On Bramley Moore Dock and the Everton Stadium project, the biggest and single most important project the club has embarked upon since the move from Anfield to Goodison way back in 1892.
Last season is well behind us, we’ve had a bit of a boardroom shuffle, appointed a new Director of Football and a new, young manager. Season ticket sales are at record levels, corporate and hospitality packages are fully booked, Goodison will be packed to the rafters every game next season.
Now as we approach the middle of the year, the World Cup just a few days away, and aside from the eternal and always lively debate over players transfers both into and out of Everton Football Club, the burning question all Blues want some information and answers about is Bramley Moore Dock and the new stadium project.
Back in April, Dan Meis the American architect the club have entrusted with drawing up plans and designs for the new stadium, travelled over and happily conducted a series of ‘workshops’ with groups of fans in St.Lukes Church – the object being to explain some of the thinking he’s put into his designs within the constraints of the site, and to hear straight from the horses mouths what a selection of the fan base would like to see incorporated into the clubs new home.
Meis understandably was unable to show even any outline drawings or imagery, but he did go to great lengths to explain some of features he’s keen to include and why. The vast majority of the fans who attended the workshops left enthused and hopeful that imagery would soon be released and that the future for BMD was as rosy as we’ve been led to believe it would be.
An ‘iconic stadium’, a ‘state-of-the-art’ stadium, a ‘career defining project’ have been just three of the statements made about BMD, the new home for the senior club in the city and due to adorn the banks of the Royal Bue Mersey in time for season 2022/23.
At the clubs Annual General Meeting back in January, Mayor Joe Anderson addressed the assembled shareholders to outline a funding facility that the City Council were willing to broker for the club, to the tune of £280 million over a 25-year period with the council earning £7 million a year over that period from club to boost their budgetary requirements to support services in the area.
And now here we are in June and to put it bluntly we’ve heard the sum total of diddly-squat from the club since either the AGM or the Dan Meis visit.
The boardroom re-alignment following the departure of former Robert Elstone to Rugby League has seen Denise Barrett-Baxendale take over as CEO and perhaps more importantly where BMD is concerned, Keith Harris elevated to the position of Deputy Chairman.
With previous experience of stadium development projects having been involved with the re-build of Wembley, it’s no real surprise that he has taken on responsibility for the new stadium. Indeed, in his bio page on the official club website, Dr. Harris clearly states…
“The opportunity we have at Bramley Moore Dock is potentially one of the most significant in the Club’s history. Through my previous involvement in Wembley, I understand both the opportunities and the complexities in delivering a new stadium. While we still have some significant hurdles to overcome, we’re all fully committed to making this happen as quickly and efficiently as we possibly can.”
On the face of it, these are encouraging and positive words from him, but when are we going to hear something, anything of any real substance from either him or the major shareholder, Farhad Moshiri ?
The clock for 2022/23 is running and five months on from the AGM and Mayor Anderson outlining a scheme for over half of the expected £450-500 million total costs of BMD, we are still none the wiser on how and when the club will confirm their portion of the funding.
Now it’s fair to suggest that the club are not honour bound to explain in any specific detail the hows and wherefores of how the the stadium will be financed, but a simple, “Yes, all is in hand. The funding has been secured and we’re moving ahead with plans, designs and planning permission applications at full speed,” would be nice to hear.
An unveiling and revealing of the concept designs would be the cherry on the cake right now… if there was a cake on the table.
In a March 29th edition of the Everton Business Matters podcast –
https://www.theblueroomefc.com/2018/03/everton-business-matters-episode-23-mayor-joe-anderson/ – Mayor Anderson expressed a view that it could be June or July before funding might be agreed and finalised but somewhat worryingly, speaking on the All Together Now podcast – https://soundcloud.com/gregok/the-joe-anderson-interview – just this past week, he suggested that the financial package outlined by the city council might actually not be taken up by the club.
Mayor Anderson suggested it may be that the club are investigating a total funding package that excludes the council and naturally, if that is the case, he will be disappointed as it would mean the ‘loss’ of the £7 million a year for 25 years that the club would have repaid over and above the statutory repayment structure.
He also expressed that whilst he feels completion in time for the 2022/23 season was achievable, things need to get moving in order to avoid having to put the completion date back, potentially by twelve months.
There are two major issues of concern for the majority of the Everton fan base – the first team and the new stadium.
Marcel Brands and Marco Silva have a huge job on their hands in evaluating and thinning the current first team squad in order to reduce the top-heavy wage bill, and devising and implementing a new coaching and tactical regime to make the football played more attractive and competitive. Most of the fan base are fully aware of these issues and both Brands and Silva will enjoy a substantial ‘honeymoon’ period while they work to correct the wrongs they’ve inherited.
Whilst they’ll be given time and grace, it might not be quite so comfortable a ride for the board of directors over the stadium project. There’s no doubt that the investment climate looks less favourable that it did twelve months ago.
We have the situation in Russia (even if tenuous), Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich delaying the Stamford Bridge redevelopment project, the issues surrounding Aston Villa highlighting the very real problems of relegation and even some uncertainty around Richard Scudamore leaving his position as Executive Chair of the Premier League.
Even with all these issues, we’ve heard so little of any real consequence from the club over BMD, it’s somewhat inevitable and natural that alarm bells are slowly beginning to ring… in this climate of uncertainty, we require re-assurance from our club hierarchy.
Everton cannot afford to get this project wrong. Much as we all love Goodison, the Grand Old Lady has served her purpose and the need for a move is now beyond any doubt – the season ticket sales numbers and size of the waiting list alone tell everybody that there is a demand the club and current stadium can no longer meet.
However the statements have been made, we’re all looking forward to that ‘iconic’, ‘state-of-the-art’, ‘career defining’ stadium on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey – a stadium with as big a capacity as possible to befit the senior club in the city.
We’ve been here before with the Kings Dock, Destination Kirkby and the barely even on the drawing board Walton Hall Park episodes… so please Everton, give us some news and not just meaningless platitudes.
We’re grown up people, some of us more grown up than others and we all want to see football played and blue-ribboned trophies paraded again before we shuffle off this mortal coil.
So Everton, the least, the very very least you can do is put an end to the deafening silence and give us some tangible information… we do not want opposition fans in the Bullens Road, particularly those of the other local parish, singing in our direction, “oh, it’s all gone quiet over there.”