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Inquiry Reports

Friday, December 12, 2008

Day 11 – “Kirkby Fails to Meet Standards.”


The previous day concluded with Mr Chris Potts of Savills being led through his evidence by Tesco’s QC, Mr. Patrick Clarkson. Chris, well known to shareholders at Everton for presentations given at general meetings, explained that over the past ten years it had been discovered that the redevelopment of Goodison Park wasn’t viable, as the club needed a stadium that met current standards.

Clearly not present at the earlier cross-examination of Robert Elstone he went on to explain that Everton needed a 50,000-seat stadium, expandable to 60,000 (forbidden by KMBC), with seating for corporate hospitality guests of 2,000 to 3,000 and a host of other facilities that any new or redeveloped stadium could potentially offer.

Having personally assessed many sites around Liverpool using the supermarket type criteria of availability, suitability, accessibility, viability and deliverability Chris explained that no football club would attempt to move without applying this thorough approach and went on to explain, incorrectly, that after the ballot Liverpool City Council “came up with” the Loop site proposal, clearly the 4,000 Evertonians visiting the KEIOC exhibition in St Georges Hall at the time of the ballot were simply passing through? Chris continued to inform the inquiry that he had advised the club the site in question was too small, inaccessible and would prove very expensive to deliver. KEIOC can confirm that not as mention of a plinth was made throughout the presentation. For those inquisitive readers that wish to know what a plinth is, you can read here (and probably weep).

Mr Sauvain QC, acting on behalf of Liverpool City Council began his cross-examination of Chris Potts by asking questions concerning expanding the footprint of Goodison Park. Chris explained this had been looked at in some detail but was simply not viable.

Chris explained that since 2006 Everton had been investigating the possibility of sites with the potential of enabling facilities and that Everton hadn't approached the NWDA for funding as LFC had done with their development, they're receiving £10M towards the total cost of their stadium. Everton not pursuing this method of funding may have something to do with Tesco having approached the NWDA for a similar amount; unfortunately Mr Sauvain did not ask this question.

Chris finished by innocently offering the opinion that a change of ownership at Everton would not necessarily resolve the funding of the stadium, citing the problems involving the new ownership at LFC. So if nothing else Chris has confirmed that there are funding issues concerning Everton's ability to finance the move at this moment in time.

Trevor Skempton, Urban Design Consultant, questioned Chris Potts on behalf of KEIOC.

Trevor stated: I wish to establish the precise nature of the site that was being sought in the various investigations that led to the extraordinary conclusion that there was nowhere suitable anywhere within the City of Liverpool.

Trevor asked, “I notice in your CV that were involved in the highly controversial move of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes” Chris replied “No, MK Dons were already there, I moved them to a new stadium” Trevor “Do you think that the treatment of football clubs as franchises to be moved from older cities to new towns [to give them some sort of instant identity] is going to be – or should become - a pattern in the future?” Chris” I'm not aware that they are operating as franchises; the structure is not something I'm clued up on.

Trevor continued “Yesterday, we heard the phrase: ‘location, location and location.' But do you think that, in this particular case, other factors that are more important? “We have heard that Everton's highest density of support lies across Merseyside and North Wales. This is the same region that is served by Liverpool's theatres, the Philharmonic, the Arena and of course the new Liverpool One development. Not to mention the city's cathedrals…. Can you envisage any of these being wrenched from the heart of the city?” Chris replied “A blend of issues; it (Kirkby) meets the requirements and is affordable, within the heartland of EFC fans. I'm not sure if commenting on location strategies is what I'm here for.

Trevor continued “With reference to your answer on enabling – or as you have called it ‘subsidizing', the process leading to the identification of a site for the relocation of EFC has not solely been made on the basis of simple land availability or suitability for a stadium. The viability for the construction of a stadium for Premier League and potentially Champions League football in terms of quality, capacity and facilities; requires EFC to include enabling development funding, have you considered forms of enabling development other than major retail?” Chris replied, “The only case to secure a non-retail subsidy was the Emirates, for 2,500 homes in Islington. Islington prices equal a subsidy”

Trevor “You go on, in the same paragraph, to state that [of enabling development]: “this was a key factor behind the ultimate collapse of the Kings Dock proposals…. and viability remains the key factor.” How was ‘enabling' a key factor in the collapse of the Kings Dock proposal? Chris responded, “King's Dock was a combination of factors, it was incredibly complicated and created a lot of costs. Trevor responded “As I recall, LCC invited bids from Developers (as they did with Grosvenor and the Liverpool One development) and selected Everton (under the name of Houston Securities) from a short-list of four after a rigorous public exhibition and consultation process. Was it not the case that the Kings Dock proposal was a partnership between Everton and a major events organization, in this case the public sector, and that the deal offered to Everton was even more favorable than Kirkby, on a site that had widespread support?” Chris replied “EFC pursued King's Dock with great vigor; a regrettable conclusion.” Trevor pushed on ”Was it not the case that the City Council were anxious to secure the deal as part of their successful bid to be European Capital of Culture (awarded in June 2003) and gave Everton an ultimatum to put up or shut up?” Chris “I can't comment”

Trevor “Isn't it the case that the reason that no site was available is that your search has been fixed on a type of development that was clearly contrary to Planning Policy, and could therefore not be supported by the City Council” Chris gave the response ”Incorrect, in most cases the planning authorities can see the benefits.” Trevor enquired, “Isn't this the reason that the search switched to investigation of sites outside the city boundary, in Sefton and Knowsley? Chris” No”

Moving on to the current Arena and Conference Centre site, at the Kings Dock, Trevor enquired “Are you aware that the remainder of the site has more than enough space to house a stadium like the Millennium stadium, together with a sliding pitch? Has the exclusivity agreement between Everton, Tesco and Knowsley prevented discussion of alternative opportunities such as this as they arise and furthermore would you agree that, especially with the collapse of the housing proposals for that site and the potential for linkages and synergy with the very successful Arena, Exhibition and Conference Centre, that this might be investigated as a potential Plan B for either football club, if their current stadium proposals cannot go ahead?” Chris “You have raised the site, I've looked at it. It lacks enabling facility. It's a world heritage site and therefore unaffordable. English Partnerships wouldn't want us to go there either.” Trevor “ Not a plan B then?” Chris “ I don't believe it's available, viable or suitable.”

Questions then moved on to Goodison Park:

Trevor “Goodison Park is one of the most historic and atmospheric stadia in the World, and may indeed be one of the reasons for the club punching above its commercial weight. A group called “Goodison for Everton” campaigned against a previous Chairman's proposal to move out of town. They appointed Ward McHugh Associates, architects of Twickenham, to investigate the potential for redevelopment of the existing stadium, which they did, are you aware of the Ward McHugh proposals?” Chris, “Yes they undertook a piece of work prior to Kings Dock.” Trevor “In your evidence you have said that the Club instructed Ward McHugh [para 2.1.2]. It is my understanding that the Ward McHugh study was commissioned not by the club, but by supporters to demonstrate (which it did) that redevelopment of their Goodison Park is indeed possible, can you confirm this?” Chris “ I've seen the study, it doesn't work.” Trevor “Have discussions been held with Liverpool City Council and/or the local community over the possibility of extending the Goodison Park footprint?” “Chris “No”

Trevor next questioned Chris on alternative Sites: “I will be dealing with many of the 35 sites, and a few others, later in the inquiry )and will be arguing that many have genuine potential warranting further investigation, and at least half-a-dozen can be considered suitable); it is also my intention to question Mr Keirle about the possibilities of expanding Goodison Park. However, there are one or two particular sites that I would like to ask you about at this stage” explained Trevor before asking, “Could you explain why you have on a number of occasions so vigorously opposed the Tunnel Loop site? The first serious mention of the Loop Site was in early 2007. I know because I raised it as a possibility – details will be included as appendices to the KEIOC evidence. Discussion of the Loop Site was widespread amongst the Everton Family long before the ballot raised its head. The opportunity for the club to be involved had been there for many months before Warren Bradley raised it as a serious possibility when the site owners, Bestway, approached him with a view to developing their site for other purposes. As someone working closely with the club, can you honestly say that you had no knowledge of the Loop site prior to the ballot?” Chris responded, “The club have not been furnished with plans or proposals. I've taken advice and the joint conclusions are that it fails. I've told the site owner this; I was only made aware of the scheme on June/July 07 when it started getting media coverage.” Trevor continued, “You will be aware of the success of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Many of us believe that the Loop offers a city-centre opportunity comparable to that…. What do you think are the main differences between the two sites?” Is it not simply that this proposal, which is in Everton and very close to the City Centre, is supported by the site owner and the City Council and is backed by a feasibility study by HOK Sports Architecture (architects of the Millennium Stadium), has been seen as a serious threat to the Kirkby Project?

At this point all hell broke loose as Trevor had mentioned the HOK report in passing and Chris made a fuss about never seeing it. A clearly irate Patrick Clarkson QC jumped up, once again employing his usual theatrics to unsettle opponents, and demanded that the HOK report be produced before David Kierle was cross-examined or he would request that KEIOC shouldn't be allowed to cross-examine. A thorn in the side thereby removed?

Chris answered “I've received no proposals from KEIOC relating to the loop site and that having assessed the site himself, in conjunction with other stadia experts (undisclosed), had concluded that the site fail to meet the qualifying criteria.”

Moving on to Everton Park, Trevor enquired “Finally, I note that the site on Everton Park the site of the current Everton Sports Centre, within the park, would make a cracking football stadium was dismissed by Liverpool FC because of ‘development issues'…. the first of these is the issue of steeply rising land. The second is that it is located within a high-density residential area with amenity and access/parking issues. The third is that it is relatively remote from Anfield. Do you agree with these reasons for dismissal? Is it also ‘relatively remote' from Goodison?

Trevor continued, “Could the slope not provide a wonderful opportunity for a creative architect to save money by allowing spectators to have direct access to the stadium at different levels? Do you think that it would help if a creative architect was involved in site appraisals?

The applicant's next witness was Mr. David Keirle, an employee of KSS, an expert in the strategic design of football stadia. Mr Keirle started by describing Goodison Park as having some of the worst facilities to be found in sports stadia in Europe. He went on to say that the restricted site, common in football stadia of this age, created major problems for clubs such as Everton that attract large crowds. No doubt Mr Keirle is unaware that the record attendance at Goodison, in 1948, was 78,299.

After the debacle the previous day when Robert Elstone attempted to portray Goodison's hospitality facilities as poor only to be reminded that they were in fact award winning, Mr. Keirle neatly side stepped that trap by now describing the facilities as good but they needed more.

Mr. Keirle admitted that the Goodison matchday atmosphere was good, even with all its apparent faults, but explained that modern thinking by stadia designers had moved towards providing safe comfortable facilities for families, he explained that Goodison failed to provide these and consequently failed to attract many families. Perhaps this is an insight into why Everton are being misled by their advisors, the majority of new stadia are failing to attract anyone. All businesses need to be market driven, not advocates of missionary work, successful company's give their customers what they want not what they think they want.

Without taking up the offer from the leader of Liverpool City Council, Mr Warren Bradley, concerning the availability of land surrounding Goodison, and without entering into any meaningful discussions with the council on this matter Mr Keirle has concluded that the redevelopment of Goodison, on an extended footprint, would cost up to £245M for the stadium alone. He went on to explain that redevelopment on the existing footprint was also too costly but preferred to explain the features and benefits of the proposed Kirkby stadium in preference to explaining the detail behind the apparent phenomenal cost of building in Walton in contrast to building in Kirkby, conveniently dismissing the CABE evaluation along the way.

Kirkby resident Dave Kelly questioned Mr. Keirle on behalf of the Kirkby residents, Dave asked “What other stadia have been developed on or near their existing sites? Mr. Keirle replied “Chelsea's ground at Stamford Bridge but had taken nine years to complete on a complex site, he went on to agree that Spurs were building a near stadium close to their ground at White Hart Lane he explained that the improvements at Goodison had gone as far as possible hence the reason for the search for a suitable site which had established that Kirkby was the only viable alternative available.

Dave continued, “Would the stadium plans change the Valley Road gateway to Kirkby?” Mr Keirle explained that it would be changed as it, the stadium, was a large structure but there were measures in place to lessen the impact.” Dave dropped a bombshell when he asked, ” Why do the plans for the new stadium not meet the latest stadium guidelines known as the Green Guide?” Mr. Keirle responded “It's a building designed to meet standards and regulations in place at that time, even though discussions might be ongoing to update or change those regulations, the design for this stadium met the regulations that were in place when it was drawn up.” So that's perfectly clear then, it doesn't meet the standards that it's supposed to.

Trevor Skempton next question Mr. Keirle on behalf of KEIOC. Trevor outlined the areas he wished to question Mr. Keirle on the limitations on the potential size and capacity of the proposed Kirkby Stadium, the restrictions on the potential use of the stadium by ‘partner' organizations, the conflict between long-term design quality and short-term priorities and the potential for the expansion of Everton's present stadium in Liverpool.

Trevor began with “What, in a nutshell, was your brief for the stadium?”

“It seems that this 50,000-seat stadium is the minimum that the club require. Is this, in effect, just Phase 1? “ What allowance have you made for further expansion on the proposed site?” “Can you put a figure on the extra capacity that is created by filling in four corners?” “ Would an infill of the South-East corner further compromise the awkward relationship with the nearby houses?

Trevor continued, “When Paul McCartney appeared at Anfield in the summer, all the staging had to be craned in over the stands, an incredibly inefficient and expensive exercise. Have you made provision for the staging of regular musical or other events? Mr. Keirle replied, “This stadium can't be used for other events but the design will allow for this in the future.

Trevor, “The structure produced by Barr seems very cost-efficient – there are no curved rows of seats or overhanging tiers. What are the major compromises that you feel have been made in order to reduce the cost?” Mr. Keirle “ I don't think there are any.” Trevor, “One of the characteristics of many open modern stadia is that empty seats become very prominent. Have you considered ways of keeping the atmosphere of a full stadium even when the attendance is well below capacity?” Mr. Keirle “I don't design stadia with a view to them being empty. Not for football anyway, marketing will lift sales to the highest capacity so it's not been considered.”

Trevor “Football fans have many very different expectations of the stadium. Some like to jump up and down crowded together, sing and express their emotions. Others like to sit in wide comfortable seats akin to those in a cinema. Have you varied the seat specification in different parts of the ground?” Mr. Kierle, “Yes” Trevor, “Detail?” Mr. Kierle, “Hospitality” Trevor, “There are different standards and means?” Mr. Keirle, “Not from a design point of view.” Trevor, “Some supporters, particularly the next generation, are being priced out of Premiership games. Bearing in mind the overall increase in capacity, have you made any allowance for new kinds of cheaper seat? ”Mr. Keirle, “I don't know about the club's pricing policy.”

Trevor continued “Singing and chanting are an important component of the big-match theatrical atmosphere, and help sell the product to the broadcasting companies. Are any special measures proposed to enhance the acoustic properties of the stadium from this point of view? Mr Keirle, “ Yes, we've tried to close stadium to focus the noise inside.”

Trevor “Yesterday, Mr. Elstone referred to Everton ‘punching above its weight' in terms of its relative success on the field. He mentioned his colleague, the manager, David Moyes. Do you think that the character and atmosphere of the stadium could also have something to do with that?” Mr. Keirle responded, “EFC have fantastic fans which generates atmosphere. Impact.” Trevor, “Are you aware that both Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have praised the special atmosphere at Goodison?” Mr. Keirle, “No.” Trevor, “Alex Ferguson described it as a “pit-bull” of a stadium, which I take to be a compliment from him, and Arsene Wenger said how much better it is than Anfield.” Mr. Keirle replied, “People close to the action have an impact.”

Trevor, “You say that Goodison Park “makes no positive architectural contribution to the immediate surrounding area” yet it creates a wonderful atmosphere?” Mr Keirle, “It's the thing that gets people still supporting the team when they are under performing.” Trevor, “you concede that parts of Goodison have a certain historic charm, have you given any thought to preserving elements of these historic structures and incorporating them within your expansion proposals?” Mr Kierle, “There is a fundamental problem with that because of spectator experience. Retaining stands that are limited by their design. There is the burden of maintenance. Can't see how they can be converted. They are tight, uncomfortable, cramped, and claustrophobic. A truly horrible experience for people who go into those stands who aren't hardened football fans, problems attracting women to football.” Trevor “Is there not a case for listing these buildings as being of special architectural and historic interest, and treating them in the same way that historic dock warehouses such as the Albert Dock have been treated?” Mr. Keirle, “No.”

Trevor, “Moving to your proof we can see an aerial view of the stadium. At the top left is the historic St Luke's Church occupying one corner of the stadium, to the right of the stadium is the Gwladys Street School and to the bottom is a car park owned by Everton, On page 18, paragraph 3.4.5, we can see a proposal to rebuild the ground to a capacity of 30-35,000, do you regard this as the maximum possible that can be fitted on the site, or is there room for a bit more…. at the bottom along Walton Lane?” “Mr. Keirle “Yes.”

Trevor, “On page 22, paragraph 3.4.11 “Scope for enabling in the form of a hotel?” “Yes” “This is your proposal?” “Yes” “Ground intact?” “Yes” “So the proposal is leaving EFC better off for facilities, atmosphere and location than Kirkby, what about the Chelsea model, for Bullens Road?” “There's no comparison between the two, in cost terms.” “If Everton continued to advance, would there be options to develop?” “Maybe another 3 or 4,000 on the Park End” “So the potential is there in terms of incremental development?” “There would still be problems with spectator facilities and maintenance bills. I couldn't advise the board it was sensible.” “It's a route?” “If money was no object and not being concerned about two sides, you could expand.”

Can you understand why so many supporters feel that an incremental development of Goodison Park is preferable to the risk of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater'?” Mr. Keirle “I can't comment on that.”

Trevor “Finally, How will the site cope with crowd dispersal?” Mr. Keirle “It's totally different, fans passing peoples houses as opposed to fans leaving onto an external concourse. Trevor “I have an image of people not knowing what to do in Kirkby after the game”

Don't we all Trevor, don't we all.

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