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Moving Forward

Robert Elstone, 30th September 2008 - 15:01

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Robert Elstone

Robert Elstone

Posts: 39

Robert is Everton's Chief Executive.

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If there's one consolation about losing a Merseyside derby it is knowing we can put it behind us with a good result in Europe.

Looking forward is now the focus of the Club and, just like the team at Finch Farm, we cannot afford to feel sorry for ourselves for too long.

A trip to Belgium and a big game next Sunday against Newcastle are fast approaching and hugely important. Hopefully, we’ll have Tim Cahill available for the Newcastle game as the manager and the Club have chosen to lodge an appeal against his red card. 

We all know that we are yet to  win at home and it would provide a huge lift to everyone if that wait comes to an end against Newcastle on Sunday. 

The lads need your support more than ever so try to make it!

Away from home, however, we have been performing well. Indeed, all our league points have come away from Goodison so far this term, with the most recent outing being the trip to Hull City. 

Hull was an interesting experience for me, personally, as I talk to fans and interested parties about the ground move.

I lived in Hull for three years and turning that corner in the road and seeing the Humber Bridge brought back some great personal memories  but also illustrated the importance of progress. 

I drove into town past a sadly decaying Boothferry Park and one of my regular haunts, the Boulevard – former home of Hull FC Rugby League team. 

The ‘Threepenny Stand’ certainly used to ‘bounce’ in the early Eighties but as any one who was there will agree, so did the KC Stadium when we visited last week. Along with some investment in the City and some good management, the stadium has certainly transformed the sporting fortunes of the City.

I couldn’t help imaging something twice as big, full of Evertonians.

The proposed new Kirkby stadium will be double the size of the KC and many more times noisier.

As I expected, stadium issues are taking an ever-increasing amount of my working week.  Preparation for November’s Public Inquiry are in full flow.  The Club is preparing a pack of evidence a couple of inches thick, which includes our reasons for moving, the commercial constraints of Goodison Park, the regeneration benefits we will bring to Kirkby and our legacy plans for L4 and beyond.

We have pages and pages to write in the space of three weeks.  

We’re also following up on our General Meeting promises to consult with fans. 

Our Transport Working Group plans are about to be released – we’re in the process of selecting representative groups based on frequency of attending, distance from Goodison and current mode of transport.

We have also met with KEOIC to allow them the opportunity to present, probably for the first time on a face-to face basis, their plans for Goodison and other sites. 

My view of what was a lengthy, open and honest meeting is that there remains no answer as to how we might pay for an expensive and time consuming re-development of Goodison nor is there any sign of private or public sector financial support for any other project within the City. 

The General Meeting set out a series of stadium criteria and affordability is top of that list.  To my knowledge and to our expert team’s knowledge, other than Kirkby, there is nothing remotely affordable on the table. 

A word about my fantastic colleagues on the staff here at the Club. I’m mindful to spare a thought for our ticket office, communications and marketing teams, caterers, hospitality team, safety and stadium team – everybody, I guess! 

All our staff have the good fortune to work for Everton Football Club but it does mean long hours beyond many ‘regular’ jobs. Hosting, promoting, selling, previewing and reporting on two games per week, week-in, week-out is an incredible workload.  They do it exceptionally well.

The Ticket Office has copped for some flak recently allocating insufficient Standard Liege tickets to the thousands of fans wanting to support the team in Belgium. 

Our aim at the start of the allocation process is to be fair. What’s fair isn’t as straightforward as it might sound but we try to reward our most loyal fans – and season ticket holders who travel away on a regular basis are top of that list. 

But, besides the away travelling season ticket holder consider the following list of legitimate ticket claimants - the man who can’t afford a season ticket and buys match by match but never misses, the Dixie Dean member – an Evertonian who spends £25,000 per year bringing his family to Goodison, the shareholder who owns a stake in the Club, the sponsor who’s business is putting hundreds of thousands of pounds into the Club, the player’s family who want to watch him play in Europe, Everton staff who work 60+ hours per week for the Club, supporters’ clubs who organise fans and travel the country watching us. All of these groups, and probably others, have a strong claim on tickets. 

On balance, and in the face of a ‘no-win’ task, I think we’re fair.

Finally, my highlight of the past few days was two hours away from the desk watching the Arts2U/John Keith, Dixie Dean play. Congratulations to everyone involved in bringing it to life.

I had the privilege of sitting next to Lena Roberts, who I’ve met on two or three previous occasions.  Lena’s 95-years-old, a great Evertonian, a lovely lady and, incredibly, as I watched the footage from what seems like ‘another world’, I noted Lena’s only six years younger than Dixie – and probably there, somewhere, in the famous old pictures. 

Along with about 150 school children, I thoroughly enjoyed an inspiring and emotional play. Proud to be blue!

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