25/03/2024 24comments  |  Jump to last

Former Everton director, Paul Gregg, has been giving his side of the story of Everton’s doomed Kings Dock project, 20 years after it collapsed, which left the Club to eventually seek other options to resolve their long-standing stadium issue. 

Peter Johnson had been the first chairman to put together a serious proposal to relocate the Blues from their historic home at Goodison Park but his plan in the late 1990s to build a new purpose-built ground, first in Aintree and then at Cronton Colliery, never got past the conceptual phase.

After ex-Chairman, Bill Kenwright, purchased Johnson’s stake in 1999 with the help of Gregg and his wife Anita, Everton next set their sights on an impressive-looking stadium on the banks of the Mersey at the Kings Dock but the idea foundered on a lack of funding and the site was eventually filled by the Echo Arena.

According to Gregg, the plan ultimately failed because Kenwright was insistent that Everton owned the stadium outright and when the cost of the Club’s share of the project proved prohibitive, the only avenue left was a 125-year lease from Liverpool City Council.  

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Speaking on TalkSport with Majestic and Alan Pardew last night to promote his recently-published memoir, Gregg was asked what he remembered most about his time at the Club. 

“I think the thing I regret the most is losing and no Evertonian wants to lose,” he said. “And we lost the stadium. I think the stadium is one thing that could have saved Everton and put them in the right position to compete.

Asked why a project that had the potential to put Everton’s home ground in the heart of the city’s famed waterfront failed, Gregg replied: 

“Because Bill said, ‘no’. And the thing that we had spent 2 ½ years with the Council and the [North West] Development Trust… the Government had put half a billion pounds into Liverpool for redevelopment and we’d persuaded the Council that they should build a multi-purpose stadium that had a roof on it … so we could have [staged] concerts all year round and still played football.

Gregg was then asked what the reasons were behind Kenwright not wanting to proceed with the project.

“He said he wanted to own the [stadium]*,” said the now 82-year-old founder of Apollo Leisure Group. “What happened was, we had a meeting with Bill and his advisor at the time … who said to him he should get on with borrowing another 30 million quid to pay Everton’s share of the stadium.

“On the Tuesday, he said he’d support it and then on the Thursday he told the AGM he wasn’t going to take secondary funding, which was news to me. I wanted to kill him, to be honest.

“The good news was, I rang David Henshaw, who was the chief executive of Liverpool City Council, and I said, ‘David, you’re not going to believe this: he’s turned down the funding. He doesn’t want to do it’.

"And David said, ‘Don’t worry, we desperately need it. We want it for the City and we want to get on with it. We’ll put the money in, you just lease it off us’.

“So, I rang Bill, and I said, ‘Look, the Council are prepared to fund it completely and the deal is 125 years, 10%’. I said, ‘Why don’t you want to take it – it’s right in the middle of Liverpool. Everybody going into the City centre, whether they’re an Evertonian, a Liverpudlian or anybody, is going to see that stadium. It’s going to be a fantastic flagship’.”

The collapse of the Kings Dock despite a more complicated reverse mortgage-style arrangement proposed by Gregg led to him falling out with Kenwright and later selling his shares to Robert Earl. Everton, under the direction of Earl and retail tycoon Sir Philip Green, turned their attentions to Destination Kirkby and plans to build a new stadium in neighbouring Knowsley.

That project was called in by the government and after briefly considering Walton Hall Park, the Club was finally able to purchase land at Bramley-Moore Dock where the 52,000+ Everton Stadium is due for completion late this year.

* Editor's note: During the interview, Mr Gregg says of Mr Kenwright: "He said he wanted to own the club." It is ToffeeWeb's interpretation that he meant to say "the stadium".

April update

Paul Gregg was interviewed by John Blaine for ToffeeTV where he discusses his time at Everton:

Quotes sourced from TalkSport – The Final Word

Reader Comments (24)

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Stephen Davies
1 Posted 25/03/2024 at 14:32:45
What could have been…
Stephen Davies
2 Posted 25/03/2024 at 15:01:43
Paul Gregg has a book coming out next month, with a couple of chapters about his time at Everton.

He mentions on TalkSport Bill's involvement with the Kings Dock period... basically, despite all that was offered at the time, he declined to go through with it.

Charles Ward
3 Posted 25/03/2024 at 15:06:25
Tony, history kind too Kenwright?

Not only was he egocentric and incompetent, he managed to get us in bed with an incompetent buffoon who is still making our lives miserable.

Christopher Timmins
4 Posted 25/03/2024 at 15:08:56

I think that you are more than kind to the late Chairman.

For what it's worth, I think we had some stability but a loss of ambition during the Moyes years, however, post Moyes… history will not be kind.

Brian Harrison
5 Posted 25/03/2024 at 15:37:58
As I remember, the big stumbling block was that Paul Gregg and his wife wanted to put on concerts and other things at Kings Dock, with the money going to Gregg's company and not EFC.
Stephen Davies
6 Posted 25/03/2024 at 15:54:11
He does mention that the big attraction of it was that it could be used for concerts one day and a match the next, with a removable pitch (like Spurs) and a closing roof.

He said the council would go ahead with funding the building as monies were being invested in Liverpool from the government.

Bill said No.

Stephen Davies
7 Posted 25/03/2024 at 16:03:19
An excerpt
Paul Gregg:

‘The thing I regret most is losing the stadium… I rang Bill and said look, the council want to completely fund it… the deal was 125 years (lease) at 10%…'

‘Why did it not happen?'

‘Because Bill said No… he said he wanted to own the club…'

Listen above ⬆️

John Keating
8 Posted 25/03/2024 at 22:12:26
Nothing surprises me regarding The World's Greatest Evertonian
Brian Wilkinson
9 Posted 25/03/2024 at 22:31:08
It is only a matter of time before someone comes on and has a pop at Paul Gregg and defends Bill.

He has done more damage to our football club than the Luftwaffe and some still defend the guy.

Makes you want to cry, from Kings Dock to Tesco Kirkby, thank the Lord for the KEIOC campaigners.

Mike Hayes
10 Posted 25/03/2024 at 23:03:21
How do you defend the indefensible? The man was a narcissistic lousy actor but managed to fool a lot of people, worst thing to happen to Everton until Moshiri.
Derek Thomas
11 Posted 26/03/2024 at 01:46:37
For reasons known only to himself, couldn't or wouldn't borrow – on the club, not him personally? – the initial £30Million.

Again, for reasons known only to himself, he wouldn't do the 125-year lease thing, it was not quite 'free money' – but not far off it.

AIl about Me?

World's biggest Evertonian? My Arse.

Danny O’Neill
12 Posted 26/03/2024 at 06:09:06
I was talking with my mates way back in the mid-80s about the need for either the redevelopment of Goodison or a new stadium.

I've said many times, it will upset me to leave Goodison, but I'm looking forward to the new Everton Stadium.

The Kings Dock was a missed opportunity. Bramley-Moore Dock will be fantastic. Just 30 years too late.

Brian Wilkinson
13 Posted 26/03/2024 at 18:49:04
Talking about the final match at Goodison, the new ground will be up and ready by then.

There is no way tickets will be easy to get for non-season ticket holders or members, I think the club could use some smart business thinking and open up the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock for the final game, and put the game on the big screens; those who cannot get tickets for Goodison could pay say a tenner, it would bring extra money in, at the same time putting the new stadium on a test run.

Charles Ward
14 Posted 26/03/2024 at 19:02:35
Big screens!

Wasn't the FA Cup derby game in 1967 also shown on a big screen at Anfield?

For the record, an Alan Ball goal was enough.

Barry Rathbone
15 Posted 26/03/2024 at 19:08:03
Interesting – never heard this slant of us renting the place before.

Panic and indignation abounds at the prospect of us having to rent the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock now but back in the day the uproar would have been off the scale.

Whether it would have been the panacea to all our ills is debatable; we still would have had to buy good players and we haven't done that since the 1960s.

Charles Ward
16 Posted 26/03/2024 at 19:22:15
If Joe Anderson had been able to build a stadium for the Commonwealth Games, which Birmingham won, wasn't the plan for that stadium to be rented to us?
Tony Abrahams
17 Posted 26/03/2024 at 19:23:23
Funny how Bill Kenwright was unwilling to rent the ground off the council, but he was prepared to sell Bellefield and rent the new training ground off an outside company before Liverpool City Council bought Finch Farm and lowered the rent.

If he his telling the truth, then it sounds like Paul Gregg had got Everton a great deal and it's highly unlikely that the club will get such a good deal if the owners sell the stadium now.

If Paul Gregg was going to make a fortune housing concerts, then good on him; only a jealous man would have refused such a deal just as long as his club was still getting what they had always got at Goodison Park which is their match day revenue.

Danny O’Neill
18 Posted 26/03/2024 at 19:40:06
Brian @5,

Manchester United host Rugby League at Old Trafford. Tottenham host NFL fixtures. I think Arsenal have held concerts. There are probably more.

We can and should maximise the new stadium. Concerts and with Liverpool's heritage, Boxing.

Other Brian @13. That's not a bad shout.

Paul Hewitt
19 Posted 26/03/2024 at 19:43:44
We could host rugby league's magic weekend.
Eric Myles
20 Posted 27/03/2024 at 02:06:40
Brian #5, it was always touted as a multi-use venue. It just so happened that Gregg is an entertainment promoter and would have been one of many that could use the stadium for events.

But anyone doing so would have to rent the stadium from the club and likely pay a share of the proceeds. So it wouldn't have been exclusively for Gregg's pocket.

Jerome Shields
21 Posted 29/03/2024 at 13:55:48
Paul Gregg at the time when trying to arrange finance, said categorically that Bill Kenwright had to go from True Blue Holdings if Everton was to progress.

There was never a truer word said. Kenwright had not got a pot to piss and Paul Gregg realised that as fact way back then.

Christy Ring
22 Posted 05/04/2024 at 16:41:26
I've just read Paul Gregg's interview in the Echo, where he agreed a deal for a new 55,000 seated stadium, retractable roof at King's Dock, with Liverpool City Council preparing to fund it completely, so they'd have it for 2008 European City of Culture, 125 years 10%. But Kenwright said no, because we wouldn't own the stadium??? Unbelievable!!

Rob Jones
23 Posted 05/04/2024 at 16:56:51
Thanks, Christy. Every time I stop cursing the man, I read a new reason to.
Michael Kenrick
24 Posted 05/04/2024 at 17:17:16
Incredible. Another astounding coup by the ardent Evertonian journalists at the Local Rag, aka Liverpool Echo:

They finally report on this story after it's been out there in the ether-space for the last two weeks:

Bill Kenwright's decision not to build Everton stadium with a retractable roof and pitch explained

Maybe that's what they were thinking when they called it the 'Echo'?

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