David Prentice : Liverpool Echo July 20th 2007
According to a well thumbed copy of the Compact Oxford Dictionary which lies on the Echo sports desk, the word ‘vote’ means ‘an indication by some approved method, of one’s opinion or choice on a matter.’
Which is why I feel so uneasy about the forthcoming vote Everton are asking their fans to deliver.
Because, as far as I see it, those same fans may well have an opinion on the matter, but they don’t really have a choice.
Keith Wyness pulled no punches when he delivered his analysis of why Everton should relocate to Kirkby this week.
And his summing up was the footballing equivalent of live or die. Move on or stagnate.
“If we have to carry on at Goodison there will be serious issues. Attendance numbers will go down and then revenue will go down and when that happens you can’t compete.”
“We think within the next 10 years there are going to be some very serious issues with regard to whether Goodison could even qualify for a safety certificate.
“Parts of the ground would require huge investment just to remain open. It is the only way forward. The deal of the century. There is no Plan B.”
Live or die.
Take it or leave it.
It doesn’t sound like much of a choice – except that there is a Plan B.
It’s just that plan B remains prohibitively expensive unless, and here’s the crux, Everton can attract new investment from somewhere – something they have singularly failed to do since NTL went bust seven years ago.
Quite why Everton have struggled to attract investors since then is open to argument. Bill Kenwright has made it perfectly clear he is willing, ready and able to listen to offers.
But the only solitary party to come forward since then has been the fabled Fortress Sports Fund, a vehicle clearly set up with the sole purpose of heading off Paul Gregg (happily successful).
Those conspiracy theorists who claim Kenwright has actively swatted away would-be investors, like Rafael Nadal on speed, have missed one salient point. Not one person has ever made public their interest in investing in Everton.
Perhaps the presence of one of the highest profile clubs in Europe half a mile away is frightening them off.
Maybe it’s the prospect of having to plough so much money into a new stadium which is proving a bar.
Whatever the reason, no-one wants to buy into Everton – not even our municipal administrators, led by a true blue Evertonian.
I have a huge amount of time for Council leader Warren Bradley. He’s an engaging individual and a man I respect.
But when he asked this week: “I don’t see why Everton and Liverpool City Council cannot come forward with a stadium in this city,” he answered his own question with his very next breath. “What I’m not prepared to do is put a huge piece of land up and cost Liverpool council taxpayers £50m.”
That’s fair enough. But if the council can’t afford to help Everton, and the club can’t afford to help itself, it looks like Tesco is the only alternative option.
I have sympathy with the club’s plight and the fans’. But it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
Strangely, I don’t have any strong emotional attachment to Goodison. It’s 32 years since I first went there.
But Goodison is a very different place now to the arena it was the Easter Monday afternoon Martin Dobson crashed a 25 yarder past Neil Ramsbottom into a goal at a two-tiered, half-mooned Stanley Park End.
If Goodison is rebuilt and redeveloped it would cease to be the Goodison it is now.
The ‘outside our city’ argument doesn’t ring true, either. Kirkby is a part of Liverpool in the same way that Alan Stubbs and John Conteh are Scousers.
I’m more concerned by Keith Wyness’s comments: “We will be getting a very nice stadium for a small amount of money.”
When something sounds too good to be true, it’s because it usually is.
The stadium images released today are undoubtedly impressive.
But where will the £150m cost of the enterprise come from?
We’ve been told that Tesco will pump in £50m via Knowsley Council, and naming rights are likely to generate a further £10m, but that places an exorbitant real estate value on the Goodison Park site.
I accept that Everton have to leave Goodison.
I accept that Kirkby offers an outstanding financial deal for the club.
But I don’t accept fans being railroaded into accepting it as the only possible alternative.
That’s not a ballot. It’s a decree.
And it’s one I feel uneasy about.