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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 32 – The misinformation train runs out of steam at Kirkby


As anticipated, on the day KEIOC were afforded the platform so readily denied by the local media and the club itself, the applicants attempted to suppress the evidence KEIOC provided against the stadium proposal.

Mr Patrick Clarkson QC, acting on behalf of Everton, addressed the planning inspectors and asked for the evidence provided by Mark Grayson and Colin Fitzpatrick to be dismissed on the basis that it was information on the financial management and performance of Everton Football Club and did not relate specifically to the planning issues surrounding the applicants proposal.

This must have been somewhat puzzling for the inspectors as the KEIOC group evidence had been before the inquiry for over five weeks without any objections being raised whatsoever. It was equally puzzling for KEIOC as Everton's CEO had been allowed to wax lyrical about the clubs finances in his proof of evidence so it was strange that it was relevant then but somehow not relevant now.

Mr Dave Kelly, chair of KEIOC group, argued that the evidence in question related to Everton's ability to finance their proposed move to Kirkby and outlined financial alternatives that made the alleged cross-subsidy redundant.

After deliberating over morning tea Mrs Burden delivered the inspector's decision on Mr Clarkson's request for dismissal; this was that KEIOC's evidence before the inquiry would not be dismissed, it would be, and in fact had been, read in full by the inspectors. Mrs Burden asked for information, already heard by the inquiry, be avoided.

Mr. Trevor Skempton, an architect and an expert on urban design addressed the inquiry in his capacity as an advisor to KEIOC. Trevor explained that one of the most aspects of a stadium was its location and that alternatives to Kirkby having “substantial merit” had been too readily dismissed and that all thirty-five alternative sites were better suited than Kirkby; even a somewhat tongue in cheek proposal using Birkenhead.

Trevor lamented the missed opportunity that was the Kings Dock and explained that architects and engineers could turn restrictions, identified as reasons for dismissal, at alternative sites, into advantages. Telling the inquiry that Everton's natural location was within the city he spoke about removing one the most historic landmarks from Liverpool.

Making no apologies Trevor described the support of football clubs as emotional issues with their stadia usually akin to grand theatres but viewing the Kirkby stadium was a low cost construction in a poor location and with little character; it represented little more than multiplex cinema. He was concerned about the provision for affordable seating for the next generation of Evertonians and the measures to address the creation of atmosphere in the new stadium. A quintessential space eater, Trevor was unable to foresee the seven-day a week role of the stadium in the town.

Turning to Goodison, Trevor explained that whilst requiring much overdue renovation he explained that an expansion of the footprint could be achieved through the assistance previously offered by Liverpool City Council. Trevor next covered other potential sites within Liverpool including KEIOC's plan b, which is the Scotland Rd site, and described the restrictions there as similar to the hugely successful Millennium Stadium at Cardiff. He closed by explaining that KEIOC embraced the principle of a shared stadium that would truly offer the ability to be facility led but that for their own reasons both football clubs' were reluctant to endorse or discuss.

Mr. Patrick Clarkson QC cross-examined Trevor on behalf of the applicants. Mr. Clarkson, “Are you an Everton season ticket holder?”

Trevor, “Yes.”

Mr. Clarkson, “ Are you a member of KEIOC?”

Trevor, “No, I objected as an individual, the Inspector asked me to join forces.”

Mr. Clarkson, “I want to know who I can ask about KEIOC”

Trevor “It's a wide umbrella of people”

Mr. Clarkson, “Who are they?”

Trevor “There is a committee but I'm unable to give information about supporters or attendees.”

At this point Dave Kelly interjected, “Mrs. Burden, this is inappropriate questioning, Trevor is here to discuss alternative sites; I'm more than happy to discuss these questions with Mr. Clarkson.”

Mr. Clarkson, “I want details of KEIOC.”

Mrs. Burden agreed that Dave Kelly could later take the stand and answer Mr. Clarkson's questions.

Mr. Clarkson, “What are alternative sites exactly?”

Trevor, “These are headline sites that Everton have said they can't consider due to their enabling needs.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Are you an employee of Liverpool City Council?

Trevor, “No, but I have been a consultant; the most recent time was Liverpool One”

Mr. Clarkson, "In relation to Liverpool Football Clubs relocation to Stanley Park, was there a requirement to examine alternatives?”

Trevor, “Yes, but Liverpool's needs are different; they were picking out Aunt Sally's.”

Mr. Clarkson, “But they proffered alternatives?”

Trevor, “Alternatives, yes.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Mr. Potts' and Mr. Tulley's alternatives, they indicated that there are no alternative sites?”

Trevor, “I couldn't support that.”

Mr. Clarkson, “What were Liverpool City Council's efforts to provide the Stanley Park site for Liverpool FC?”

Trevor, “I'm being drawn into another clubs proposal. It's conjecture to imagine why Councillors supported a stadium in a listed park.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Liverpool City Council's position. It's not a planning issue that requires Everton to stay in the city is it?”

Trevor, “The city council is supportive of the Loop site.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Would that support be from the leader of the council who attended KEIOC meetings?”

Trevor, “As far as I'm aware both leaders support sites in the city. Everton's needs are contrary to the planning situation in Liverpool.”

Mr. Clarkson, “They are both Everton season ticket holders are they not?”

Trevor, “I couldn't say.”

Mr. Clarkson, “It is your case that Everton Football Club should stay in the city?”

Trevor, “Yes; the removal of an important cultural element from one authority to another is aggressive.

Mr. Clarkson, “It is not a planning issue for the city that Everton should stay in the city so you would disagree with Liverpool Council?”

Trevor, “Yes, on this issue.”

Mr. Clarkson, “One site, the Bestway site……”

Trevor, “Yes, it was looked at late in the day.”

Mr. Clarkson, “If you'd been thorough, you'd know that Liverpool FC were required to look at the Loop.”

Trevor, “Why should Everton base their enquiries into sites on activities done by their enemies? Liverpool looked at the Bestway site only as a box ticking exercise; the rejection of the site shouldn't affect Everton's decisions; that's an extraordinary idea that EFC should base their decisions on the decisions of their bitterest rival; anyway Liverpool's requirements are different than Everton's, Liverpool were looking at sites for a 70,000 plus seat stadium."

Mr. Clarkson, “It was 60,000, that was their planning application.”

What followed was a heated exchange between Trevor and Patrick Clarkson concerning the capacity of the stadium required by Liverpool FC, Mrs. Burden interjected and asked Trevor to supply proof on this matter, which he agreed to do so. KEIOC can reveal that Trevor later submitted four pieces of documentation that proved Mr. Clarkson had been, once again, badly advised.

Mr. Clarkson, “The production of the HOK report, were you involved?”

Trevor, “Only in terms of being asked by Liverpool City Council people, [Birchnall and Kelly] to identify the site at the beginning of 2007. It came up in discussions with the city council and Bestway. The council suggested it as a home for Everton"

Mr. Clarkson. “Was the Bestway site introduced to bounce attention, during the ballot, away from Destination Kirkby?”

Trevor “The Loop site had potential, before the ballot.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Was the HOK report a device to bounce the ballot against the proposals?”

Trevor, “No. Malcolm Carter [of Bestway] wanted the best possible outcome. He was frustrated by the exclusivity agreement, he couldn't speak to Everton so he spoke with HOK.

Mr. Clarkson, “How did you get the HOK report?”

Trevor, “I saw it by email and drafts of it. It was written to confirm assumptions.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Were you an advisor on the Loop, as an employee of Liverpool City Council?”

Trevor, “I gave some advice to the council, yes.”

Mr. Clarkson, “So, your approach at this inquiry is contrary to your employers. The Loop is a hopeless idea."

Trevor, “No, it's a serious runner. Whilst building over the link road would require highways permission but this is all part of the development of a large and complex site; there are problems, as with any site, but these were not insurmountable and could create solutions that would improve the look and operation of the stadium.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Did you hear Mr. Kierle's evidence? He didn't rate it.”

Trevor, “He was working to a different brief.”

Mr. Clarkson, “His brief was to read the HOK report. On page seven it states that orientation is a requirement does it not?”

Trevor, “In a large stadium, low sunlight is not a problem.”

Mr. Clarkson, “HOK says a North South orientation is important”

Trevor, “It's not important.”

Mr. Clarkson, “What about the layout of the stadium?”

Trevor, “It would offer unrestricted channels of movement, this would be the main advantage; extraordinary for the City centre, there was a lack of houses surrounding the site.”

Mr. Clarkson, “There is restricted access around the site.”

Trevor, “By its very nature all access is restricted. The facilities available in the City centre would offset bridging costs; it's sensible and economic, very comparable to Newcastle and the Millennium stadium.

Mr. Clarkson, “What about the foundations; they would need to be outside of the site?”

Trevor, “No, this isn't true, Liverpool Council would discuss additional land, bridge and tunnel access.”

Mr. Clarkson, “So Mr. Bradley has said you can have land off site?”

Trevor, “That is my understanding, yes. Between the Loop and John Moores University.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Has there been a second follow up HOK report?”

Trevor, “No, but during the inquiry there have been further investigations. There is a limit to what can be submitted. The Loop is an option for the future.”

Mr. Clarkson, “How much would all this cost?”

Trevor, “It would be in excess of £200 million.”

Mr. Clarkson, “By whom?”

Trevor, “Figures have been discussed.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Do you have authority to say what EFC should pay?”

Trevor, “That cost would be comparable to similar stadia. What must be understood is a modern stadium has to be a mixed-use building, a hive of activity seven days a week. The club needs to engage with long-term partners not simply enablers as in the current proposal. The HOK report was just confirmation that the Loop site isn't a fantasy.”

Mr. Clarkson, “What about Birkenhead, is that a fantasy, is it in the KEIOC constitution?”

Trevor, “It's unacceptable to KEIOC but even then preferable to Kirkby.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Moving on to Mr. Kierle's options for Goodison Park. Your cross-examination was temperate and respectable?”

Trevor, “Yes, he's a genuine fan and I respect him for his knowledge; however I disagree with his assumptions of the limitations of Goodison Park particularly the need to vastly increase the footprint.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Are you experienced in stadium design?”

Trevor, “Mr. Kierle's experience is in fit-out, mine is in provision. Athletics stadiums are not comparable. 20 – 25,000 capacity at best. I prepared feasibility studies for Newcastle. Formally commissioned to extend the Nou Camp. I was city architect in Newcastle and was asked to respond to the proposal to move to the retail park in Gateshead."

Mr. Dave Kelly, chair and spokesperson of KEIOC, took questions from Mr Patrick Clarkson.

Mr. Clarkson, “Mr Kelly, what are the aims of Keep Everton In Our City?”

Dave, “Well, to keep Everton in Liverpool and offer alternate sites to the proposed stadium at Kirkby.”

Mr. Clarkson, “How many members does the group have?”

Dave, “Erm; None"

Mr. Clarkson, “None!”

Dave, “Not one; KEIOC has no formal membership, it does however have access to approximately 13,000 supporters on the databases.”

Mr. Clarkson, “How does one join KEIOC?”

Dave, “Being an Evertonian is a good starting point”

Mr. Clarkson, “Does KEIOC have a constitution?”

Dave, “There is no need, as I said we do not have a formal membership.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Does the group have officers?”

Dave. “Yes, four, chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Were they elected?”

Dave, “Yes.”

Mr. Clarkson, “When?”

Dave, “At last years AGM.”

Mr. Clarkson, “So essentially you're speaking on behalf of four people?”

Dave, “No.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Who then do you speak on behalf of?”

Dave, “Tens of thousands of Evertonians opposed to the move to Kirkby.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Your campaign, it's been expensive hasn't it?”

Dave, “Very.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Leaflets, ten or twelve planes flying banners”

Dave, “I thought it was ten but I'll bow to your superior knowledge”

Mr. Clarkson, “Mailshots to shareholders, billboard advertising, organising an EGM, lawyers, funding political parties, this must have cost tens of thousands of pounds?”

Dave, “Absolutely.”

Mr. Clarkson, “Where did all this money come from?”

Dave, “Donations from supporters opposed to the move, our website is also very popular amongst supporters.”

Mr Clarkson, “Your organisation is not representative though is it?”

Dave, “I believe that it's very representative, the fact that the chairman and owner of Everton Football Club and the leader of Liverpool City Council have invited KEIOC to meetings on the proposals proved this. I'm happy to discuss KEIOC all day long but I'm not sure how it relates to specific planning issues”

The planning inspector interjected and put an end to the quite embarrassing spectacle of a once again badly advised Mr Clarkson clearly getting nowhere with an attempt to discredit KEIOC.

Mr. David Thompson, a member of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, addressed the inquiry on behalf of KEIOC. Dave explained to the inquiry that he viewed the Internet travel survey, used by Everton to determine how supporters travelled to the Everton v Birmingham City game in 2007 that in turn formed the basis of the applicants forecast on how fans would travel to the proposed Kirkby stadium, as deeply flawed as in addition to the Goodison location being completely different to Kirkby the data produced failed to take into account different travel modes for different match times; Dave explained that he believed that whilst supporters at weekend games would use public transport those attending evening games would use their cars. With the threat of an attendance cap hovering above Everton's head he questioned many of the statistics that the applicants had produced at the inquiry and said he felt they had underestimated the problems that their proposals would bring to Kirkby and Everton's supporters particularly as the arrangements were inadequate in general verging on the ludicrous when it came to a bus station that would need to accommodate bus departures at the rate of one every fourteen seconds for over an hour to meet the applicants own forecast.

Dave questioned the logic behind a forecast that suggested car use would fall but that the amount of people attempting to use the train would remain static in relation to the applicants previously mentioned survey and that no apparent provision was made for away supporters as this was apparently a police matter. Dave specifically highlighted the treatment of fans wanting to travel by train, indeed having to travel by train. Supporters were being expected to stand for up to ninety minutes in the open, the improvements to the station being only a roof over the platform and not the external holding pens, after which the passengers will be subjected to being “crush loaded” onto trains.

Dave's overall assessment was that if ever there were a plan designed to obtain planning permission rather than address the needs of the travelling supporter then this was it and he felt what was being proposed would discourage supporters to attend the stadium at the required level.

Mr. Clarkson declined to cross-examine Dave Thompson. Mr. John Barrett, counsel for Knowsley council, explained how Merseytravel was satisfied with the applicants proposals could be granted planning permission. Dave agreed that Merseytravel had apparently accepted the proposal but this acceptance was conditional on the basis that the match day services did not affect normal travel provision for local people, clearly it would so this assumption was incorrect.

In perhaps the most bizarre event of the inquiry Mark Grayson took the stand, introduced himself as an Evertonian, a shareholder and season ticket holder and then invited Mr. Clarkson to cross-examine him on the evidence he was earlier so desperate to have dismissed from the inquiry.

A somewhat crestfallen Mr. Clarkson declined to take the opportunity to discredit Mark's evidence when he refused to cross-examine him. An opportunistic Dave Kelly asked Mrs Burden if he could clarify a few points in Mark's proof of evidence but Mrs. Burden explained that as there had been no cross-examination he would be unable to do so. Dave immediately thanked Mrs Burden for her guidance and announced he was pleased that Mr Clarkson, by refusing to cross-examine, had clearly accepted Mark's evidence in full.

A quite furious Patrick Clarkson made it clear to the inspectors that his decision not to cross-examine should not be interpreted as an acceptance of Mr Grayson's evidence, that in his view was irrelevant to the inquiry and which he rejected in its entirety.

Mrs. Burden told Mr Clarkson that it had been agreed that Mr.Grayson's evidence had been accepted by the inquiry. In a demonstration of petulance Mr Clarkson muttered he did not accept it.

Mr. Colin Fitzpatrick, a supporter of KEIOC and a lifelong Evertonian, addressed the Inquiry. Colin explained, much to the relief of the planning inspectors, that he had no wish to cover information already covered during the inquiry and that it was perhaps surprising to some when he stated that KEIOC are in full agreement with Everton's chief executive when he claimed that the club should be facility led. Colin explained that KEIOC was something of a broad church and that as a businessman he could not disagree with some of the decisions Everton had taken in recent years in order to progress their on field activities, but he explained that he could not embrace this proposed move as he felt it would have a detrimental effect on the club and the people of Kirkby. Colin explained that his concerns surrounded the insistence that new stadia are an answer to a football clubs ability to generate significantly increased levels of turnover and invited the planning inspectors to look closely at appendix ten of his proof of evidence in addition to the information, all supplied by Deloitte, that indicated average gates at new stadia, once the so called new stadium effect had subsided, were in the region of 77% of capacity leading to KEIOC's belief that, combined with factors such as a known 40% opposition to the scheme and the poor transport on offer, attendance levels will be in the region of 38,000 per match, far short of Everton's forecast of 47,000, the basis of which has never been explained other than it is a desire.

Dave Kelly asked Colin to explain about the alternative funding proposals promoted by KEIOC.

Colin addressed the planning inspectors and said he was mindful of the fact that during the pre-inquiry meeting he specifically remembered Mrs. Burden explaining that unsubstantiated evidence would carry no weight at the inquiry and stated that Everton's funding options had not been substantiated, in fact it had been admitted that not one single penny had been secured, it was merely a wish list. Colin continued to explain that some of Everton's funding options, whilst perhaps over ambitious, could clearly be contributory factors to funding a new stadium; the sale of stadium naming rights, the sale of Goodison, debt finance and equity funding are all established methods of raising capital.

The recent planning refusal on the sale of Bellefield represented a £8m shortfall for Everton but would hopefully be addressed in the near future.

Colin then put forward KEIOC's proposal to supplement this funding list at the expense of Tesco's alleged £52m cross-subsidy. He explained that two sources were endorsed by KEIOC, a supporters trust style programme that would contribute the cost of a small section of the ground which supporters could aspire to and from which additional income during the season, from facilities within, could continue to contribute to the club and an innovative funding product known as Equity Seat Right (ESR) which would securitize the money derived from 10% of the stadium seating for the benefit of the club and the holders of the seats. The annual loss in this income would be offset through the presence of hotel, conference and banqueting facilities, again another proven method of increasing contribution.

Dave Kelly asked how much could be raised?

Colin explained that KEIOC would expect to raise only a modest amount of funding through a supporters trust scheme, somewhere in the region of £23m; it was simply an acknowledgement of Everton's status as the people's club. Colin told to the inquiry that Liverpool supporters are currently attempting to raise £500m though a similar scheme and that an underwritten amount of £23m is far more realistic and achievable. In a somewhat tongue in cheek comment, in reference to Robert Elstone's earlier statement to the inquiry, Colin stated that now he knew that Everton had over 13 million fans we'd only need a couple of quid off each and we're there! Colin stated that there were over 140 such schemes in operation throughout British Football, Manchester United having over 30,000 members of their trust, and public figures such as Andy Burnham, the Government Cabinet Minister and well-known Evertonian, endorsed and promoted such schemes.

Explaining the principle of Equity Seat Right (ESR) Colin stated that this was a proven method of financing stadium construction costs without the need for an enabling development contribution. Colin told the inquiry that similar financing systems had been used for The Emirates stadium, Wembley stadium and Twickenham and revealed that having spoken at length to the representatives of the ESR methodology they indicated, taking the clubs spectator and regional demographic into consideration, that somewhere in the region of £110m could be raised, more than double that will be allegedly provided through Everton's association with Tesco and that this would be real money not value.

Colin stated that by combining and applying these funding elements a sum of over £230m, the estimated cost of a stadium corresponding to that being built by top-flight premiership clubs and comparable to the cost of building on the loop, could be raised without the need for onsite enabling developments. It was disappointing, explained Colin that the exclusivity agreement had prevented alternate financing methods from being considered.

Mr. Clarkson once again declined to cross-examine the witness.

Mr. Jackson closed the proceedings for the day.

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