A historic day for Everton Football Club and its supporters – Thursday 23rd March 2017. How long have we waited for days like this? How many false dawns have we endured to get to this? How much hope have we held on to over the years that something will eventually suffice? Well now, these hopes, dreams and the wait appear to be at an end, as Everton FC announce their plans to build a £300 million super-stadium on Liverpool’s Northern Docks.
Even at 4:59pm yesterday, just a minute before the Club and the Council officially confirmed the plans, I still had my doubts. I didn’t want to say a word. Even though earlier in the day the local and national media had ran stories confirming that a deal was in place for the Toffees to purchase the land at Bramley Moore from Peel Holdings (for a reported £22 million) I still wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth. But as 5pm ticked by and with a large drink in my hand, the news broke as predicted and I’ll admit, I couldn’t contain myself. I’ve been smiling from ear to ear since and I didn’t sleep much last night.
Admittedly there is still a long way to go; the hard work starts here, negotiations, the raising of funds from a lender (potentially £350 million) and planning permissions, ahead of the fact that it will take years to build the stadium and infrastructure to support it, but this is a start, these are the steps we needed to start moving in the right direction. This is what we needed to hear. On the pitch we are doing well, I believe we are going places and we will get there eventually, but off-field too we are making strides under Farhad Moshiri. Although many fans feel like they are silent and slow strides, we are still making them, and the announcement on Thursday is the latest big positive since the Iranian businessman joined the Club as Majority Shareholder. But this is the most significant step we have made since Moshiri came on board and the news has engulfed the Club and our fans like a tidal wave of optimism and hope, it simply outlines the future of Everton FC and gives us a pathway for a better future.
‘Bramley Moore’ – just how many times have you heard it mentioned in the past week, month, six months, year, well finally it’s all coming to fruition. The cat is out the bag. There’s no secrets anymore. The plan is afoot and it is out in the open. Evertonians are buzzing. Although as yet we have had no visual plans of a potential stadium – these will come from Dan Meis (stadium designer hired by Everton) in due course I’d expect – everything that happened yesterday and everything that was said was everything we wanted to hear. It started with the news that the Club have agreed a deal to purchase the land at Bramley Moore, followed by the official announcement from both Everton FC and Liverpool City Council that there was a partnership in place and financial agreements and plans to build a new stadium on the waterfront. Joe Anderson has played a huge part in this – helping to broker the deal between Peel and the Club – and the Council’s role will continue as they act as guarantor for Everton once funding is secured by a lender, which they will also assist with. It may sound complex to some, but in reality it’s a win win for all.
Everton FC get a new stadium which they will fund themselves but will work in partnership with the City Council, the Council make money on that new stadium and give themselves some financial security over a long period of time, plus the City of Liverpool and in particular the Northern Docklands will get regeneration, new infrastructure, new visitors, new money, better facilities and importantly – new jobs. Potentially thousands of new jobs. Not just construction workers building a stadium, it’s the road and rail networks too, plus the new businesses, shops, hotels, this ties in nicely with the £5 billion Liverpool Waters project as a whole – there are no negatives.
The docklands area itself is in need of redevelopment, if you go down there you will see it for yourself. Everton in conjunction with the Council can offer that, and yesterday’s announcements are a big step in the right direction for a better future for Everton and the City itself, which is a big factor in all of this. People can say what they want about Joe Anderson being an Evertonian but he spoke honestly and openly yesterday, he said it’s too good of a deal to turn down no matter who offered it, if it was any other ‘institution’ we would do the same he said, just like when he helped Liverpool FC in their redevelopment plans of the Main Stand. Anderson spoke with the best interests of the City of Liverpool at the forefront of his comments yesterday and that is his role as Mayor, but himself and his team do deserve praise for the role they have played to date in assisting with the deal between Everton and Peel, who have a reputation of being difficult to deal with. Anderson went on to say that the Council sought legal advice on the partnership with Everton and that the outcome was positive – although there are risks with any project like this he said he wouldn’t jeopardise the Council in any way. All of the sound bites were exactly what we wanted to hear and although I’m not his biggest fan, Robert Elstone also spoke well about the deal and the future of our Club. To see such a strong bond between the Council and the Club, which was simply not there throughout the Walton Hall Park dialogue, you can’t help but feel confident about this project being a success and being followed through until the end.
This isn’t no loft conversion at the top of a hill in Anfield, no, we are talking about a brand new footballing community, an area which offers a completely different culture for Everton Football Club and the surrounding areas, the location of it is ideal and the possibilities are endless. Of course there will be those who you’ll have to drag out of Goodison, that is our Church and you’ll never replace it, we have to hold our memories dear and cherish our final years there, but if we are to progress we have to move out of L4 and form a future elsewhere. The information about Everton leaving behind a legacy in the area which they will depart is essential; offering affordable housing, health, education and welfare advice and public spaces for the community – we already do that brilliantly as a Club so I have every faith that the area around Goodison Park won’t be left to rot and ruin once we do leave the area. The People’s Club won’t forget the people, those who are being left behind and those who will be a part of the new stadium. Elstone said the Club will go into dialogue with supporters and partners in discussing plans for the stadium, taking on feedback, suggestions and ideas. They will want to get this right and having an open, transparent platform will go down well with the fans who will ultimately pay the money to go to that new stadium.
The next phase is planning permission, which is expected to run through to 2018, and if all goes to plan then the Club will look to be leaving Goodison by season 2020/21. Moshiri won’t want to wait around with this nor will the Council, so you’d like to think the timescales might be slightly thinner than first suggested, but either way there is no getting away from the fact that this is massive news for Everton Football Club, our supporters and the City of Liverpool.
The new stadium project offers us the chance to implement the new-found vision we can currently see at Everton; over the course of 12 or so months we’ve seen things slowly changing for the better at the Club, from new ways of recruiting, a big-named Manager being appointed, better players, better sponsorship deals, Goodison improvements, to name but a few, we now have this – a key moment in the history of the Club and this time around we have the right people in place. We now have shrewd businessmen with the power to produce what we want, and although the money will be loaned we aren’t going cap in hand asking for hand-outs, the money will be funded by the Club and paid back, and the Council aren’t spending a penny.
You’ll get those supporters who will say ‘I want to see it built first’ and comments similar, however my times of being negative towards Everton FC have long gone, I won’t be put down by the moaners and whiners, the constant criticisms directed at the Club from some, I’ve been there and done all that, I’ve said my piece and now I am thoroughly excited about Everton and what the future might hold and this is because what I am seeing and hearing from the Club on a consistent basis now. A new stadium is a place where we can make dreams become a reality, where trophies can be won and success can be bread, we can forge a positive future and build towards the upper echelons of the Premier League. It can be a platform for us to become elite, and get Everton’s name back on the map.
We should all look ahead to our new home on the banks of the royal blue Mersey, we should all buy into the vision Farhad Moshiri and his colleagues have for our Club and be focused on a brighter, better future for Everton FC. It’s the Club we all love and yesterday’s announcements are a real milestone in where we are trying to get to. A new stadium, down on the docks, who would have thought it, and this is just the start. You’ll be able to see it from everywhere, we will be part of the structural vision of the City, and we will be there to stay.
This has to be the catalyst.
Everton are back.