I wonder if it is something in the water in Liverpool, or some sort of genetic inability to get things right, or maybe they are just careless, but however you look at it, Everton is a downright and absolute mess.
On 21 January 2009 I reported (as did some other people) that Liverpool Council had rejected Everton’s appeal against the rejection of their plan to turn their training ground into flats.
What was interesting was that the whole fiasco cost Everton £10m in fees and consultants. What was bizarre was that the Everton board then launched an incredible attack on on the democratically elected officials of the council, saying how wrong it was that a few people should decide what the club could do. Presumably a fascist dictatorship was more in keeping in style, standards and approach that apply on Merseyside.
Or maybe it was they wanted the money to help pay for the £78m new ground in Kirkby.
When the fiasco unraveled the club said that the new ground development with Tesco would not be affected by the decision on the training ground sale, although “it would probably cost the council money as they would have to put up more to pay for the new ground.”
Now I can’t find the source of that quote, and maybe it is just something lodged in my computer, but I am sure someone at the club said something like that. And that is rather stupid, when you are still dependent on support from everyone for planning permission for your new ground.
So in January the planning inquiry into the new out of town ground carried on, and was at the time expected to be resolved in a few weeks. That was January.
Undoubtedly there will be members of Everton who will again blame a tiny group of busybodies for turning down the application for the new ground. But the fact is that Liverpool Council never wanted Everton to move to Kirkby, and the way Everton spoke about the council after the training ground rejection just hardened attitudes.
Everton, in short, is a masterclass in how not to handle local politics. Chief Executive of Everton last January Robert Elstone said, ‘The truly disappointing aspect of this is that the politicians who run this city went against the recommendations of the Council’s own planning experts.
‘In such circumstances you have to ask, why is that? What is the point in employing experienced and learned experts if you are simply going to ignore their advice?”
Quite what one says to someone whose knowledge of how our democratic system of local government works is so utterly lacking that he can even ask a question like that I don’t know. The fact is that in the UK we are not a meritocracy ruled by experts. We are a democracy ruled by the people elected by the people. Neo-fascists might not like the idea and might like to return to the ideas of 1910 wherein (as you will know if you have read MAKING THE ARSENAL) the plan was put forward to sterilise the poor. Experts, the knowledgeable, the clever, decide what is good for the rest of us.
Thankfully Everton FC don’t run our country.
Everton wanted to sell their old training ground and build 74 houses on the site, despite objections from local residents. Despite planning department approval, that scheme was rejected by Liverpool council’s planning committee last year. On appeal Everton’s plans were rejected by government planning inspector Karen Ridge, on ‘the principle of residential development on the site’.
Unfortunately Everton had already moved to their new Finch Farm training complex in Halewood last year, and so the site is useless, and a part of the Everton debt is due to the fiasco.
So, no new training ground, and today no new stadium. A history of total opposition to normal democratic procedures, and today, a new idea – they asked the council to cough up more money to build a new shared stadium with Liverpool.
Everton are £37m in debt. Nothing compared with their neighbour’s £360m debt, but it is a debt with no way of it being paid off at all.
Each year it gets worse, except in 2005 when they sold Rooney. In 2008 they tried to buy themselves out of debt by borrowings to “invest in the playing squad”. As we can see that has worked very well with the club playing in the Champions League…. oh.
£23m of the debt will not be required to be paid for five years, but there is no future in the club at all as it stands. And in five years….
The point of this article – stimulated obviously by the news about the rejection of the stadium, is that as matters stand, Everton is one of many clubs that has no future at all in any normal commercial sense.
That would give an extra £10m a year. Now supposing not only that the ground fills up for each game (and remember that Manchester United tickets just down the road are now on general sale for most games) but also supposing that Everton don’t have to pay for the ground, because it is paid for by Tesco, naming rights and the sale of their existing ground, then that would just about remove the current debt, and give them extra revenue.
But these are huge IFs. A bad run in the league could see the ground half empty. Building costs might rise. And one must have a suspicion about this naming rights stuff. Tottenham are supposedly paying for around half of their ground out of naming rights. Is this money really going to be there?
And much depends what they could sell Goodison for. Their record on planning permissions is, thus far, not good.
My point here is twofold. One is, there is actually no way out short of another rich person buying the club – and since half the EPL and 80% of the second division are up for sale, that seems to be unlikely. The way Portsmouth found themselves bought by two Arabs who between them seemed to struggle to find 50p for the meter, and the way that neighbours Liverpool have owners who simply can’t work out how to pay for anything, shows that this is not an easy area.
In effect, Liverpool and Everton are loss making enterprises with no way of doing anything other than making more losses. As such they are not viable businesses, and are on the road to terminal decline.
But contrast for a moment the way in which Arsenal got the Ems built. On time, on budget, the only thing that went wrong was that the recession came along and cut some of the budget from the redevelopment of Highbury and of the industrial units nearby. Such organisation and planning seems utterly beyond the abilities of Everton.
But maybe they should start by learning a little about local democracy.
MAKING THE ARSENAL by Tony Attwood is available via www.emiratesstadium.info and via Amazon.
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