For a club associated with so many firsts in the game, it should be remembered that the chance to move to a new stadium is not just a question of us catching up with those that have moved or redeveloped their stadia in the last 20 years, it is an opportunity for us to leap ahead once more, to create the next series of firsts.
This is an opportunity to be bold, not only in terms of capacity, physical features and design and pricing structures (more later) but in the whole approach to hosting a football match.
We should always respect the primary reason for going to the match – it is to see our beloved team, and for many they will probably want as little change to their match day routine as possible. However, that doesn’t mean we have to just look to the past, or follow the conventional and frankly soulless experiences of other new stadia.
In my first article, I spoke about what to bring from Goodison, in particular, looking at the distinct nature of individual parts of the ground, the local neighbourhood element in the immediate vicinity of your own seat, the fact that through years of attending we tend to claim ownership of our patch of Goodison. I also spoke about the need for the stadium to scream Everton, our badge, our motto and the importance of the colour Royal Blue.
I guess the question is, is how to put all those historic values into a new stadium which reeks of modernity and yes, presents many footballing and stadia firsts.
Is that possible?
I’m not an architect (obviously) but perhaps, this is why Dan Meis has got the gig? Much of his concept work around the Qatar 2022 stadia was right out there. Stadia half buried in the desert with shopping malls integrated into the roof for example. They were innovative symbols of the excesses anticipated at the design stages of the 2022 World Cup. Yet in contrast, his thoughts on building NFL stadia were completely at odds with the conventional wisdom of 5-10 years ago. Whilst there was an arms race of ever fanciful stadium building the concept he put forward was to minimalise and pare back at a time when everyone was doing the reverse.
Ultimately we need to make Bramley-Moore a great footballing destination, that optimises our chances of having a successful football team but also provides the greatest match going experience there is. An experience that puts Everton first in every sense.
Here’s just a few ideas, in my opinion the more we think out of the box, even if most of the ideas fall away, the greater the finished stadium and experiences there will be.
What innovative uses of technology are there to make the interactions between club and fans easier and more productive?
Barcelona have the App Seient Lliure! which manages your and your family’s season tickets. It allows tickets to be released for re-sale and allows one person to manage the accounts of 6 people. With the right investment and thought processes it could do far more.
For example, it could warn of traffic congestion on the way to the match, it could advise on which food and beverage outlets outside the new stadium have the shortest queues. It could allow you to place an order during the first half which would be ready and waiting for you the moment the half time whistle blows.
Food & beverage outlets and club retailing
I really hope the club reaches out to the best experts in each of these sectors and makes both experiences innovative, full of choice matching all budgets, and totally different from other match going experiences. Not only does this enhance the experience for those that wish to participate it critically should improve our commercial performance and our attractiveness to partners.
Kids at the game
I think kids at the game can polarise views. On the one hand it is great to encourage young fans, and they are the future lifeblood of the club without doubt. They also bring a magical family element, a bonding between grandparents, parents and their children over a common interest that is produces passions difficult to generate elsewhere. However they can impact atmosphere and for some bored kids playing with a mobile device during the game or badgering their Dad is the last thing many want to see at a football match.
The answer to me seems to be a family section to the ground, but a family section very different from the current family enclosure. Perhaps it needs to be designed differently to other parts of the ground, giving easier access to concourse facilities and providing additional entertainment facilities for use before and after the match.
Assuming space permits, why not have age grouped 5-a-side leagues on purpose built pitches in the immediate vicinity of the ground for use a couple of hours before kick off? What better way of drawing people into the ground and its facilities for a longer period of time? Plus it’s healthier and the facilities could be used on non match days by the local community, schools and organisations like Mental Health FA?
Equally drawing of the technology angle and innovation going to the match should be the ideal time to teach young people of our history and our standing in the game. Match going should be a totally immersive experience for youngsters.
Pricing and the range of experiences
We’ve talked on #EvertonBusinessMatters that the current yield per game is far too low to support a highly successful team. But I stress that doesn’t mean we should price out those attracted by the current pricing policies, or indeed those only able to go to the game because of such policies. I hope the club acknowledges this and continues in the same manner making the game affordable for those who require it.
The flip side, and frankly the enabler of such a pricing policy is to offer sufficient premium seats to provide sufficient subsidy for the above. This requires a range of premium seating across different price brackets, offering different levels of service and experience. It is the equivalent of offering premium economy, business and first class tickets.
Additionally we need to recognise that not everyone wants or needs to be a season ticket holder. We should be able to accommodate visitors who attend irregularly, but also, going back to the theme of firsts let’s look at packaging games with different pricing points – obviously not for all tickets but for a proportion of the non-season ticket and non-premium tickets available.
One of the concerns about having a 60,000 plus capacity stadium is our ability to sell out every game. As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, segmenting the sales effort to premium tickets, season tickets and various categories of “walk up” tickets and having distinct campaigns and targets for each category would allow us to fill the stadium.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas, I’m sure there’s plenty more. The message I’d like to finish with is that we have a reputation for firsts. We need not to be scared to have fresh thinking about the game and club we love. We need to be bold and imaginative, this is a one off opportunity to re-set Everton’s place in the game of football.
If we fail in our ambition through lack of imagination or boldness we are destined to no longer have any chance of sitting at the top table of football – we need to seize the opportunity!