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Stanley Park

This article has been presented to KEIOC by Trevor Skempton. We feel that all options for keeping Everton within the city, specifically within the traditional north Liverpool environs, should be explored. Whilst it is true that Trevor personally favours a redeveloped Goodison or an iconic development on Scotland Rd due to his work on St James Park he has been approached as a professional architect of some renown in stadia matters, to solve just a few of the many problems a joint stadium would present.

KEIOC’s position is that whilst we see and understand the logic behind a shared stadium proposition football is intrinsically illogical. Why do grown men become emotional at the sound of an old sea shanty and the emergence of eleven men in royal blue shirts? Why do you get a tingle down your spine when you walk into a collection of four buildings that surround a field? Why do you feel you're with your own kind when with a group of strangers in a stadium or a pub, when essentially the only common tie is supporting the same football club, a camaraderie that, thankfully, transcends all backgrounds including class, gender, education, colour and creed? Of course nobody can answer any of these questions with an ounce of logic and it's probably why a shared stadium will always require a phenomenal leap of faith from both sets of match going supporters whose culture, tradition and values differ manifestly possibly due to the magnitude and concentration of success over the lifespan of the respective clubs. Everton's success, great players and great teams being spread throughout its rich one hundred and thirty year history whilst Liverpool's unparalleled success being concentrated into a thirty year period which has included incomparable success, disaster and tragedy leading to a club with both national and international appeal and standing.

The circumstances behind both clubs need for new stadia are different as are their requirements, KEIOC understand the thoughts and feelings of thousands of loyal match going Evertonian’s, it's like some Divine Comedy - hell - purgatory and paradise!!! Make your choice!

Time to Share?

Everton’s moves towards a medium-range stadium in Kirkby have attracted wide-spread opposition within a club that professes that ‘nothing but the best is good enough’. In the meantime, Liverpool’s more ambitious proposals for a ‘New Anfield’ are running into difficulties in the face of the club’s mounting debts.

It has been suggested that it is now time for Everton and Liverpool to give serious consideration to sharing a new stadium, to ensure a fitting home for the two clubs and sufficient revenue to allow them to compete at the highest level of World Football.

David Backhouse is the architect responsible for Cavern Walks, the excavation of the Cavern Club site and the eventual reopening of the Cavern Club. He is a life-long Liverpool supporter, who believes that it is a dreadful waste of resources for the two clubs to be considering building two separate new stadia. He has challenged Trevor Skempton, a life-long Evertonian and also an architect, to help bring forward details that might make a shared stadium acceptable.

Trouble Ahead

The objections to sharing are understandable. Each club has a precious identity and fabulous history, forged through a deep rivalry. In business terms, each club relies on careful product differentiation and unique selling points.

Elsewhere, successful ground-sharing is rarer than is often supposed. Internationale and AC Milan are often quoted. Munich also. But divorce is in the air in Turin and Rome, and closer to home, Charlton couldn’t wait to get back to their own ground. Nor Fulham. Sharing wouldn’t work in Glasgow or Manchester, but could we be a special case?

In financial terms, the arguments for sharing are compelling. A truly world-class stadium, financed a third by each club and a third by outside bodies, need not eat into precious resources required for immediate team-building. But the challenge is to create a proposal that would not only safeguard, but actually strengthen, each club’s independent character.

It could be a condition of the public-funding element that both clubs commit themselves long-term to playing all their home matches in the stadium, thus preventing any future franchising proposals that might take either club away from the City of Liverpool.

Alternative Proposals

These thumbnail sketch-plans show the two clubs as near neighbours in North Liverpool.

Stanley Park

On the left is the present arrangement, with the two grounds locked into their respective communities of tight streets, separated only by Stanley Park. The outline of the proposed New Anfield is superimposed on the east side of the park.

The central sketch shows the possibility of expanding each ground to seat 60,000, each club developing two new stands and making modest changes to their stadium footprint. Shared underground parking is constructed beneath a new all-weather playing surface, containing four full-size football pitches, in the centre of Stanley Park. A reconstructed sports centre provides facilities for major events within the park.

The right-hand sketch plan shows a single Stanley Park stadium, eventually seating 80,000. The present sites are used to expand the green space into Walton and Anfield, as well as providing for surrounding hotels, flats and commercial development.

Separate Pavilions

There would be separate pavilions in opposite corners. Each pavilion would contain both home and away dressing rooms and would be the freehold property of the club.

The north corner would contain the Everton FC Pavilion, incorporating the David France Collection and ‘1878 Hotel’, with access from Priory Road. A landmark Conical Tower would also be visible inside the stadium, above a video screen, pavilion window and players’ tunnel. Over the outside door would be the words ‘Nil Satis Nisi Optimum’.

The south corner would contain the Liverpool FC Pavilion, together with the Club Museum and the ‘Kop Hotel’, with access from Anfield Road. A landmark Liver Bird would also be visible from inside the stadium above a video screen, pavilion window and players’ tunnel. Over the outside door would be the words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

Different Stands

The two large L-shaped stands would be to contrasting designs, not specific to either club, but having echoes of the historic structures. Seats could multi-coloured to disguise any unoccupied areas, or they could be white to take on the colour of alternative blue and red lights. The west stand would seat 40,000 in a single sweeping tier, with a translucent roof to minimise overshadowing of the pitch. The east stand would also seat 40,000, but in three overlapping tiers. The top tier, of 14,000 seats, would be constructed as a later phase, space being left beneath the roof, giving an initial capacity of 66,000.

How a shared stadium could look

A first impression of how the stadium might fit into the middle of Stanley Park, well away from residential areas and without disturbing the historic structures and lakes. A new open landscape would be created on the East side of the park. Car parking would be provided within the stadium structure, and new public transport arrangements would be to the benefit of both clubs. The existing grounds would become extensions to the park, new hotels and flats helping to form the enclosures. The historic pitches and the original Archibald Leitch stands at Goodison would be retained and adapted for community use.

The objective would be to create, quite simply, the finest football stadium in the world, one that is unique to the City of Liverpool and its two famous clubs. By sharing, such an objective could be affordable. Although not necessary at the outset [at least, from a football point of view], the design could allow for the future fitting of a retractable roof and pitch to cater for a range of secondary events and activities.

Final Comments

David Backhouse says:

“My mother was born in Skerries Road and her ashes are scattered in the park. Stanley Park played a major part in our upbringing. We have a wonderful opportunity to improve the park and make it even more relevant to future generations in both Anfield and Walton. Also, it seems an obscenity in this day and age to consider building two virtually identical new stadia in this city.”

Trevor Skempton says:

“Given the inadequacy of the Kirkby proposal, the financial questions over the ‘New Anfield’, and the future possibility that either club might take the ‘global-franchise’ hype seriously and move away, Cunard-like, from its roots in the City of Liverpool… locking us both into a shared world-class stadium could be an idea whose time has come.”

Financial Benefits

Intrigued, KEIOC asked Evertonian Professor Chris Brady, Dean of the Business School at Bournemouth University whether he believes Everton and Liverpool sharing a stadium on Stanley Park would be beneficial to both clubs financially. He told us:

"There would be solid financial advantages to ground sharing but these have to be balanced against the emotional attachment to the past - and that attachment cannot be underestimated. The point is that football fans have to think the unthinkable if clubs are to survive and prosper. Take a simple example, they have to think about the advantages of artificial surfaces which are now virtually indistinguishable from real grass. The advantages are that you can use the pitch for any variety of activities (rugby, american football, concerts etc). You could also use it for youth and reserve games before the main game. In that way more people would watch the youngsters developing, spectator arrival would be staggered, more food would be purchased. This should be a simple business decision but emotion and tradition are holding clubs back from leveraging their assets. The club's greatest asset, the stadium, could also be sweated to provide greater revenue at lower cost if it were a shared asset. Local government could more easily be enticed to part with money if the whole community was likely to benefit rather than just a single club. However, you must consider the fans and many are unwilling to think these unthinkable thoughts. For a club such as Everton, with its great tradition, it is a difficult decision to make and any debate can only add value to the decision making process."