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Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan"


In these final hours before the decision on Destination Kirkby determines Everton’s future perhaps it’s time to reflect on some of the heroes and villains involved in this turbulent period in Everton’s illustrious history. Your personal viewpoint on what is best for Everton Football Club; Kirkby, the redevelopment of Goodison Park or perhaps a move to a new site within the city will heavily influence your identification of exactly who constitutes a hero, as opposed to a villain.

Club officials, politicians, the media, fans and members of the public are just some of the cast of a saga that has run for years and whose ultimate outcome could reverberate down the decades when they are all long departed.

The Cast

Bill KenwrightBill Kenwright – Everton Chairman and life long Evertonian is seen by many as an all round good guy whilst by others as the devil incarnate. Bill Kenwright's tales of meat pies, the boy's pen and the cannonball kid are stuff of legend; supporters point out he even mortgaged his own house to raise funds to purchase the club. Critics view this as irrelevant as his money has not been actually invested in the club, merely used for the purchase of shares, and that the money he raised through mortgaging this house doesn't actually equate to the size of the shareholding leading to rumours that he has actually borrowed heavily to obtain his dream of being chairman of Everton or that he's acting as a nominee for retail billionaire Sir Philip Green. Whilst some draw comfort from an Evertonian being in charge, as opposed to some foreign business opportunist, critics will point to the spiralling losses, increased debt burden and sale of assets in place of real investment as evidence of the disaster his tenure represents.

Keith WynessKeith Wyness – Everton CEO, brought in by Bill Kenwright to rectify the disastrous financial situation, a consequence of years of under performance both on and off the pitch, famously introduced a three-year plan that was intended to address these financial problems. Critics claim that this plan, involving, amongst other things, cost cutting and outsourcing, has been nothing short of a spectacular failure that would be much worse if it were not for the increased contributions from TV and merit payments that have been received in recent years. In defence of Keith Wyness many people point to the complete lack of outside investment that has forced a strategy of asset utilization and borrowing during his time at the club. These days Keith Wyness explains that he isn't involved with the day to day running of the club, his job is to deliver “Destination Kirkby”, the relocation of Everton to an out of town retail facility, strangely reminiscent of a similar plan he failed to deliver whilst CEO of Aberdeen. The proposed Kirkby stadium was described by him as the “deal of the century” “effectively free” and offering a “world class facility” with the best-served transportation plan in the land. Everton supporters, having seen the actual application are now questioning how much truth was attached to these statements. Being allowed to pursue outside business interests whilst in his £400K+ per annum position with Everton is a contentious issue with many fans whilst the club continues to lose money.

Robert EarleRobert Earl – Director, introduced in 2007 after purchasing Paul Gregg's shares, he was initially portrayed as a marketing guru, primarily due to his involvement in the Planet Hollywood chain and casino's in Las Vegas, and was expected to be a positive influence on the marketing ability of the club. Following an unconvincing performance at last years AGM Robert Earl has never been seen or heard from since. Critics aren't convinced by Robert Earl's chequered financial past and many are suspicious of the mysterious vehicle, the BVI registered company BCR Sports, that's been used for ownership of the shares, leading to allegations involving the possibility of further involvement of Sir Philip Green with Robert Earl being little more than yet another nominee.

Tesco LogoTesco – One of the UK's most successful companies, Tesco has a track record of developing retail outlets and community facilities including sports stadia. Through their proposed development at Kirkby Tesco will provide Everton with a £52M cross subsidy derived from the value of the retail development as a whole, this will enable Everton to acquire a £130M asset for an investment of £78M. Tesco, having discussed the development with Knowsley Council, approached Everton with a full business plan and detailed costings of that plan. Supporters of the Kirkby stadium look favourably on the fortuitous involvement of Liverpool born, Evertonian and Labour supporter Tesco CEO Sir Terence Leahy whilst critics take the view that Tesco are simply providing a cheap down market stadium and are using Everton to deliver a massive retail complex; they simply wouldn't need the 63,000 sq m of proposed retail space if they didn't need to deliver the cross subsidy, which, through increased footfall, will mean increased spending and therefore increased profits. When the owners of Kirkby's town centre developed the possibility of an alternative development plan, which was within local, regional and national planning policy guidelines, and delivered an anchor supermarket through the involvement of Asda, Tesco simply removed the threat by purchasing the town centre from Development Securities.

Knowsley CouncilKnowsley Council have had a problem with the town centre of Kirkby for many years. After losing the original anchor Asda store over twenty years ago Kirkby has been in desperate need of redevelopment and a new anchor supermarket to provide for the needs of the 42,000 residents of Kirkby. Tesco's proposal would appear to solve the council's dilemma yet opponents are genuinely concerned that Kirkby will suffer from the “Tesco Town” syndrome and the problems surrounding the relocation of Everton Football Club to a stadium that will hold 20% more people than Kirkby's current population. Fears over congestion, compulsory purchase of homes and the dismissal of the findings of three public consultations, when 63% were opposed to the proposed Tesco development, are just some of the problems that have added to the residents concerns and opposition to the Council. In addition to these concerns there are the objections to the scheme raised by all four neighbouring councils over the impact on their own retail economies, a concern raised by Knowsley when they successfully objected to a Tesco supermarket development in Croxteth, Liverpool. Knowsley Council rely heavily on the material consideration given to the creation of several thousand jobs associated with the scheme.

George HowarthGeorge Howarth MP – Kirkby's Member of Parliament has predictably endorsed the Destination Kirkby project as, in the absence of an alternative scheme, Tesco's plan and Tesco's plan alone will deliver the regeneration and additional jobs from which Kirkby will benefit. Despite significant local opposition from constituents and business owners George Howarth has predictably followed the local Labour party line. Many constituents welcome appropriate and desirable regeneration of Kirkby, George Howarth's critics accuse him of weakness and failing to represent the interests of local people in preference to the ambitions of Tesco.

Liverpool City CouncilLiverpool City Council have been accused by Everton Football Club and supporters as offering little towards keeping the club within the city as opposed to the bending over backwards attitude displayed to Liverpool Football Club. Others have a contrasting view, having identified a suitable location for them, Stanley Park; LFC approached the council with a business plan that has been developed jointly for the benefit of the city and the club. Everton, despite urban myths to the contrary, have never approached the council with any such plan. After the loss of the Kings Dock stadium, when Everton repeatedly and inaccurately told the council they had the funding in place, Everton went on to sign an exclusivity deal with Knowsley and Tesco that prevented any further meaningful discussions with LCC. In spite of this and in the presence of widespread criticism LCC claim to have identified several sites including Scotland Rd, Edge Lane, Long Lane, additional land for the redevelopment of Goodison and a highly contentious shared stadium construction plan. Everton, due to the previously mention exclusivity deal and the “delivered on a plate” Kirkby stadium scheme have repeatedly declined to seriously investigate any Liverpool sites and at a private meeting in the Lord Mayor's office stated to the astonishment of Liverpool councillors and officers present that they would only consider sites that were capable of accommodating a 70,000 seat stadium.

Peter KilfoylePeter Kilfoyle – MP for Walton. Seen as a maverick by some and a hypocrite by others, Peter Kilfoyle has steadfastly refused to prevent Everton from leaving his Walton constituency citing that the club is a private business and as such is free to decide its future for itself. It was therefore perhaps surprising when he recently raised a question in the house as to the running of Liverpool Football Club, another private company. Initially expressing the belief that Everton wouldn't move, his contention being they could not fund such a move, he has recently expressed his support for the relocation to Kirkby as the move will have little economic impact on Walton yet will strangely have a positive effect on Kirkby. This is somewhat a contradiction to his earlier belief that when faced with relocation to the Kings Dock it would “rip the heart out of Walton” To his critics his recently published letter to Baroness Andrews displays a complete lack of knowledge of the activities of Everton and the city council and more importantly a complete ignorance of the criteria applied to the examination of the planning application submitted by Tesco for Kirkby. Whilst it proves difficult to find the views of supporters of Peter Kilfoyle his critics clamour to express their disgust for an MP that appears to know more about events in Nicaragua and Iraq than events in his constituency, Walton, which remains one of the most dilapidated and deprived in the city. Many are appalled at the sight of a Labour MP aiding the removal of the cultural institution that is Everton Football Club from a renaissance city and the summarily dismissal of the importance of his constituents who make their living in the retail district of Walton and County Roads.

Keioc LogoKEIOC – The Keep Everton In Our City campaign was borne out of the deafening silence emanating from established fans organisations and a genuine mistrust of the facts and figures offered in support of a proposed move to Kirkby. Whilst the groups methods may have changed and evolved the fundamental hypothesis of the group involving the unsuitability of Kirkby as a location for a top-flight premiership football club remains intact to this day. KEIOC identified that the enormous departure from local, regional and national planning policy could threaten this plan for Kirkby, deemed it undeliverable and have campaigned for the club to develop contingency plans with the city council. Whilst critics have simply dismissed the group as irrelevant luddites living in the past, KEIOC have continued to forge links with local and national politicians, media outlets and businesses with an interest in keeping Everton Football Club in the same location as all other top-flight clubs, close to the facilities offered by a major city. To date KEIOC are the only organisation to publicly offer an alternative to Kirkby, dismissed by Everton's property advisor yet endorsed by the world's foremost sports stadia designers, HOK Sport Architecture.

So there we have it, not a comprehensive review of all the interested parties concerned but certainly the individuals, organisations and elements of the story most commonly reported.

The outcome, we believe, will be decided through a statement from the Secretary of State on Monday 21st July. The examination criteria is well known:

  • A Development that may conflict with national planning policy on important matters;
  • A Development that could have wide effects beyond its immediate locality;
  • A Development that raises significant architectural and urban design issues;
  • A Development where the interests of national security are involved, or the interest of foreign Governments;
  • A Development where there is significant regional or national controversy.

Against these are balanced the weight applied by the material consideration given to regeneration and job creation.

The decision will have the following effects:

  • The decision not to call in the application for a public enquiry is taken and the construction immediately begins.
  • The decision to call in the application for a public enquiry is taken.
  • The decision not to call in the application for a public enquiry initiates applications for a judicial review from interested parties.

KEIOC are aware that the application was passed to the Secretary of State with a recommendation, it will be interesting to see if this recommendation is acted upon or disregarded by Hazel Blears.

Whatever the outcome, KEIOC hope that the damaging divisions created by this controversial relocation plan are addressed as soon as possible. The recently organised petition, by concerned shareholders, for an EGM will be a welcomed opportunity to establish the truth surrounding recent events. One thing that all parties agree on is that the future of Everton Football Club is paramount.

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