to £117m from £86m in 2012/13, with wages, predicted to be around £67million, falling to 55% of turnover. It is also predicted that net liabilities will drop from £42.7m in 2012/13 to £12.9m in 2013/14.

The coffers will also receive a further boost with the news that season ticket sales are up 21% on last year, no doubt inspired by the magnificent progress the team has made on the pitch this season.

Hopefully we will see similar progress off it very soon.

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