The views in these blogs are those held by the individual blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton Football Club.
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A Regional Vision
I spent yesterday morning, with about a hundred representatives of public and private sector organisations in the region, at the unveiling of the Northwest Development Agency's Draft Regional Strategy paper.
A variety of speakers presented a clear vision for the Liverpool City Region, tackling issues such as the low carbon economy, economic regeneration and how we might release the latent talent in the local population. In addition, within the strategy was the pressing need for provision of appropriate housing for the residents of the region.
I couldn't help but think of the land we own, at Bellefield, three or four miles from the city centre, near to some very good schools, close to the M62 and twenty minutes from John Lennon Airport, so hopefully, part of that essential housing provision in the not too distant future?
The closing remarks resonated even more; a summary which referred to the need for private sector stimulus to lead the region into greater economic and social prosperity.
The rejection of 3,000 jobs and almost £½billion of private sector money in Kirkby seemed to fly in the face of this need. My own conclusions are that a joined-up strategy for our wider community is well and good but it can only work when we can think and operate regionally rather than locally. Not something, in my view, Everton has experienced in recent years.
A Community Asset to be Cherished
After a series of presentations, we were asked to identify the region's assets and football featured high on the agenda. Predictably, the draft paper identified two major clubs in the northwest - no surprise there - and a reminder, if we needed it, of some of the challenges we face. However, on the positives, the report and those attending recognised the power of football and the value created for the region in profile and hard economics. Perhaps it's time this value was rewarded?
I occasionally present to business groups and students on football strategy, finance and future prospects and start that presentation with a summary of what football's all about; where this unique value is created.
In my view, there are four, powerful ‘forces' at the heart of all our clubs. Firstly, clubs provide identity - our clubs represent our own, personal values and provide a ‘badge' we're proud to wear; secondly, they offer a sense of belonging - like-minded people all part of the same ‘clan'; thirdly, clubs offer an outlet for emotion - someone said to me many years ago, where else, in our conservative (northern?) society, can a father kiss his son? And, finally; hope and dreams - the belief that one day our club will be the best in the land.
These are all pretty powerful attributes and when I look back on this list and search for ‘normal' business ‘forces' and motives, they're not there. No other business can talk in these terms, confirming, in my view, that we are genuinely a ‘community asset', owned by the world-wide family of Evertonians, the vast majority of whom live in the Liverpool City Region.
Of course, this isn't true in a legal sense and, what's the real point I'm making? The point is, all of these factors make football highly attractive to commercial partners who want to attach themselves to these qualities, but, in addition, such attributes provide a legitimate and worthy investment for the public ‘purse'. No public authority should feel any embarrassment supporting such a community-serving business.
As has been widely reported, talks have kicked-off with the City Council to review potential new stadium sites and explore how the Council can assist the Club in finding an economic solution to our stadium challenge.
There are many examples of Council-led or partnered stadium developments in football over the course of the past decade and we hope, between us, we can create a scheme which, in the first instances passes our basic test of ‘affordability' and, ultimately, becomes a reality. To date, several sites have been identified. All are familiar to us and all had been assessed previously but this doesn't mean we'll come to the same conclusions as circumstances change. The economy, in all respects, changes from day-to-day and we have to refresh our conclusions and look for new opportunities. I hope we are able to report progress in the near future.
In addition to these meetings, we've met with developers and land-owners and we've also commissioned a fresh look at Goodison Park with a highly-recommended architect who had no involvement in Kirkby or our previous reviews of Goodison.
He's currently looking at previous plans alongside developing his own ideas. Of course, the well-reported challenges remain; roads, shops, houses, a school, a church, a pub, a garage most of which will need to be addressed in one way or another for us to go forward in a way that makes commercial sense. In short, the challenges of working with a stadium footprint housing 50% more fans than The Reebok, in pretty much the same space remain.
Back to the Real Stuff
Enough on ‘strategies and stadia', on to the real issue this week, Saturday lunchtime at Anfield. I don't know about you but I don't sense nerves, don't sense caution. Two weeks ago we totally dominated the richest club in the world and I sense anticipation. I sense confidence. The Sky Sports' Derby Day trailer's just been on and I can't wait!
The February fixture list is one to relish - Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs, plus of course, the eagerly awaited next round of the Europa League against Sporting Lisbon. The good news is we approach six huge games, in 28 days, in great form and pretty good health. And it's not just returning players raising the bar for inclusion in David's first eleven.
The January window saw us add two more internationals, Landon Donovan and Philippe Senderos, both set for World Cup appearances, to the squad. We also did some ‘good business' on Lucas Neill and Jo, the latter, of course, never really managed to settle in the Premier League.
As has been widely reported, the transfer window was very quiet. It seems clear to me that there are probably only two or three clubs with significant buying power, and that probably extends across the whole of Europe, and, if these clubs don't inject transfer cash into the market, which then spreads out via the selling clubs, then there is very limited ability amongst almost every club to do business outside the loan market. All of which leads into a debate on the financial health of the game? Fortunately for me, and maybe you, one I'll save for another day!
One final note, the Sporting Lisbon kick off time. It is, as you will know and much to our dismay, 5.45pm. It does mean an early finish or an afternoon off work, so for many of us it's a ‘big ask'. However, being positive, it's school half-term so maybe a good chance to bring the kids?
As has already been reported, we didn't take it lying down. We challenged and we looked for compromises but in the end we got what we were given. Getting to Goodison will also be tough with the usual glut of road works and disruption and I don't need to ask you to buy in advance and get down early. Please do! European nights are special and your support will make all the difference.
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