More fan engagement required above and beyond stage 2 of the public consultation

It is my belief that the more information is shared, the greater the level of understanding and “buy-in” into what is being proposed from all parties.

Paul The Esk 10/05/2019 0comments  |  Jump to last
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Stage 2 of public consultation re Bramley Moore and Goodison Legacy Project

On 9th May, Everton Football Club announced plans for the second stage of the public consultation regarding the Bramley Moore Stadium and the Goodison Legacy Project. In line with the previously advised timetable the dates are 26th July through to 25th August 2019. The consultation will continue to be branded under the “People’s Project” title and will visit a range of locations.

The press release issued by the club gives good indications of their current thinking and what they believe are the key considerations in the run up to the planning process. To be fair the issues that the club feel need addressing are not always going to be consistent with those major issues that fans fell need addressing (more on that later).

Heritage

Whilst overall the Liverpool Waters project remains a problematic issue for UNESCO and World Heritage Status for the City, the proposed stadium development is being handled sensitively and will objectively enhance the future heritage status of the northern docks.

The consultation process should clarify that the club are addressing the key heritage issues and that the design work relating to the stadium and its surrounding environment is consistent with both maintaining and enhancing the historical nature of the site. Enhancement is critical and a key component to many other successful heritage sites around the world. An important element other than design will be the re-attachment of this area to the City and more importantly the people of the City. What good is heritage if it is locked away from those that own it and wish to enjoy it?

The public consultation process

It is evident that the club are being as thorough as they possibly can be regarding the formal public consultation (as against fan consultation, more on that later).

The consultation will include the latest design concepts plus views on transport, accessibility and environmental sustainability. Whilst it remains a part of the formal process leading to the planning application it does provide all Evertonians with the opportunity to express views in person or by other means. It is essential (to the benefit of the fan base) that as many fans make use of this process not only to support the application but to inform the club and influence decisions over matters of concern. What is offered and is shown visually (for the first time) does remain conceptual. As such opinion ought to be passed during the consultation.

Whilst the club is duty bound to address an audience wider than just supporters, we are talking about what is going to be our home for the next 100 years so the opportunity to provide opinion from the perspective of being an Evertonian should not be missed in my view.

Equally for the residents of L4 the opportunity to shape the Goodison Legacy is very apparent.

Further consultation with fans:

Separate to the formal public consultation the club is planning to engage further with those that took part with the St Luke’s workshops attended by Dan Meis in the Spring of 2018.

Topics to be included are “match day experience, fan zone, food and beverage offering, transport, accessibility and environmental sustainability.”

That’s all well and good and those topics certainly need addressing. However, in my opinion it fails to address much more important issues which remain either not consulted upon or inconclusive in the eyes of many fans.

Those issues include:

  • Capacity
  • Pricing
  • Rail seating (safe standing)
  • Funding & the business model

To me, and many others (although not all) these are fundamental issues where there has been little or no consultation of any substance, yet they remain the very key to the success of the stadium development.

The argument for a larger capacity to 60,000 is well documented particularly on this site, but the club’s logic in going for a smaller capacity of 52,000 is not. Surely a proper consultation process would provide supporting evidence as the justification for such a decision?

I am aware the club engaged professional consultants to offer their considered views on likely demand and therefore capacity. However, I’m yet to meet or hear from an Evertonian who was asked questions such as “how likely are you to buy hospitality/season tickets/tickets for Bramley-Moore?” and questions relating to pricing points/availability of walk up tickets etc which surely have a huge impact on demand?

The proposed capacity not only means that not all current Evertonians will be able to attend matches, it means our opportunity to grow our match-going fan base and the associated commercial benefits are restricted, and likely to be restricted for many years.

It also flies in the face of the club’s proud commitment to “affordability”. I have consulted privately, at my own expense, with industry experts who confirm my assertion that the combination of the proposed capacity and a funding model which relies significantly on debt is not sustainable without significant increases in ticket prices.

One of the most surprising aspects of Spurs’ new stadium is how little comment there has been on the price increases between the old White Hart Lane stadium and the new? There has been an effective gentrification of their fan base. That would not be consistent with the objectives and principles associated with Everton & Bramley-Moore stadium. If that’s not to happen how do we square a smaller capacity, a predominantly debt funded stadium and affordability with the requirement to generate more income?

The completion of the funding has yet to be announced. I hope by the time of the consultation process we have greater clarity.

We have the notion that the capacity can be increased to a maximum of 62,000 at some unspecified date in the future, albeit we have previously been advised “it is not possible to say if and when” . How is that to be achieved? Through extending the stadium or future higher spectator densities arising from safe standing? Previous advice has been that extending the stadium is not possible and informed advice from the safety authorities is that increasing capacity through the means of safe standing is “perhaps at least a decade away” given we still don’t have safe standing in the Premier League or UEFA competitions.

In the two and a half months remaining until the consultation opens I’d implore the club to make the consultation as wide ranging as possible and include the topics discussed above. The club and fans have a common objective to make Bramley-Moore the very best it can be. That might not be the case if we miss opportunities now.

On social media I have people suggesting we are not entitled to the levels of information I request. I understand the commercial sensitivities in that not everything can be in the public domain but it is my belief that the more information is shared, the greater the level of understanding and “buy-in” into what is being proposed from all parties. Just as the club has adopted a cautious approach to this stadium development given past experiences, fans too have perhaps a higher need for explanation than might normally be the case.

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