EVERTON FC are in talks about building a multi-million pound training academy and sports complex at Cronton Colliery, the Daily Post can reveal.
It is considering a plan to take over the North West Development Agency-owned site and turn it into a potentially money-spinning school for trainee football coaches from around the world.
The proposal, which is at a very early stage, would involve the club tapping into European regeneration grants to pay for the facility, rather than having to dip into the funds it needs for team-building and its new stadium plans.
The colliery has in the past been mooted as a potential site for Everton's new stadium. The new plan for the site, which would be called the Everton International Academy, has already been pitched to a meeting of senior officials. It would house a new coach training centre which would take in international recruits, as well as the club's community and disabled football facilities currently based at Goodison Park.
The site would also have six football pitches capable of hosting international women's team games and an accommodation block.
The ambitious scheme has received a favourable response from Knowsley council, which is keen to redevelop the plot.
David Moore, assistant director for economy and employment, told the Daily Post: "The proposals are very exciting and we would very much welcome the scheme in the borough.
"The plans are at a very early stage but we will work with the club to find funding sources."
The colliery site is owned by the North West Development Agency (NWDA) and a number of organisations have been interested in developing it in recent years.
But it is believed the council would be particularly keen to see Everton take it over as it would boost the profile of the borough as well as regenerating the area.
The club has been in talks with a number of potential partners in the venture including John Moores University and if the plans go ahead the institute could have sports science staff based on site.
The success of the scheme, however, will depend on the club securing European funding.
Because the site is a former colliery it is expected money would be available to regenerate it. But if cash was not forthcoming the plans would be put on a back burner while the club ploughs its money into the future of the first team.
Work has already started on Everton's new £10m training ground in Halewood, which will take over from Bellefield in West Derby as the club's first team and reserve players' training base and youth academy. This should be completed by the end of next year.
The club's main priority now is deciding if Everton will remain at Goodison Park or move to a new home. It is expected to make a decision this summer.
Paul Lakin, NWDA area manager for Merseyside, said: "The NWDA is aware of the interest by Everton Football Club in the Cronton Colliery site.
"However we are yet to see any financial or planning documentation regarding this project."
Cronton Colliery closed in the 1980s and the 110 acre site, just by the M62 and M57 junction, has remained unused since.
If the plan went ahead, Everton would take over 42 acres of the plot, which has caught the interest of a number of developers over the last 25 years.
But the club could well be at an advantage over other interested parties because the land is classed as greenbelt, so turning it into football pitches is more likely to be viewed favourably by planners than building houses.
Everton declined to comment.