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Superb Article On Toffeeweb

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Evertonians find themselves in a peculiar situation today, wondering if the announcement over the immediate future of Destination Kirkby is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of Everton's part in the scheme.

 

Having been horribly divided for a year by the most important issue that the Club has faced in generations, supporters had been waiting with for weeks with bated breath for word of the Government's decision on the controversial proposal. When it abuptly came yesterday evening, over a month after the Government Office for the North West's initial deadline of 3rd July, the news that the scheme has been called in for public scrutiny brought no closure or semblance of finality to the issue.

 

Of course, it was never going to. Despite the assertion by recently-departed CEO Keith Wyness that the delay while the proposal spent anywhere between a year to 18 months under further scrutiny would likely Everton to abandon their part in the scheme, no one expected any immediate by the remaining Board members to drop plans for a new purpose-built stadium in Kirkby.

 

Nevertheless, the reaction from fans from both sides of the fance has run the gamut from anger to gloating, bitterness to relief, with many treating the announcement as though it were somehow decisive. And it may well prove to be. Already facing a battle to find the £78m for their part of the Tesco-led £400m redevelopment of Kirkby town center, it's almost certain that if and when the proposal gets the green light, the rising costs of construction in the interim will prove to be prohibitive for Everton.

 

That has provoked a furious reaction from some who voted "Yes" in last year's ballot of fans who are pointing accusing fingers at their counterparts on the No side, blaming them and Keep Everton In Our City for signing the club's death warrant and hastening the departure of manager David Moyes.

 

It's important to retain some perspective here. While the stadium may have been pivotal to Tesco's hopes of having their plans approved — a sporting or leisure component was required to justify the size of the retail element of their plans for redevelopment and regeneration of Kirkby — in the broad context of the Government's decision to call in the scheme, it (the stadium) was more than likely a small consideration.

 

So, without wishing to take anything away from KEIOC's increasingly measured and targeted opposition to Destination Kirkby, the suggestion from quarters — not least Professor Tom Cannon on local radio last night — that the action group has somehow single-handedly denied Everton £15m in annual revenue is, quite frankly absurd and disingenuous in the extreme.

 

If Sir Terry Leahy's apparently close relationship with the sitting Government, Bill Kenwright's profile as a longtime financial backer of the Labour Party, and the last-minute pressure from local MPs like George Howarth and Peter Kilfolyle weren't enough to steer the proposal past the need for a public inquiry, it's ludicrous to suggest that a group of Everton fans could have played a decisive role in Hazel Blears' department's decision.

 

No, put simply, Destination Kirkby was called in because of its sheer size, its implications for the region as a whole, and the consequent objections from neighbouring retail interests and political entities. Tesco's proposal — for which the stadium was a linchpin — was for a development almost half the size of the £1bn Liverpool One development in a town of just 40,000 people and, as such, contravened local planning policy.

 

Similarly, it's an exaggeration to suggest, as some are, that the death of the Kirkby stadium — if that is what yesterday's announcement eventually proves to be — has somehow wiped away Everton's hopes of breaking into the top four and gaining foothold in the hugely lucrative Champions League. There may have been a chance of the new ground proving to be such a boon the club had the proposal turned out in reality to be anything close to what was promised by Wyness at the time of the vote.

 

A brand new, "world class" 50,000-seater stadium that would guarantee "up to £10m a year" in additional revenue from attendance alone for an initial outlay from Everton of just £15m may well have been something akin to the "deal of the century". Promises of additional revenue from non-football activities would have further bolstered the club's coffers and provided a platform from which to compete with the Sky Four.

 

Of course, as has since become abundantly clear — but was pointed by many on this site from the outset — Wyness' claims didn't hold up to close scrutiny. Frankly, they were far-fetched and a gross misrepresentation of what Everton stood to gain from participation in the scheme. Because when you look at what the proposed stadium in Kirkby actually boils down to, it bears little resemblance to the vision that was sold to the fans of an "effectively free" stadium.

 

In fact, as flippant as it sounds, it could be argued that the only similarity between what was put to the fans in the ballot brochure and the PR campaign that accompanied it and what went into the final planning application was that the ground would be in Kirkby. Furthermore, it doesn't now appear to offer much, if anything, more than could be attained by redeveloping Goodison Park.

 

The "world class" design dressed up in an inviting night-time scene with the now infamous "Batman lights"? It turned out that the darkness obscured the stadium's location on the end of Tesco's car park across the road from the shops themselves. Later, the entire bottom floor arcade underneath the stadium was scrapped from the plans, leaving something worryingly similar to The New Den or Southampton's St Mary's Stadium.

 

The catchment area of "four million" untapped northwest residents to whose doorsteps Everton FC would be six miles closer if they moved to Kirkby? A myth. The area Wyness described is shared not only by the likes of Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers but also Rugby League; if they aren't Evertonians now, they're not any more likely to be in the future. Only success on the pitch or a truly magnificent stadium could hope to change that.

 

The best-served stadium in the country in terms of transport infrastructure? Debunked when it became apparent that there would be no on-site parking for match-going fans — instead, they would be coralled in the country's biggest park-and-ride scheme or forced to make the 30- to 45-minute walk from the Liverpool side of the M57 — that the single-track rail line from Liverpool to Kirkby could handle just 4,000 people an hour, that a revived MerseyTram system serving Kirkby would either not be ready in time for the stadium's opening or may not ever come to fruition at all, and that the local bus service would not be able to handle the load required of it either.

 

The extra-football revenue generators? All but non-existent in the final reckoning. The pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs that could be incorporated into the stadium and were put forth as yet more reasons why a new stadium on a fresh retail development was so attractive never made it into the planning application. While the local council would be granted 100 free events a year at the stadium, the concerts and events that Wyness predicted would bring the club much needed revenue at times when the stadium wasn't being used for football were expressly prohibited by the final proposals. Hopes that this "mid-level" stadium would be considered for England's bid for the 2018 World Cup when Liverpool's proposed structure would be bigger and have the added benefit of being in the City? Fanciful.

 

The additional and immediate £10m a year in revenue "for David Moyes's transfer kitty"? That would now be swallowed up by the debt Everton would have to take on to fund their £78m commitment, making it unlikely that any profit would be made from the stadium for many years. That's not to even mention the fact that Wyness' projection was based on the stadium selling out week in, week out and, he admitted, was only likely while the "new stadium effect" lasted, typically only a few seasons. It did not take into account the unknown numbers of objectors among the club's core match-going support who would stop going to games in protest at the club's move from the City.

 

So, when you deconstruct Destination Kirkby as it relates to Everton, it all appears to come down to increased seating capacity and new facilities, both of which could be attained by redeveloping Goodison Park... but with the added benefit of having the club in its traditional home in north Liverpool where it enjoys a mature, urban transport infrastructure, one of the largest percentages of walk-up fans, and perhaps the fastest post-game dispersal rate of any ground in the top flight.

 

And even if you're convinced that Destination Kirkby was Everton's key to the top four, you have to believe in the first place that the current Board could deliver on a £78m scheme when it failed so disappointingly with an even better opportunity at the Kings Dock for a mere £30m six years ago.

 

Kirkby was sold by Leahy, in a letter that many believe clinched the majority Yes vote for the club last August, on the basis of trust. He asked the fans to trust that the Board knew what it was doing and yet consistently, both before and since the day that open letter was splashed across the Official Site and the local press — from the Rooney controversy and Kenwright's "absolutely definitely" speech on the eve of the 2004 transfer deadline, to the Fortress Sports Fund con and the successive broken pledges over Kirkby — the club hierarchy has eroded much of the trust that Everton fans dared place in them. Even now, following an awful summer of waiting for reinforcements to be made to a threadbare squad, fans are asked to believe that transfer funds have been in place since May and were unaffected by Destination Kirkby either way.

 

As frightening as our club's current predicament appears to be, it's hard to accept the idea that the end of Everton's plans in Kirkby spells certain disaster as Destination Kirkby always seemed to be a by-product of the club's financial woes rather than the solution to them.

 

I remain convinced that it was a short-term fix with no guarantee of success that would have had damaging long-term effects on the club. Cries that "luddite no voters" will be the catalyst that forces David Moyes out of the club now that a resolution to the stadium problem appears to have been set back untold years are all predicated on the assumption that Kirkby would have provided the funds needed to fund his transfer ambitions.

 

At the projected £10m a year — or half of what Sporting Lisbon want for Joao Moutinho — that was never going to be the case. Only qualification for the Champions League or a takeover by a billionaire investor could hope to provide the £20m - £30m annually that he would realistially need... and that's assuming Moyes would even be at Everton by the time the new stadium opened in 2012.

 

Likewise, citing Kirkby as a shortcut to a big-money takeover is a short-term, quick-fix view that fails to take into account the fact that over the long term, a mediocre stadium in a provincial town is not the ideal foundation on which to try to build a footballing dynasty. It's no accident that Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton and Aston Villa, the biggest and most successful clubs in English history are all homed in major cities while the likes of Coventry (whose Tesco experiment is an ominous precedent for the Blues), Leicester and Southampton, all of whom banked on new stadia transforming their fortunes, have sunk into the lower divisions.

 

Destination Kirkby may be under threat and Everton's part in the project may soon be over but far from sounding the death knell for the club, it offers an opportunity to re-evaluate the club's position with regard to either Goodison Park or relocating elsewhere. By exposing the precarious nature of the club's current financial situation under the current regime (rather than masking them as approval yesterday of Destination Kirkby arguably would have done), it may also hasten inward investment to Everton, either by way of a takeover, through capital investors or a rights issue.

 

Who doesn't prefer the idea of having a Blue in charge of Everton? Someone who understands the effect of a simple act like painting the pitch-side gravel blue or the pride-swelling impact had by the removal of the advertsing hoardings from the Bullens Road stannd that exposed the old Archibald Leitch criss-cross design that graces photographs of Goodison legends all the way back to William Dean?

 

Who doesn't fear the unknown of foreign ownership and the risks associated with unfamiliar hands on the tiller? But if Kirkby was the limit of the current Board's power then the proposal is better to have been killed off now — even with the apparent short-term risks it implies — rather than putting the club on what many fans believe would have been an irrevocable slide towards mediocrity and the slow death of everthing that makes Everton FC one of the world's greatest footballing institutions.

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it's just another article from KEOIC as far as I can see, I'm sure there are also excellent articles which were in support of the stadium. What I don't see AT ALL is this notion that we can redevelop Goodison - how? We would have to relocate to another stadium whilst it was done, meaning we would have to pay another club to use their stadium and miss out on the ticket revenue - costing millions. Then there is the cost of redeveloping itself, plus the limitations of the ground size and the fact that the land the stadium sits on is of little value. Also, mentioning the Kings Dock again is getting ludicrous, it was never ever going to get the green light from the government or the council. I mean, does anyone really think the local businesses/council wanted drunken football fans finishing at the match and walking through Liverpool One? does anyone think Liverpool city centre could have coped with an extra 50,000 people and the extra traffic on a saturday at 3pm? it would have been an amazing iconic stadium, but it was too good to be true, it was a pipe dream that would never have gotten off the ground. If it could have been a reality I'm sure Everton could have found the £30m. Don't get me wrong, like most Everton fans I wasn't 100% sure about Kirkby, but I trusted in Kenwright to do what was best for the club. One day we'll all know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I just can't wait for the day when the stadium issue is sorted once and for all.

 

I personally feel a lot of sympathy for Kenwright and just hope he leads Everton to a brighter future. I know some people have it in for him and downplay his achievements, but I still remember when he took over, how it had almost become an embarrassment to be an Everton fan, two seasons of surviving relegation on the last day, Liverpool fans with banners saying 'mission successful Agent Johnson' non-stop calamities on the pitch and rubbish managers. Kenwright and Moyes have changed the whole perception of Everton, certainly to the non-Everton fan but some fans have short memories. We've had a disastrous Summer (so far) but there is time to fix it and I for one hope Kenwright pulls some rabbits out of hats and shuts a few of the moaners up. Come on Bill!

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Actually Carl, that article was written by one of the people who own/run Toffeweb. I can't say wether or not he is involved with KEIOC but you won't find it on that website.

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Actually Carl, that article was written by one of the people who own/run Toffeweb. I can't say wether or not he is involved with KEIOC but you won't find it on that website.

yes I know it was on toffeeweb, but I've assumed (possibly unfairly) that he is pro KEIOC. Anyway, I think I'll just keep out of these stadium topics now, the fact is it's all been delayed again so we just have to sit and wait for developments! I'd fed up with the whole thing to be honest, I just hope this whole affair doesn't have a negative impact on the club.

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I just hope this whole affair doesn't have a negative impact on the club.

 

We're all with you there mate (I hope!) regardles of which side of the debate.

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I am not sure how you will all feel about this, whether pro move or anti move or whatever. But for me the whole business has left me feeling sadder and more despondent as time has gone on.

 

I just want an end of it all right now.

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yes I know it was on toffeeweb, but I've assumed (possibly unfairly) that he is pro KEIOC. Anyway, I think I'll just keep out of these stadium topics now, the fact is it's all been delayed again so we just have to sit and wait for developments! I'd fed up with the whole thing to be honest, I just hope this whole affair doesn't have a negative impact on the club.

 

He's nothing to do with KEIOC. He may be pro KEIOC I don't know but he has listed his reasons for not being in favour of moving to Kirkby all of which are solid.

 

Developments have been made today, Kenwright is meeting Liverpool City Council on Tuesday

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