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The ?Cultural Theory? Approach to the Everton Stadium Debate

By Dr Anthony J Evans :  28/07/2007 :  Comments (32) :

"Cultural Theory" is a social classification system used by social scientists to interpret and analyse culture. The Wikipedia page provides a nice overview, and the best introduction is written by Michael Thompson,  Richard Ellis and Aaron Wildavsky. The basic idea is that we can categorise groups along two line: Grid (meaning regulation), and Group (meaning integration). If we assign "high" and "low" values to each of these lines, we end up with four distinct groups:

  • Individualists are low grid, low group. They feel little solidarity to each other, and do not feel bound by externally imposed rules. It's dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest. Example: Gordon Gekko
  • Egalitarians are low grid, high group. They have an immense feeling of common cause and equality. There are no formal rules, but members are closely aligned. Example: Greenpeace
  • Fatalists are high grid low group. They are heavily regulated, with their time and routines dictated to them. But they feel no real motivation to participate within the creation of those regulationS; they are fragmented, and wish to be left alone. Example: miners
  • Hierarchists are high grid high group. They are strictly bound by order and are committed to the cause. Example: the army

At a recent conference on Cultural Theory and Management, Mike Thompson presented the Arsenal stadium relocation as an example of a "clumsy solution" - a successful outcome due to all four cultural types participating (or at least, not being ignored). The Arsenal board fitted the individualist label; the general fans were fatalist; and the local (Islington) council was hierarchist. Negotiations to keep Arsenal in the local area seemed to have failed, and the club were set to leave Central London for a site near the M25.

Stadium_aerialHowever this motivated a pressure group to form - an egalitarian voice - who discovered a piece of land less than a mile from Highbury. In doing so, and by all sides of the debate sitting at the table, a solution emerged that is widely considered to be a successful case of stadium relocation.

What can this tell us about the current debate at Everton? Clearly the board fit into the individualist category. Together with Tesco and Knowsley Council they've identified a commercial opportunity in Kirkby and are pressing hard for the fans to support a move. Images of the proposed stadium are part of the big sell. Historically the City Council haven't been bending over backwards to help. In fact to rub salt into the wounds according to Greg Murphy Everton had made a general enquiry to see if it was feasible to build on Stanley Park, but were told it was protected under "Victorian covenant". Arch rivals Liverpool, at a later date, were subsequently told the opposite and recently released updated plans of their new stadium.

Scotlandroadsite1The fact that Kirkby falls outside the city boundary has created a backlash, and the generation of egalitarian supporters groups such as "Keep Everton in Our City". In a fascinating twist the City Councillor Warren Bradley has responded to the threat of the club leaving the city, and highlighted three plots of land that could be used for a stadium. One of which is "the loop" (pictured), part of the slip road off the Wallasey Tunnel.

From an architectural perspective, the loop site is fascinating. I think that a "blank canvas" approach to most projects is overrated, and that constraints provide a context and opportunity for genuinely iconic design. The proposed Liverpool stadium demonstrates this perfectly. The 18,000 capacity new 'Kop' is contrasted with a tiny stand behind the opposite goal. It's no coincidence that the owners and designers are more used to NFL stadium, and this background has influenced their plans. There's no need for such disparity: they had a blank canvas, but not necessesarily an open mind. On the other hand, elements of the design have been heavily constrained by local conditions, "The North and East facades take a convex form respectively overlooking Priory Road and Utting Avenue across gardens which will be developed in the tradition of Stanley Park. The South facade will be of completely different form, taking on a more formal appearance appropriate to its civic function at the northern edge to the new Anfield Plaza development...The West side is concave in form effectively embracing the park... " The Kirkby design is impressive but the club have had a completely blank canvas to work with. The loop design would be challenging: it's encompassed on all sides by slip roads, but combined with the elevation of the site provides a unique opportunity to create something iconic but not novelty.

Can the Everton situation find a clumsy solution? I'm not convinced. The individualist bias is far stronger than with Arsenal, since the Kirkby project is being led by Tesco. However the role of Best Way (who own much of the loop) might "buy out" Tesco's influence. The egalitarian voice is strong, and the fact that Bradley is an Evertonian bridges (and therefore includes) hierarchy with egalitarianism. As ever, the voice most likely to be ignored is that of the fatalist. In this case it's the general fan, who wants his matchday routine to suffer as little disruption as possible. As Arsenal discovered, if fans can use the same pubs before the game, everyone can come out of this ok.

Reader Comments

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Gavin Ramejkis
1   Posted 28/07/2007 at 17:14:52

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Fascinating read
2   Posted 28/07/2007 at 17:12:57

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I cannot wait for the voting to end and hopefully deliver a big No to relocate to Kirkby. I have nothing against Kirkby after living there for nearly 22 years. But Everton belong in Liverpool and thats were we want to stay. Were there is a will there is a way.
Excellent article, a bit high brow, but sums up the general feeling at the present moment that we all need to find a way forward. We have relocated before to end up at GP and I truly believe that the loop would be an iconic and unique.As they say "an if yer know yer history!"
3   Posted 28/07/2007 at 17:18:16

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I wouldnt have anything to do with Bradley after his comments the other day. It was embarrassing. We’re all allowed to have our views without insulting each other. Typical local politician - big on ego, low on talent.
Billy Brad
4   Posted 28/07/2007 at 17:37:21

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Diagree Trev, Bradley has tried to talk to EFC but Wyness keeps throwing up the exclusivity period. Didnt you hear Wyness slag of Bradley and the City on the radio ? No wonder Bradley retaliated as he has found a viable alternative.
5   Posted 28/07/2007 at 17:40:47

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Not at all impressed by the article. For a start, social groups are not made up of a single ’type’, but of individuals who possess certain character traits which can be shared acrooss ALL cultures. Stick to peddling this type of shite towards pseudo-academic journals, of which the social sciences have more than their fair share.
6   Posted 28/07/2007 at 17:40:41

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A great article, but the simple fact is we have no money to build a stadium, that is why we are going to kirby because that is where tesco terry wants to build it. have a look at the artist impression of the rebock stadium and then have a look at what they rearly got,a second rate stadium built on the CHEAP!!!
7   Posted 28/07/2007 at 17:53:08

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Billy Brad, Im sure we can happily agree to disagree! The words Bradley used were an absolute outrage and if we do end up movin they will simply give kopites ammunition for years. Nice one Warren mate.

8   Posted 28/07/2007 at 18:16:40

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ammunition for the Kopites?

I think they’ve had enough of that for the last 10 years as we’ve done sod all.

They can get on building their new stadium and playing in europe every season, and whilst the banter and rivalry will continue, we need to think about ourselves for once and doing our best to get out of their shadow for the first time in 20 years.

Screw the kopites - it’s all about us and our future.
9   Posted 28/07/2007 at 18:20:51

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And the best way to get out of their shadow is by running to the media to call a UEFA Class-A 50,000 all-seater stadium "a cow shed"?

I want to stay in Liverpool, and no doubt you do to, but to call that stadium a cow-shed was plainly absurd. It shamed the whole debate. As a 4 or 5 star stadium it will be able to host European finals. Very few stadiums in Britain are of this quality even if you don’t want that to be true. Google the UEFA stadium classification system - clearly Warren Bradley hasn’t.
10   Posted 28/07/2007 at 18:57:06

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J- spot on COYB
Cindy Cole
11   Posted 28/07/2007 at 19:07:39

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A very interesting perspective, Anthony. I don’t know that I’d endorse the adherance to such rigid group structures, but nonetheless it may go some way to elucidating the individual differences expressed on this site. I, for one, would like to see EFC explore the Loop Site. At this time we don’t know if ’Bestway’ are able to offer a financial incentive akin to that which is supposedly offered by ’Tesco’. Also, I agree that the Loop could offer potential for a stadium of architectural excellence. Everton should explore this option without delay.
12   Posted 28/07/2007 at 19:41:04

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Trev, spot on.

Shocking unprofessionalism from Bradley.

And he’s just dishing out places like The Loop, and Speke, to try and show they are doing something. They are not.

And that place in Aintree, well, correct me if I’m wrong, but Aintree is technically not in Liverpool. Not that I give a crap. I’m just saying.

The Loop is too small anyway.
Paul M
13   Posted 28/07/2007 at 19:56:33

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I knew it was all about pubs !
Greg Callaghan
14   Posted 28/07/2007 at 19:30:50

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I think the role that Bradley has played of late (whether by design or default) has been the most intriguing aspect of the whole debate. Yeah, I agree that it was "absurd" to call the stadium a cow-shed, for it’s clearly not (although it ain’t my cuppa). But I disagree that it was an "aboslute outrage" to disparage it as such. I think we need some perspective: Bradley’s a politician. And the last time I heard, politicians of every hue aren’t afraid of using colourful, hyperbolic language to suit their cause (you only need to see PMQs every week). For instance Denis Skinner once coined the term "Doris Karloff" for Anne Widdecombe. Did said Doris whinge? No, coz she was busy equating Michael Howard with Nosferatu. And John Major once called his entire cabinet a shower of "bastards". It’s politics. Cutting, base phraseology is hard currency. And if Knowsley’s Ron Round wants to see his gluteus over Warren’s cowsheddery then he’s in the wrong hot kitchen. Meanwhile, of course, Whine-ess has seen his even flabbier beam over the whole petty saga and he’s shown a few thin-skinned tendencies this year (for instance, it was KW who was the first to bleat about "roffa’s" jibe at small club Everton; and instead of seizing the opporunity to score a dignified PR coup, he rose to the fat waiter’s bait and ensured we were treated to a week-long infra-dig media dissection of Everton’s credentials...the bloody balloon!). But is this really the same hard-hitting KW that in his Aberdeen days hit out at Celtic and Rangers’ obssession with joining the Premiership, a mooted "Scandinavian" league and other oddball schemes, labelling the Auld Firm as two arl whooerrs "hitching their skirts to any league that’s passing by"? To be honest, I’ve been more insulted by some of KW’s clumsy rhetoric these last few weeks than any knee-jerkery from Bradley, especially his constant attempts to educate us all that the boundaries are "arbitrary" (the patronising get!). C’mon folks, let’s get a grip. Bradley threw a custard pie. So what.
15   Posted 28/07/2007 at 20:22:58

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I know Tom: as I said before I want us to stay in Liverpool, simple as - but some people seem to think that Kenwright and Wyness want to go to Kirkby just for the hell of it, rather than it being the only realistic option currently available. All other possibilities have been looked at and rejected for good reasons over many years, and it’s not like these reasons are a secret - finding a reasonable site but lacking the £150 million to build on it is clearly a good reason!

That’s not to say that we should go, or anyone should vote for it - that’s up to the individual - but I think we all should appreciate that the club has done a remarkable job in providing the opportunity of a top class stadium despite out relatively meagre resources. They have done their job, and done their job well.

Now though it’s over to us as fans, and - certainly from this lifelong Evertonian’s perspective - it’s perfectly possible to vote against the move, whilst still recognising that the Kirkby development was a good one in many many ways.
16   Posted 28/07/2007 at 21:22:24

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J - such a vitriolic attack suggests you were not a breastfed newborn... If you are gonna criticise why not do us all a favour and stick to the specifics of the article?s content or style - otherwise spare us your blanket brickbats.
17   Posted 28/07/2007 at 21:58:09

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The answer my friends is blowing in the wind.Find some rich backer (Bestway?)to build the $150m world class stadium in the ’Pool and take over from BK!
There you go its as easy as that.
Lee Kidd
18   Posted 29/07/2007 at 00:13:44

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There are many things to disconcert people with this article, but not so much the content but in the way you have constructed your argument.

It’s cleverly constructed, mind you. The use of opinion disguised as fact by the usage of the word "are" and various statements and assumption of correctness rather than asserted opinion towards the wider debate.

To be blunt, its an essay - interpreting any source at hand as fact and using it to re-inforce your argument. Read any Dan Brown novel to see how its done.

The content, however, is sociological drivel and, given a spare half an hour and the inclination to do so, a lot of people could counter-argue you presenting vague statements as fact to counter-balance everything you’ve said.

The post by "J" had it spot on - this is pseudo-academic and, regardless of the content, should be treated with distain no matter what side of the fence you sit on regarding the stadium debate.
Gary C
19   Posted 29/07/2007 at 01:55:14

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Thanks for that, prof. Lee Kidd. Thats all i needed after a skinfull,when does uny start again?
20   Posted 29/07/2007 at 02:21:34

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To Dr A J. I read your ’words’ and got lost in a sea of them but had to laugh when i got to the end, to quote- "if fans can use the same pubs before the game, everyone can come out of this ok". Are you saying that this is all about the pubs? OK then keep Everton in the dingy backstreets (I’ve been there and seen them) and stagnate.

21   Posted 29/07/2007 at 05:24:40

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Further to my comments above.
Ok stay at GP and don’t lets upset the fans, wouldnt want them to have to catch a bus or train and oh we need a pub, probably a chippy too, lets upset the players, coaching staff and board instead. Watch them leave and be replaced by Championship level people. Everton play on a world stage and need world class facilities, not in 10 years but asap, Kirby/Tesco can deliver. Remember Leeds Utd, they have a crap ground too, spent money on players, did nothing about the ground, club went bankrupt, players left, where are they now? I’ll tell you where, playing first division football but at least they are in Leeds with a pub and chippy on the corner, I bet their fans are real made up!!!!!!!
Derek Thomas
22   Posted 29/07/2007 at 07:02:21

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Brillant!! I understood every word you wrote, it was only when you put them into sentences you lost me.

Are you for it or against it and what will happen...a) if it goes ahead...or b) if it doesnt.

I think the answer is 42.
Steve Hogan
23   Posted 29/07/2007 at 09:40:58

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For the record, I have dealt with Bestway for over 15 years at a senior level, and believe me they are simply opportunists who can smell a fast buck.

In the business world they operate in, they are being squeezed out by the much bigger Booker group and simply see the Everton re-location scenario as a way to boost the balance sheet.

They are no ’knights in shining armour’ sent to alleviate the ground issue believe me.
Greg Murphy
24   Posted 29/07/2007 at 12:56:51

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Steve Hogan - Bestway are opportunists who can smell a fast buck, hey? And Tesco is? I do take your substantive point, though. However, at this stage, I doubt anyone is regarding Bestway as ?knights in shining armour? (well I hope not). Merely that they deserve to be listened to and treated with courtesy (after all, the Evertonian collective constantly moans that there are no willing partners / investors out there).

Sure, it may well turn out to be a ?smoking out? exercise and we may yet discover that there?s precious little meat on the Bestway bone, in which case we?ll retreat sharpish. My concern, though, at this pre-vote stage is that Everton are going to stage a ballot which could be binding (either way). I simply don?t see how the club can stage this ballot until we learn whether Wyness and Co. have spoken to Bestway and what the outcomes are/were.

Because the stark choice, we?re led to believe, we?ll be presented with on the ballot sheet is that Kirkby is ?Plan A? and Sweet Fresh Air is ?Plan B?. Wyness likes to bang on about ?arbitrariness?. I?ll tell him what really is arbitrary: a potentially binding ballot that he says must be undertaken in the next few weeks with a deadline and timescale totally decided by the club.

Now yeah, I appreciate we can?t whistle in the wind forever, but Everton has been around since 1878 and yet we?re now being told that our whole future thinking must be bottlenecked into the next two weeks. That?s arbitrary, Keith. Why doesn?t he press the clutch and set us in neutral again for another few weeks, but keep the engine running? Face-saving vanity, probably.

A bit more about Booker and Bestway. Well, sure, after the mess that it got itself into (big time) Booker, thanks to the comforting arm of Baugur, now looks well set in its sector (but it?s still got some way to go to convince). Bestway, meanwhile, is a steady ship (IMO). But as to whether they?re opportunists; well I always think the best way to judge that is to take a look at its Corporate Social Responsibility record. Although I note that it?s not an audited account, the aims of the Bestway Foundation (2.5pc of profit donated to charity each year, plus other activities) indicates to me that they?re not exactly opportunists.

Now, of course, there?s always sector-peer pressure to be seen to be ?good guys? but the bottom line is that big companies like Bestway don?t need to have any form of Corporate Social Responsibility. Bestway has. And it looks quite decent too (not wishing to damn them with feint praise). There?s always negative anecdotal evidence about any corporate group or individual (Tesco, Baugur-Booker, Bestway - which I?ll take your word for, EFC, LFC, MUFC, The Glazers, Hicks, Gillet and on an on and on). Likewise there?s always ?money given to the dogs home? anecdotal evidence to suggest that they?re really nice guys, at heart. The thing we trust EFC to do now (like tomorra, according to KW?s self-imposed full-steam ahead timetable) is at least look at Bestway?s (and others) proposals objectively.

No-one has been able to come to the table for the last nine months because of the spurious ?exclusivity deal?. Now that the barking exclusivity period is over, we?re being railroaded into the ballot rather than taking a little more time to see what?s emerged whilst we?ve been in self-imposed armlock with Tesco. Nevertheless, I think your cautionary heads-up is a timely one (I?ve certainly noted it) , lest anyone does indeed think Bestway are the saviours in waiting. Never mind NSNO. For the next few weeks EFC should adopt a new motto - RNORNI: Rule Nothing Out, Rule Nothing In. Cheers Blue.

Brian Waring
25   Posted 29/07/2007 at 17:22:26

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That’s what I have been asking for as well Greg.What harm can it do to postpone the vote for a couple of weeks and then call Bestways and LCC,s bluff.See what they have got to offer,if it can’t match Tesco,Wyness can say thanks,but no thanks.
Lee Kidd
26   Posted 29/07/2007 at 18:41:24

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"Now yeah, I appreciate we can?t whistle in the wind forever, but Everton has been around since 1878 and yet we?re now being told that our whole future thinking must be bottlenecked into the next two weeks. That?s arbitrary, Keith. Why doesn?t he press the clutch and set us in neutral again for another few weeks, but keep the engine running? Face-saving vanity, probably."

Spot on. Absolutely spot on.
Lyndon Lloyd
Editorial Team
27   Posted 29/07/2007 at 19:46:00

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Steve: "...believe me they are simply opportunists who can smell a fast buck."

If I’m interpreting the role Bestway would play in this project, there will be nothing quick about the buck they make. It’s not a quick land sale — it’s unlikely they’ll sell the land at all, rather trade it for property elsewhere in the city — and I’m not sure they’d be starting discussions with stadium contractors if they didn’t want any involvement beyond selling the site.

They are looking to be involved in a wider regeneration scheme that will take years to complete, will have benefits for the whole area and has the potential to be more lucrative over the long term to Everton than the Kirkby option.

28   Posted 29/07/2007 at 19:43:57

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Can’t see there being any harm in listening to what Bestway have to offer . A viable alternative would at least give Wyness and Leahy something to think about ! A little bit of competition never hurt anyone ?
C R Benson
29   Posted 30/07/2007 at 14:17:33

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For those of you who intend to vote ’NO’ consider this - Currently 17 Premiership Clubs have either new / refurbished stadiums or have major financial support or in some instances both! Everton are in a minority group along with Wigan and Fulham with neither. It is not a comfortable feeling for any ’Blue’ and it underlines the invidious position we are in. Vote ’NO’ and we will definitely have a difficult period ahead. lack of funding = no investment in quality players = smaller attendances = less funding.
The decline in funds will ultimately place in doubt our ablity to survive in the Premiership. Vote ’YES’ and the club at least has the opportunity to attract more investment, potential investors will see the possibility of a substantial income stream from the New Ground’. Also they will see a football club not burdened by massive debt [we hope!]. This means we should be able to invest in the right players and continue to compete at the highest level.
30   Posted 30/07/2007 at 15:54:00

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C.R. Benson

Great article but 1 error, Wigan have an new stadium also, the JJB otherwise a perfect summary.
Lee Kidd
31   Posted 30/07/2007 at 18:14:08

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C.R: I think that no Evertonian is considering voting "no" to Kirkby because they believe we don’t need a new ground or investment. They’re simply voting no because they don’t believe the location or timing is necessarily correct and that we should be patient and wait for a more desirable opportunity.
ron leith
32   Posted 01/08/2007 at 21:23:41

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Theory is dreary and tells us little about reality. People spend their whole lives theorising. Keynes, Jeremy Bentam, Milton Friedman etc. As far as I am concerned there is only simple questions. No long complicated ones. Are we wanting to be forever the nearly team. Nearly the best in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Since then we nearly qualified for the Champions league. Lets not be the club that nearly moved to a new ground. I fear that we will be the ones left behind. Pipe dreams is all that KEIOC offer. If and buts and maybes. What ifs, could be’s, and if only’s. Lets grasp the nettle make a move towards being a contender not just a nearly team.

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