On the latest #EvertonBusinessMatters podcast before the release of images and the start of the second public consultation I offered the thought that we would know a huge amount more about our club in the coming days….
So, what do I now think?
Firstly, the stadium itself. Visually it has exceeded my wildest expectations. Like almost all Evertonians I am delighted with the images shown, particularly the view from the outside. Dan Meis always spoke about the stadium evolving from the dock and it is very clear that he has achieved his objective in that regard. It should become a stunning building fitting for a club such as ours.
I’ll return to issues such as internal specifications, capacity, demand, pricing, how capacity may be increased at a future date, but credit where credit is due, Meis has delivered and to be fair to the club, the club must have provided an outstanding brief.
Evolving from a structure (the dock) that forms an integral part of our history and culture, creating a modern home that provides future benefits is analogous with what the club is trying to achieve in regeneration and community development terms both in the Northern docks, 10 Streets and Liverpool Waters area but also at Goodison Park.
Despite having personal concerns which I will come onto, the club and individuals behind the vision need congratulating on their commitment to making North Liverpool a better place. We all must have great pride in Everton’s commitment not only to our home city but to the good people of the city also, be they blue, red or not at all interested in football.
My concerns arise though when the question is asked why is this left to Everton Football Club? Why does it take the actions of a business that should solely be focused on its core activities, professional football, to make a difference?
I was struck and from a business perspective concerned, by the lack of support from companies and organisations with much more skin in the regeneration and development game than Everton ever ought have.
Where was, indeed where is, the massively supporting comments, the congratulations, the political and financial commitment to stand alongside Everton’s desire to improve the lives of ordinary people, from the Government, from local and other MPs (remember we were at Parliament only a few days ago) from Liverpool City Council (Joe Anderson aside), from other local politicians Steve Rotherham, from Peel Holdings, even from Liverpool FC (in the context of football being a driver for good in the city)?
Where is the promise of resources, expertise and political capital to assist Everton in delivering huge benefits to the city?
I have searched for supporting comments from the MP for Liverpool Riverside – none, the 3 councillors for Kirkdale ward – none. Nothing from the Metro Mayor, Peel – nada. Other development agencies, not a single word!
The regeneration of the North of Liverpool should not just sit in the hands of Everton Football Club. Whilst the intent is honourable, it is not our reason for being, and yes, by taking up management time and possibly resources (more later) it surely impacts the progress the club makes on and off the field. Progress which is essential and should be our focus at all times.
I don’t believe we have the resources, management capabilities and bandwidth to simultaneously turnback years of sporting non-achievement (which must be our priority) whilst regenerating whole swathes of decades-long urban decay and neglect recognised to be some of the most deprived environments in the UK and Western Europe. Other clubs, notably Arsenal and now Spurs have used the proceeds of development to part fund their clubs’ activities, but critically they have had experienced property professionals within their boards and management teams. Unless I am mistaken Everton do not.
The Goodison Park Legacy
Let’s explore the Goodison Park Legacy project – a tremendously worthwhile vision which if achieved will become the benchmark for future ground moves. It’s noble, it’s forward thinking without doubt, but it leaves a number of questions which require answering in the context of the football club.
It is reported that the legacy project will have a capital cost in the region of £100 million.
According to the People’s Project website, the Club will set up a Trust, overseen by a Delivery Board, in order to shape the development of the Goodison Park Legacy Project. The land on which Goodison Park sits will be gifted by the Club to the Trust, to aid the realisation of the project.
What will be the relationship between the Trust and the club? How many Everton employees and Directors will sit on the Delivery board?
How will the Goodison Park legacy be funded? As a separate legal entity to Everton Football Club Company, Limited how will it raise funds to deliver the proposed developments? If the Trust borrows money who provides the guarantees? Everton? Farhad Moshiri, an obligation on any future owner? In the event it is the club it is reasonable to argue that guarantees provided by the club ought to be directed to footballing operations rather than the Goodison Legacy.
Furthermore, would any such guarantees or potential liabilities arising from the development impede the ability of the football club to raise capital in the future be it for increasing the capacity of Bramley-Moore or other capital requirements?
Assuming the development is built what then? If it is sold to whom does the Trust distribute the resulting funds?
Two questions to be asked:
Returning to the need for support, there are two fundamental questions to be asked:
Why are Everton seemingly alone in the quest for redevelopment and regeneration?
As I said earlier, there’s plenty of organisations public and private who have more skin in this game. There’s huge political capital on offer also. If we are to deliver what is promised, surely the club needs to demand unequivocal commitment not only for the club’s promise to improve people’s lives, but real support, expertise & investment from external interested parties to make it happen.
Secondly, shareholders and fans need to know that the impressive plans for Goodison after we move to Bramley-Moore, whilst providing great benefits for L4, don’t do so at a cost or potential cost to the club itself either in cash, management resources or future potential liabilities. Nor should they impede or put at risk our progress as a football club.
The proposed stadium looks magnificent, no doubt. The plans and intent to regenerate the North of Liverpool, equally magnificent, but the club and its core business of being a professional football club geared for success and silverware, must not be put at risk in the desire to do something worthy for the citizens of Liverpool.
We must demand that others come forward to assist and carry much of the burden in bringing the plans to life. This cannot be done alone in my opinion, it is time for many others to join in the opportunity and for many of those organisations their obligation.