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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In a week when unity is required...


...KEIOC are extremely disappointed that during Wembley week Everton’s chief executive has chosen once again to open old wounds through the use of misleading and offensive statements in the press and on the Everton website.

Rather than choosing to ignore yet another outburst of inaccurate information and to assure all those Evertonians that KEIOC will continue to campaign against this bid to destroy our great club we have decided to answer and counter these allegations with unassailable facts.

It's completely misleading to claim, “we knock the loop over” when they quite simply and demonstrably haven't. First of all, Everton's faceless expert claims that the loop site is too small, only capable of housing a 35,000-seat stadium. When a named expert, world-renowned Populous Architecture (formerly HOK Sport), after assessing the site, conclude that a 55,000-seat stadium can be accommodated, Everton's first claim disappeared.

The second claim; made by Everton's next expert, who to much hilarity later admitted, “construction costs aren't my discipline”, surrounds the prohibitive expense of constructing a plinth over the tunnel entrance. Once dismissed as rubbish by the aforementioned stadia experts and just about everyone else working in the construction industry [apparently cut and cover is one of the most cost effective methods in construction and in this particular case the cut is already there] this second claim disappeared as quickly as the first.

The most current claim is that a stadium on this site would be prohibitively expensive and that a 50,000 sq m enabling development would be required to fund the construction. How do you know that the cost will be prohibitively expensive? Have you commissioned an independent and completely impartial study on this matter? Have you ever sat down with the current owners of the site?

At last years EGM, whilst it was initially claimed by a member of the board that discussions with the council had taken place, the surprise appearance of the council leader, Warren Bradley, who asked where these meetings took place and with whom, as he was council leader at the alleged time and was unaware that any such meeting had ever taken place, was met with a level of stony silence from the board that spoke volumes.

So, have the club entered into meaningful dialogue with both parties concerned or are Everton prevented from doing so as a result of deciding to enter into a highly secret exclusivity agreement that the public inquiry and the vast majority of the owners of club have been refused access to?

With regard to the preference by Everton of the 50,000 sq m enabling route to provide a financial subsidy for a city site, two things should be remembered; firstly on the eve of the inquiry, after months of telling everyone a different story, Tesco decided that they were no longer providing Everton with enabling funding “in the true sense of the word”, and secondly, they went on to state that there did not exist an interdependence between the stadium and retail development, essentially they now claim that both the stadium and the retail can stand on their own merits.

This wasn't the first or the last time that Tesco have distanced themselves from Everton's claims. In 2007, when it was convenient to do so, Tesco sent an email to Radio Merseyside clarifying their position on the then £52m cross-subsidy, they confirmed that Everton would not be in receipt of £52m from Tesco but that “their contribution would be derived from the value of the project overall”. Then at the public inquiry, under sustained questioning from the opposition QC's, the Tesco representative finally admitted that the mysterious source of the now £50m non-subsidy was in fact derived from the increase in value of the land [public land obtained from Knowsley council] once planning permission had been obtained.

Therefore when fans were told that Tesco would be contributing £50m towards the stadium cost this was untrue; they were misled. Of course we'll retract this allegation the day Terry Leahy is seen handing over a £50m cheque to the board of Everton on the Goodison pitch.

A simply analogy would be if we were given a £50m piece of land and built a £1m house on it would it become a £51m house? Of course it wouldn't and neither is the Kirkby stadium; in our opinion it is not fit for a premiership club particularly for one that has ambition to compete with the best in the country.

  • Does it compare with Old Trafford? No.
  • Does it compare with the Emirates? No.
  • Does it compare with what Chelsea is proposing? No.
  • Does it compare with what Liverpool is proposing? No.

It doesn't even compare with what Spurs propose to build; it's more comparable with a Reebok or a stadium of light style facility, both of which have failed to meet the expectations of their owners as do the vast majority of new stadia in this country. Unbelievable as it sounds it emerged at the public inquiry that the proposed Kirkby stadium even fails to comply with the current green guide!

Regarding this tunnel vision approach to this alleged reliance on 50,000 sq m of enabling funding, notwithstanding the facts that Tesco appear to have confirmed that this is not in reality cash but value and that such a significant retail development in Liverpool is impossible due to existing planning restrictions, why make this demand? We don't see huge retail complexes surrounding the aforementioned stadia. Why hasn't there been an independent study commissioned into alternative methods of financing for the club?

Has there been meaningful dialogue with the council to discover how they propose to assist one of the city's greatest cultural assets move forward by obtaining a suitable stadium within the city of Liverpool or has there just been a slanging match?

The continued insistence on this enabling method of funding is somewhat surprising, our understanding is that White Young & Green are now advising that these type of developments are no longer viable, but it's this continued insistence, when it's known that it can't come to anything in Liverpool, which is unfathomable; is it perhaps simply a smokescreen objection?

It's like saying the club is up for sale; meeting with perspective buyers then placing an unrealistic valuation on the club, let's say for example 280 million. It would appear to be little more than a device to hinder matters moving forward for whatever reason.

We appreciate that the financing of any stadium development is always going to be difficult, but to describe the funding strategies to raise the £78m to pay for the stadium construction in Kirkby as “sufficiently solid” beggars belief:

  • Sale of Goodison – No plans, no developer, nothing
  • Sale of Bellefield – Blocked by Council and Government
  • Naming Rights – Possible but difficult – expect £30m max
  • Debt Finance – Possible but difficult and costly
  • Equity Finance – Current directors - no chance, according to Robert Elstone they've never invested a penny in the club, outside investors are a possibility but would need to be convinced over Kirkby – difficult.

Equally misleading is the next claim that “we knock the redevelopment of Goodison over” It's yet another somewhat surprising statement considering just a few years ago the current chairmen covertly contributed to the commissioning of a study by the designer of Twickenham, which concluded that Goodison could be redeveloped to a capacity in the region of 55,000. Of course we appreciate time moves on and demands of the game change but what independent study has been commissioned to prove, after liaison with the council, what the maximum capacity could be, on whatever footprint could be obtained, without significant loss of income during reconstruction?

Is it perhaps the case that Everton have relied upon the advice of a single person? Someone, whilst undoubtedly knowledgeable, who has a vested commercial interest in Kirkby, due to a contract to fit out that stadium, but none whatsoever in the redevelopment of Goodison?

We wouldn't wish to attempt to bring this gentleman's integrity into question but it is somewhat strange that the very same gentleman who explained to the public inquiry how the proposed design for Kirkby, a box comprising four individual stands, is a suitable design for a modern football stadium only for the same gentleman the following week, at the launch of the proposed new Tottenham stadium that he's also heavily involved in, to tell all before him that a bowl is the best design and that the flowing design of the circular roof represented the flowing football of Tottenham!

Some may say that some people will say anything that they're paid to say, if they have a vested interest in doing so; it would be much more accurate to commission an independent study to obtain an indisputably honest opinion.

However, for any of the alternatives to Kirkby to be taken seriously there has to be a will similar to that of Bestway Holdings and Warren Bradley; sadly under the present regime there isn't.

Finally we find it extremely offensive to question the intelligence of a significant section of Evertonians by attempting to dumb down the debate on Kirkby by conveniently reducing the argument down to one over a territorial boundary, “I suspect many of those against the Kirkby move wouldn't have a problem if it was a few hundred metres over the city boundary, which to me underlines the flimsiness of their case. How can a few hundred metres mean so much?”

It's a good job that the planning inspector witnessed the flimsiness of one case, no 3,000 jobs, no actual investment in the football stadium and no sight of a discernable transport strategy principally due to the inescapable fact that it's impossible to service the needs of an additional 50,000 in a town of 40,000 which accompanied an application that just about disregarded every planning policy in the book.

Robert Elstone is fully aware that the opposition to Kirkby has never been about the stadium location in relation to the city boundary. For one hundred years Manchester United has resided in the borough of Trafford, not in Manchester, but this is not a problem as it is less than two miles from the city centre with all its facilities and transportation networks. Kirkby is nine miles from our city centre, has and always will have inadequate facilities and a transport infrastructure that as we have stated is ill equipped to deal with 50,000 people descending on the area for match days.

A move to Kirkby will inconvenience the vast majority of supporters and once experienced will discourage many of the non-core supporters from attending games in the future therefore making the 47,000 target unachievable. It will clearly fail to maximise Everton's potential for non-match income as people travel to cities not towns; cities are where restaurants, bars, hotels, theatres and leisure facilities are in abundance; they're not and will never be in Kirkby.

The clubs transport policy was laughed out of last years EGM and was embarrassingly ridiculed at the public inquiry. Robert Elstone and Bill Kenwright may wish to endorse Evertonians being crush loaded onto trains, we don't; Robert Elstone and Bill Kenwright may wish to endorse significantly inconveniencing Evertonians when they walk and queue to get back to cars, which if too many use will eventually result in the capping of the stadium capacity, we don't. Robert Elstone and Bill Kenwright may feel that it is perfectly feasible to have buses leaving at the rate of one every fourteen seconds to ferry matchgoing Evertonians back to distant park and ride sites and the city, we don't, because, just like the public inquiry, we're sensible enough to spot a transport plan that has been manipulated to meet policy rather than reality. It is no good claiming it's a work in progress; the inquiry examined what was placed before them not what may or may not happen in the future.

Irrespective of the Secretary of State's decision in November, Kirkby is and will always remain an unsuitable place for a premiership club and no amount of spin, manipulation of facts and misleading comments will ever alter this unassailable fact.

It would be much better to treat the fans with some basic common courtesy and offer an explanation on why, now that Kirkby has clearly been exposed as failing to meet both club and supporters requirements, it is impossible for the club to extricate themselves from this ridiculous plan without incurring significant financial penalties.

The supporters of KEIOC who have met with Robert Elstone, some quite extensively, report that he is more than capable of taking this football club forward to greater things, it saddens us to see him deciding to adopt the same path of treating fans like idiots as others who've been shown the door.

We, like all genuine Evertonians, will be at Wembley cheering on the club we passionately follow and whose traditions we are proud of, a club who in the past thought so much of their supporters that in a time of great hardship they set up soup kitchens to feed the city's hungry workers.

How times have changed, some individuals apparently aspire to now seeing this great club literally consigned to the top of a rubbish tip in Kirkby; not while there's breath in our bodies it won't.

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