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Overlooked. Look Here

By Mike Owen :  23/07/2007 :  Comments (4) :

In the great stadium debate, I remain undecided but I reckon several factors are being overlooked, to a lesser or greater extent. Some relate to phrases I keep on hearing such as, "Find a site elsewhere in the city". Another, of increasing concern to me, relates to the youth of the city and the Merseyside economy.

"Find a site elsewhere in the city"

Not financially realistic, said Keith Wyness at a Shareholders Association forum in March, and it seems to me a plausible argument.

We don't have the money to build a new stadium, so the only way we can do it is with a commercial partner and, realistically, such a partner is only likely to come from the retail sector.

However, a huge shopping complex, Liverpool 1, is being built in the city centre. As a result, the chances of a new significantly-sized retail project going ahead in the city is minimal because it would struggle to compete with Liverpool 1 (Cue graffiti on its signage: Everton 5) and as a result it would struggle to get planning permission.

I love the idea of a stadium at Scotland Road, a short walk from the city centre. But I would refer you to the above.

Regards the sometimes seemingly lukewarm attitude of the city council, I suspect we annoyed some senior bods there not only when we withdrew from the Kings Dock project, but also when we told them we would not be building our new training complex on the land they had offered us at the former Lee Manor School, Netherley.

"What's in it for Tesco?"

I think it's something to do with national planning policy whereby they can only get permission in some areas if they subsidise some other project under some Section Umpteen rule. I'm sure some other Toffeewebber could explain this one properly. Would be a public service.

"It's A Done Deal"

I've heard this from several people who was "speaking to someone who knows/was speaking to..." I wouldn't be too surprised if a gentlemen's agreement had been reached to proceed with the plan. But I don't believe that any such deal would be signed and sealed. I was intrigued to hear Keith Wyness tell that Shareholders Association forum in March that the plans were close to going over budget although nobody seemed to mention this afterwards.

"If we move to Kirkby, youngsters in the city will stop supporting Everton."

It's my perception that we are already suffering "slippage", at least in the south of the city where I live. It's understandable really with this televisual generation. A 16-year-old Blue might just remember the 1995 FA Cup final. Since then, there's been no trophies, no cup final dramas, not even any semi-finals and very few heroes. And given all the European games that Liverpool have had, I would suggest we have been on live TV half as much as they have, probably less even.

However, our schoolboy Blues tend to be top quality supporters and it's my perception that a far higher proportion of schoolboy Blues attend games than schoolboy reds.

We will be relying a lot on these lads in years to come - and that's what's worrying me. Will they be able to afford to go to the game? Whether it be played at Goodison or Kirkby.

Despite all the hype over the last four years since Liverpool was named European Capital of Culture 2008, youth unemployment in the city remains high and, with the way things are going, I believe it will get higher. The Government doesn't do youth unemployment figures any more, or if they do, they bury them.

However they do admit to NEETS (Not in Employment, Education or Training). Don't scratch your head, just bear me out. According to a study carried out for The Prince's Trust by the London School of Economics, published in April, the proportion of NEETS nationally is around 18 per cent, roughly one in five. That's a heck of a lot.

As general unemployment-related figures for Liverpool have tended to be double the national average, I'd estimate the city's NEETS to be at least 30 per cent, quite possibly even 50 per cent in some areas of the city. And if you turn to the young ones who do have jobs, most of those won't be earning much.

So the question I ask is: How many of today's teenage Evertonians will be able to afford adult Premiership prices in three, five, ten years's time?

For me, whether we are in or out of the city, this is one of the most important aspects of this debate. Goodison or Kirkby: Which will offer the more affordable ticket prices?

Finally, if we do build a new stadium, can we have some good old-fashioned building trade apprenticeships for young Evertonians, please?

Reader Comments

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Ann Adlington
1   Posted 24/07/2007 at 11:03:10

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Nice sentiments about the building trade apprenticeships and I fully support you on this.

However, your comment "... a huge shopping complex, Liverpool 1, is being built in the city centre. As a result, the chances of a new significantly-sized retail project going ahead in the city is minimal because it would struggle to compete with Liverpool 1 (Cue graffiti on its signage: Everton 5) and as a result it would struggle to get planning permission...." is way off beam.

The Islington Regeneration Company is well adanced with their proposals to build a large shopping/leisure complex in the Islington/London Road area. From what I hear, the plans are well advanced and have the full backing of the City Council.

Also, Project Jennifer on Great Homer Street, will create another District Shopping Centre. Tesco are lined up to build a superstore there and planning permission has all been sorted.

The developers of these 2 schemes obviously don’t fear the L1 development. Neither do their financial backers. Is Keith Wyness now trying to say that Project Jennifer will fail because of the L1 project? I trust that he has imparted this advice to Sir Terence?

Whatever way KW wants to sell his Kirkby dream, there is no escaping the fact that the regeneration of Liverpool City Centre is inevitably spreading to the adjacent suburbs.
mick nolan
2   Posted 25/07/2007 at 10:03:52

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As yet i’m still undecided-and all these arguments about money and town planning tend to wash over me. It’s amazing how many blues seem to have some expertise in this area now. The one thing which the club really need to grasp in any move is the idea of The People’s Club. Mike Owen has excellent points about youth unemployment and the cost of watching premier league football. With the dark side becoming more and more corporate and distant from thier fanbase it gives us a real chance to do something here which would ensure that we have a solid youth fan base for the future. Strong community links, sponsored apprenticeships, a ground which is a focal point for the local people with lots of other midweek uses and good family discounts for matches are the way we should be going. Consideration for non football people who live in the vicinity of the ground is also important and pays off in the long run. Many smaller clubs have realised that this is how their lifeblood is kept healthy but the top clubs seem to be too aloof for much of this, even though they may see otherwise. Wherever the new ground is, Kirkby, Scotty Rd or Timbuktu we must make sure we get this right. It is just as important to make sure that we are truly the Peoples Club as it is to just boast about it.
Richard Watts
3   Posted 25/07/2007 at 12:56:53

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I know a bit about the planning system and so can add a little bit on why Tesco might want to be involved.

There are planning rules that limit the growth of massive out-of-town retail developments, and it could be that Tesco feel that the addition of the stadium and extra jobs that it would deliver would tip the balance in favour of giving them a green light to build a superstore.

Council’s have the right to ask developers for improvement to an area as part of a deal to give planning permission - called Section 106 agreements. S106 agreements usually make developers build a certain amount of affordable housing or infrastructure improvements like roads in return for being allowed to pursue a profitable project. Again, it could be that Tesco have done the maths and think that helping to provide a stadium would be cheaper than having to contribute 100s of new cheap houses etc.

Equally, it could be that if the stadium attracts money from the local council and even the EU to build things like the connecting roads and public transport to the new site Tesco will not be required to pay for this ? which they would have to cough up for if there wasn?t a stadium.

Finally, Tesco are not currently enjoying the best of PR at the moment. They are engaged in fights with the Government on a range of isses from food labelling to panning policy, and are roundly criticised for treating farmers badly etc. They may see provision of the stadium as good PR and part of their CSR strategy at a time when they need a bit of positive publicity.

Tesco have built a dominant position in British retailing by, among other things, having the best track record on where they put their stores and successfully using planning law to their advantage. They are not stupid and will have got a clear idea that they will get more than they loose out of working with Everton.
Ste
4   Posted 25/07/2007 at 18:16:42

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Well as long as Everton still sell junior tickets the youth will still be able to watch the toffee’s believe me.

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