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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nil Stadium Nisi Optimum

Rather understandably, Evertonians see the arrival of Farhad Moshiri as the dawning of a new era, an era where Everton can, once more, compete with the very best in the premier league. A potent symbol of the status of a football club is their stadium, and, sadly, there has been no greater symbol of Everton’s status as the premier league’s perennial paupers than Goodison Park.

Bill Kenwright’s search for a wealthy investor has spanned sixteen years and once the understandable euphoria over Mr Moshiri’s arrival has subsided the enormity of the task facing him needs to be understood. He inherits a team that has finished in the bottom half of the league, it requires significant investment and a new manager. Off the field Everton’s commercial performance, in relation to their perceived peers, also requires considerable attention but perhaps the most enormous task facing Everton’s new investor is that of addressing the stadium.

Whilst players, managers and owners may come and go on a regular basis a new stadium can exist throughout the lives of generations of Evertonians to come. The decisions on subjects such as redevelopment or location and design are complex; it is simply not the case that a stadium can be built on any piece of available land or because it fulfils the needs of others as was the case with Kirkby which KEIOC vehemently opposed. Everton need a stadium for the benefit of Everton and nobody else, nothing but the best will be good enough this time.

One of KEIOC’s expert witnesses at the Kirkby public inquiry was architect Trevor Skempton . Apart from being an avid Evertonian Trevor was Consultant Urban Design Advisor to Liverpool City Council and is currently a Lecturer at the University of Liverpool School of Architecture.

Here we’ve invited Trevor to outline the criteria for a successful stadium solution and we would invite you to consider this brief document when potential sites and designs come forward.

Everton – Eight Criteria for a Good Football Stadium

1. Inner-city or City Centre location. The stadium should be easily accessible by public transport. The city centre is by far the best place for this as public transport capacity drops exponentially with distance from the city centre. Matches are played at the weekends or in the evening, when there is plenty of spare parking capacity. The stadium can contribute to the overall image of the city, alongside theatres, cathedrals and civic buildings. The inner-city is the next best thing.

2. Scope for Incremental Development. Football Clubs need to be able to develop continuously. The case for incremental developments is that they can change with time. A one-off completed design can quickly become an out-dated straight-jacket. But fixed historic elements can complement a changing context.

3. Core Capacity of 48,000, with potential for further phases to take it, at first to more than 60,000, then – ultimately – to the appropriate size to be able to stage the Champions League Final [at least 80,000]. Supporters must be able to dream of the ultimate goal, in their home stadium, as they do in terms of their team.

4. Just half the seats should be of a generous ‘premium quality’. The other half should be of a contrasting traditional ‘atmospheric quality’ – that is they should be tightly-spaced and close to the pitch, ideally with an element of ‘safe standing’.

5. Closeness to the action: This is of great importance in regular club football, both for the experience of the spectator, and the creation of a good atmosphere in support of the team. Distance from the pitch is every bit as important as sight-lines. That is why is notion the idea of sharing with athletics in a club ground has fallen out of favour [as against occasional big International games or Cup Finals]. Despite ingenious attempts, nobody has yet come up with a satisfactory solution.

6. Eight days a week. The stadium should exert a continuous presence in the eyes of the supporters in particular and the public in general. There should be many activities every day – concerts, museum, club shop, restaurants, hotels, etc.

7. Aspects of ‘atmosphere’ must be given serious consideration – just as in the design of a theatre or opera house. Match atmosphere, or being a ‘fortress’, has long been regarded as the accidental by-product of a cost-conscious engineering approach. But team performance, and the attractiveness of a venue to television audiences are vital factors, and both are directly related to the stadium design.

8. History. Football is an emotional business – the accumulation of trophies and the accumulation of memories. Many of these emotions are bound up with the stadium, and a move puts at risk [in business terms] these ‘unique selling points’.

Conclusion: An expansion of Goodison Park, retaining and incorporating the best aspects of the famous old stadium, done properly, is not the cheapest option, but it can be done incrementally, and respond to ever-changing requirements.

Any alternative would have to capture some extra-special unique magic, through its location in the city centre or on the waterfront. Just to follow unimaginatively in the footsteps of Bolton, Wigan, or Derby [to a ‘business park’], or even Arsenal, Manchester City or West Ham [to a leggy superbowl] will not be good enough.

TRS/ for KEIOC / 17th May 2016

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