An Introduction to the Football Quarter The city of Liverpool is world renowned as a centre of football excellence; its history is second to none, a single club split into two in 1892, an event which instigated over a century of banter and endless argument that has divided friends, families and loved ones and has influenced the very social fabric of the city.
On the 118th anniversary of this famous event, the supporters’ groups, Keeping Everton In Our City and the Spirit of Shankly put aside their legendary rivalry and as one, under the banner of “All Together Now”, called for a Football Quarter to be established in the city around Stanley Park. The quarter is designed to uphold their football clubs at the highest level, for the benefit of the all fans, the community and the city.
The fans collective are not opposed to the involvement of major commercial interests in modern sport. The benefits of such participation in creating and establishing the Premier League competition and attracting the world’s best footballers are incontrovertible. We are however concerned about increasing financial difficulties in football and would welcome moves by UEFA to limit debt in the game through the implementation of financial fair play regulations.
Investment and in the introduction of safe, modern stadia has helped transform the game over the past decades. Liverpool already has consent to build in part of the park and the proposals for the Football Quarter can, if required to do so, accommodate the club’s new stadium. Everton has the opportunity to sympathetically redevelop their stadium, sympathetic to the needs of the club, their supporters and the local environment.
It is our understanding that the vast majority of the fans of both Everton and Liverpool FC would, if given the choice, prefer their clubs to remain in their spiritual homes, famously either side of Stanley Park if they could be expanded and modernised. There is an understanding that stadia designs for each club would necessarily reflect their individual football and financial requirements and we have separate design proposals in hand for each club to consider.
Uncertainty and postponement has fostered a lack of confidence in the surrounding communities of Walton / Kirkdale / Anfield / Breckfield which is reflected in the condition of housing and the general urban environment. Many local businesses and much local employment in the area rely upon the continued existence of the clubs; it is our belief that the development of a Football Quarter can, not only become a resource for sport of national and international significance, but also act as a catalyst for regeneration of these inner-city wards and create much-needed employment opportunities in the public and private sector leading to improved social conditions in adherence to and enhancement of the housing market renewal strategy already in place.
The Football Quarter would create a great draw; a showcase for the hundreds of thousands of additional football visitors to the city. A tourist destination worthy of international status and recognition; providing increased employment and visitor spend towards the city regions target of 14,000 jobs in the tourist sector and £2bn a year visitor spend by 2020.
Stanley Park is an important architectural and historical resource and is to be treated sympathetically. Designed by Edward Kemp and opened in 1870, it is of a class that includes Paxton’s work at Birkenhead Park and Central Park, New York by Frederick Law Olmsted. The park was established for the health, leisure and fitness of the people and is the very place where the story of competitive football began in the city.
The Football Quarter in and around the park would be a shared facility for the two clubs, for the local community and for the city with educational, recreational, leisure and community facilities. We propose to engage with city agencies to develop a brief; and the entire scope or design of the Football Quarter will be the subject of a feasibility study to establish what is and what is not feasible, affordable and achievable.
The proposed feasibility study would examine and deliver a social economic impact assessment of such a development in terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in addition to investigating potential commercial partners acting as enablers, sponsorship of the quarter and/ or public funding. The study would seek to maximise the commercial opportunities of the Football Quarter for the benefit of the clubs, the supporters, the city, and importantly the local community.
It is important to put forward a first proposal for testing. At this early stage, it is suggested that the vision to be tested and appraised, as part of the feasibility study, would include multi-use facilities to suit need and sports season...
The continuation of the use of the park’s recently-restored lakes, gardens, bowling greens and conservatory for public leisure and recreation is paramount and we envisage greater use and participation for nature and wildlife education.
Our preliminary proposal includes university faculties or centres of excellence of international standing, for sport, business and sports science. Improvements to football pitches, public practice and coaching areas; general field sports, running track and a show football pitch are all real possibilities as is the opportunity to utilize part of the park for large scale open-air events.
The potential for the creation of opportunities for even greater community involvement in football and closer links with the club academies should be explored as should the creation of health care, advice and community centres catering for the social needs of local families.
Whilst no comparison retail beyond the clubs’ own merchandise operations are foreseen at the moment, there’s clearly scope for football museums, bars, cafés, restaurants and potentially hotels, in close association with the football stadia; all elements that would transform the area into a true tourist destination.
The need for a sustainable infrastructure based on improved parking, roads, rail connectivity and general public transport is indisputable. In particular, re-establishing the Bootle/Canada Dock branch line for passenger traffic should be investigated as a prerequisite to the successful regeneration of the wider community and safely bringing in football fans and tourists from across the country.
KEIOC and The Spirit of Shankly group believe that the Football Quarter has the potential to complement other world class destinations in the city region; a district designed to celebrate a world famous duopoly and its unique history. The opportunity exists to seize the initiative and we would hope that our civic leaders and football owners recognize the far reaching implications of this proposal before the opportunity is lost; consigned to history through a lack of vision, innovation and creativity that the supporters of or two great clubs have demonstrated admirably.
1) The Football Quarter, what’s it all about?
It’s about the establishment of a district in Liverpool; centred on Stanley Park, it will embrace the areas of Anfield and Walton. With the two clubs stadia acting as anchors, attractors if you like, it’s envisaged that educational, recreational, leisure and community facilities will be developed to exploit and provide for the inevitable draw it will represent.
2) So it’s not about a shared stadium?
No, definitely not, it’s an area designed to celebrate, strengthen and promote our world famous duopoly; a shared stadium would be seen as a dilution of the unique selling point. We’re fully familiar with the shared debate; we even know the answers to some of the technical problems, maybe even most of the cultural ones. Architects and engineers can solve anything; what won’t be solved is the fact that there’s a massive commercial disparity between the clubs; it’s simple really, Liverpool, as a brand, has massive international appeal, they need a stadium designed to exploit this; Everton are known as the peoples club, in the main they draw their support from the city, Wirral and North Wales, through stealth and guile they compete at the top table in the premiership, these qualities need to be built into their own individual stadiums.
3) But the local politicians and agencies such as the NWDA appear to favour this shared approach don’t they?
It’s been put forward certainly, undoubtedly because, taken at face value, it appears the logical solution; our view is that it’s little more than a debating platform, a political football that, if given oxygen, will be kicked around for another decade. We’ve come together to say enough is enough; the councils and the clubs haven’t delivered for the supporters or the communities over the past decade; we aim to cut through all the egos, cut though all the red tape and overcome any intransigence preventing the north end of the city gaining rightful regeneration and becoming an international destination as are other locations within the city region. Of course some of the elements of the shared stadium philosophy should be adopted, there should be a sharing of infrastructure and no doubt there will be a sharing of the facilities available throughout the quarter, by the clubs. The simple belief is that the quarter idea is a better idea than anything that has been proposed before.
4) What about talk of a Liverpool being a sports city?
Yes, again it’s a good idea, the city region has many excellent world class events, the Grand National clearly springs to mind as do the golf courses capable of holding the British open; but once again whilst they’re great events they don’t attract hundreds of thousands the way the football clubs do for nine months of every year; we’d see the football quarter acting as another tourist attraction when these events are taking place in the region; there shouldn’t be a dilution of a great concept for one off events.
5) Whose idea was it?
It really is a joint initiative; a couple of seasons ago KEIOC and SoS shared a platform at a debate during the writing on the wall festival. A chance remark over how people would really listen if fans spoke as one, the work on redevelopment that the groups architectural advisors had independently undertaken and the subsequent identification of the synergy between the groups in their understanding of how big business interests had, in different ways, failed their respective clubs, led to a small strategy group lobbying and meeting with the council and other potential stakeholders over the past twelve months which led to the creation of the Football Quarter concept.
6) How much will it cost, where’s the finance coming from and how will the clubs benefit?
The reason we’re requesting a full and comprehensive feasibility study is to identify these very issues. What is being proposed is that all stakeholders be involved in this totally independent study; determining the scope of the report will be essential to the accuracy and relevance of the reports outcome. As previously explained Everton’s and Liverpool’s requirements are very different; these need to be identified and taken into account. We’re proposing that Everton and Liverpool fans also have an opportunity to have an input at this stage. Whilst the report will identify the most effective and efficient sources of finance, obviously it goes without saying that a combination of public private finance initiatives will form the backbone of the investment needed. One possible source of income the clubs could obtain is for a series of levies or taxes to be placed on all sales within the quarter; stay in a hotel, buy a souvenir or dine at a restaurant and a percentage of the bill will go to the clubs.
7) Are you saying that Evertonians will have a say in Liverpool and vice versa?
No, we’re not saying that at all; the two groups involved have no involvement in matters in opposing camps; it’s been an agreement since day one. We respect the duopoly.
8) What are the groups proposing for their respective clubs?
KEIOC are proposing Everton redevelop their current stadium into a SMART stadium that is sympathetic to the needs of the club, its supporters and the local community. A SMART stadium is one that generates significant income on the 340 days a year when football isn’t being played. This will accommodate the new UEFA financial fair play regulations where all clubs will be required to limit their spending and borrowing to what they earn. A phased redevelopment, with no loss of capacity, would be the most affordable option for Everton.
There are two options for Liverpool. Spirit of Shankly have been shown it is possible to redevelop Anfield into a 70,000 plus super stadium, with corporate facilities capable of maximising the potential of their fanbase and corporate draw; their architect has been developing a plan that would see a phased redevelopment with no loss of capacity during the season. The other option would see Liverpool build a new stadium in the park; both options can be accommodated within the concept of the Football Quarter.
9) What else will be on offer in the Football Quarter?
With the club’s acting as the anchors, places people can visit where five European Cups have been won or where Dixie Dean played his football; grounds where Pele, Eusebio, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Best, European Championships and World Cup games have been played. The area will have educational facilities which could include faculties of sport science and business, spread throughout the site, supported by the famous local universities, local schools and promoted internationally as the place to study football. The world’s young footballers can come to our clubs and gain valuable degrees in sports science and business. Public realm would include recreational facilities involving improved pitches and public practice and coaching areas; the massive footfall into the area would attract private companies to provide the leisure facilities; football/sport themed they would include museums, bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels; Social amenities would provide the local community with additional health care, advice and community centres catering for the social needs of local families in a dramatically improved physical and economic environment.
10) What’s the timeline?
Both clubs have been attempting to address their stadium problems for more than a decade, the council are also involved in this and need to shoulder some of the responsibility of not providing the leadership required when dealing with the clubs who are, whilst private companies, important civic assets of the city region. We’re adopting a no nonsense approach, we want to see the feasibility study underway within months not years; it’s time for the talking to stop and the action to begin.