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Docks for Everton

Ian MacDonald of the Everton Independent Supporters Association speaks out about the current options facing Everton as they are effectively barred from redeveloping Goodison Park

 

 A NEW CAMPAIGN FOR OUR FUTURE

 
Ian MacDonald has had an opportunity to review the options now facing the Everton Board of Directors as they consider the future home for our club: 
  • Goodison Park revamped?  
  • Or a brand new stadium on a brand new site?  

Here he provides a personal summary of the situation, and comes down firmly in favour of moving to the unique King's Dock site – and doing it NOW!

 

 THE TIME IS RIGHT

 
Recent events at Everton regarding the future of Goodison Park would suggest that we have no option but to move from our home of the past 108 years.  It will be a sad wrench but one born out of necessity if we are to aspire to greater things and not be left behind in the ever-moving football world. 

Those who stand still and do nothing or tread water will flounder.  Harsh words but true.  Now that the shackles of PJ have gone, great strides have been made behind the scenes by the vibrant new Board of Everton FC.  You must remember that it is still only five moths since they dragged our club back from the brink of disaster (and the baggage of the past few years' decline and inertia).  I will always be indebted to these people who are 'true blues'. 

Our credo is still I hope Nothing but the Best so we have to think what is the best for the future of Everton.  There is a team in place now off the field that I hope can deliver the future of Everton the way we would want it.  There are no safer hands than those of an Evertonian on this most important chapter in our illustrious history.  

Yes, it is that important.  

This decision will dictate where we will be in football and at what level for the rest of our lives.  Excuse me if I am wrong but as a simple layman when it comes to politics, it would appear that when the reds ask the council for anything, the council seem to reply "how quickly do you want it? " but when Everton want anything, it's "simply impossible – it cannot be done".  To an Evertonian, it appears that with the present council they lay more minefields down than in Vietnam where Everton are concerned. 

So, all-in-all it appears we cannot stay at Goodison – if we want to increase our capacity to at least 55,000, the re-development plans will not be accepted.  So what is the best for Everton?  If we can't stay at our present home, let's identify the sites that could provide the new home for our "family" – as Bill would put it.

GILMOSS 

This was wildly perceived as the new 'Johnson World' when the move from Goodison was first muted.  Direct links to the M57 and land to work on without too much disruption.  The only people it might upset is the local golfing club.  Residential areas are not too close to create other objections.  Objections to any new site must be dealt with sympathetically – never forget the fact that our support predominately comes from such site's surrounds. 

SEWAGE FARM 

The title say's it all – a definite non-starter in my mind and that of any self-respecting Evertonian.  We have seen enough shite over the last few years without sitting on it in a new stand!  To get rid of the stigma alone would cost millions that could be spent elsewhere.

BOOTLE (Switch Island) 

Has the same qualities as Gilmoss with the M58 also running next to it and the main route to Southport and Ormskirk.  Also the main link to the docks and not too far from Old Roan train station.

THE ROCKET AREA 

Again, situated at the end of the main motorway running into Liverpool (I hate using this word).  A lot more residential sites surrounding it.  Objections could prove costly in time.  Main railway routes also adjacent.  Transport on any match day or night could prove a nightmare.  I imagine the land to be more expensive than any of the above.

EDGE LANE 

Very much as the above.  The Littlewoods site will come under scrutiny I imagine.  The area does need a lot of regeneration – maybe a football stadium would not look quite right in this location.

CRONTON, GARSTON and SPEKE 

All no-no's.  We may as well ground share with Bolton or Man Utd as alienate our fans by moving that far out.  You would have to ask yourself what type of fan do you want to attract.  The main fan base from the city would see these sites as a "we don't want you" proclamation.  

We must surely learn from the drawbacks of other new stadia.  Bolton have nearly halved their attendances since the new ground was situated in Horwich.  Not just because they are no longer a Premier League outfit but because of the site having no rail link or surrounding watering holes.  As one Bolton fan said, it has become a chore to watch 'the Trotters'.  You would have to be a non- drinker and have the patience of 'Job', waiting in traffic jams all the time.  From my own experience of the 'Reebok' stadium, it is a nightmare to get out of the car parks... Nice leg room inside the stadium, though 

So, if none of the above takes your fancy, where else could we go with the blessing of the local council?  It's not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket – there has to be a Plan 'B'.  But I would like to put a whole egg farm in the King's Dock area. Why? – you may well ask... well, let's take a closer look. 

THE KING'S DOCK AREA 

We don't have pots of money, but we could make pots of money with the Right location. McDonalds, when giving out franchises, ask three things (apart from the money!) LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  There has never been a McDonald's gone bust (except in Germany where an autobahn was re-routed). 

The King's Dock has got to be the prime location in the whole of Merseyside.  A site that will undoubtedly be sought by many.  Any interested parties will come tumbling off the fence and want the site once we take a firm interest, hopefully.  It's situated on the waterfront of a city with international fame – a brand name not fully developed yet but taking giant strides to do so in the last five years. 

The King's Dock is next to the Albert Dock which houses such attractions as the Tate Gallery and the Beatle Museum to name but two.  The whole area is being developed – from home developments to Government buildings.  Plans for new hotels and a new casino to accommodate the increasing tourism industry are submitted.  

We could create a silhouette on the waterfront skyline to be the envy of all our competitors.  Imagine what a postcard would look like sent from Liverpool with our new stadium looking as proud as a peacock against all our other famous building's.  It truly could be awesome in appearance. 

Liverpool docks was the biggest dockland area in the 19th century.  With geographical changes in shipping routes and commerce came the progressive decline of the last century.  Not any more, our heritage is being re-born with tourism the main benefactor.  So let's have the tourists spend some time and money at our new home.  Spend the weekend with Everton and city of Liverpool with all it has to offer. 

The footprint of the land we could acquire is bigger than Wembley with ample parking space in surrounding areas. As this photo-montage shows, a stadium the size of Old Trafford will fit quite nicely in the Kings Dock location, with plenty of space to spare.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE? 

Drive, ambition, a dream, and co-operation of the council (and lot's of money).  We have to grasp the nettle and move quickly on the most important decision in the club's history.  It's that clear.  

We have to gamble to a degree on certain things, such as the council willingness to approve our plans and create an interest amongst our fans and the local economy.  If the council will not help us at Goodison then there had better be a damn good reason for them putting any minefields before us on Everton King's Dock project – we are after all the city's senior team.  

We have to secure an option on the site first and foremost.  The area is – as far as I know – owned by the English Partnership and no confirmed interest has been seen according to the land registry.  

FUNDING 

The area is ripe for funding – not just from the local council coffer's which I bet, as far as Everton are concerned, will be near empty (prove me wrong please!) but from European funding: Objective One.  

This city is perceived by some as a third-world habitation, am English version of Kosovo; I want some of that money before the well runs dry.  Lottery, Art and Sport 's council funding all need to be explored.  And of course our loyal fans, look to them for owning something tangible.  At Sunderland fans could buy a brick with their name on.  I know some fans would buy a wall to get Everton back to where they belong. 

The new stadium should be designed to be used seven days a week.  Not just for match days but every conceivable thing that will earn the club money, endorse the brand name and become a integral part of the city's economy.  We don't want tackiness but a stadium that we can all be proud of.  

Liverpool is perceived by many is as the birthplace of modern music.  It is where the Beatles were born.  I imagine most major artists would want to play in Liverpool, given a venue suitable.  But the  logistics and financing currently make it impossible for International acts to come and perform before large numbers.  Merseyside has a lot of boxing fans but they can't see world title fights live.  Our own Shay Neary, a good Blue, can't even stage a fight in his hometown! 

Merseyside people are fed up of travelling to Manchester, Birmingham or London to see top acts.  The Weekend with Everton experience could include taking in an act or show one day, and watching a game the following day, or vice-versa.

DESIGN 

As this is such a important venture – not just for Everton but for Merseyside – I would create a competition for all the world's leading architects. With such a location and the prestige that would come from it, I don't think we would be short of takers.  It would be quite a feather in your cap if you designed our stadium.  Great on your rιsumι.  

The Guggenheim Museum at Bilbαo in Spain came about from such competition.  The American architect Paul Gehry won the design for this now world-renowned museum – also built on the waterfront. It is spectacular, as it is important to the surrounding concourse. 1.3 million visitor's in the first year of it's opening putting Bilbαo on the map.  

Cardiff's Millennium Stadium looks great, as does the new Ajax stadium.  A stadium worthy of our traditions, so tarnished these last few years, is what we should aspire to.  One negative aspect mooted was that we would only be able to have three working sides.  Well, I don't agree.  Given that Everton draw a lot of support from the Wirral and North Wales, it would be great for our fans to park their transport at Tranmere or Birkenhead and take a 10- minute ferry across the Mersey to the best landing stage in the world – the riverside entrance to our new stadium. What a view they would have from the ferryboats as they approached our new home. 

Stands could be named after our great servant's, Dixie, Young, Catterick, Kendall or Sir John.  The Moores family could be forever sanctified (give us some money, please!) – imagine: 'The Sir John Moores Boulevard'.... 

It does irk me some regarding the Moores involvement with our club presently.  The family does a lot for the educational institutes but in my mind there is no bigger institute on Merseyside than Everton FC. 

TRANSPORT 

As previously mentioned, we could utilise the ferry system one side.  Access to the main concourse could be provided by varying methods.  The council should explore the possibility of a railway station close by.  A new direct line from Speke – from the airport, anyway.  The airport now has such a huge new demand that more than a million customers each year pass through its gates; new extensions are underway to cope. 

It is also common knowledge that a link way from the M62 to the City Centre is needed.  Tramway links also need to be explored and even an overhead railway network.  All the main bus routes converge not far away.  Most games will take place more and more on Sunday's, decreasing congestion.  An overhaul of the transport network is long overdue given the growth of tourism and the City Centre re-vamping.

The new Everton board strikes me as wanting what we want; that is, ultimately, a successful team – on and off the field.  They both go hand in hand.  Having met the new board, I feel more confident than ever before of them getting it right.  They appear both visionary and motivated.  There is a team in place at board-level that I hope can deliver our dreams and aspirations.  We all will help, given the chance to realise our dreams.  The common factor of new stadiums (except Bolton) is an increase in attendance.  If we take on board all the good things from the new stadia and put them in a melting pot, we must get a recipe for success.  Our fans deserve it and want it.

But with some decisions, you can't please everyone.  At Sunderland, in the beginning, the fans were fiercely against moving from Roker Park.  But look at them now; pleased as punch with their new ground!  An extension already has been added giving them a new capacity of 48,000.  At Man City, there has been no dialogue on the ground move to the new Commonwealth stadium, they are just going.

FOOTNOTE 

If and when we go from Goodison, a lot of thought has to be put into what we leave behind – the ashes of our fellow fans in particular.  And what will come of Goodison itself?  Over a hundred years of history cannot be allowed to fade unnoticed.  It MUST NOT be allowed to become a car park for the Reds!  

I know Bill still wants a mandate from the fans.  It will be difficult to organise and may still seem flawed to some.  Remember the last vote to move at the Chelsea match in 1996, right at the death of the season.  'Rigged' came the cry but, to be fair, there was always an undercurrent of mistrust with that vote because of who organised it. 

There can be no repeat this time of 'hidden agenda's' with the current owner's.  The time is coming soon to get a grip of this emotional debate once and for all.  Whatever path we choose to go down,  it will take a minimum of three years to bear fruition.  Let's make a decision very soon.  Get off the fence each and every Evertonian and put this matter to bed.  It is a matter of urgency if we want to be at the races.

IT'S MOSES' TIME, BILL, LEAD US INTO THE PROMISED LAND!

Any constructive ideas out there?

Yours thankfully 

Ian Macdonald

Everton Independent Supporters Association

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