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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The frequency of my ‘blogging’ is not what I would like which, being defensive, is not to say I’ve stopped talking to fans. Indeed in the last fortnight, I’ve met our Fans’ Forum group, representatives of our Shareholders’ Association, our London Supporters’ Club and the Rice Lane Supporters Club who kindly funded a charity lunch with proceeds going to the Everton Foundation.
Feedback from all of those meetings is very valuable and very welcomed. I re-counted the story of an interview I heard on the radio with the chief executive of a budget airline who moved his customer service operation directly outside his office. It was his way of finding out what they were doing well and, I’m sure, more relevantly, where they could improve. The layout of Goodison means this isn’t possible for me but the moral of the story isn’t lost. We only improve by listening and adapting.
The Auld Firm and the Premier League
Also in the past couple of weeks, I’ve attended what was grandly billed to be the Premier League meeting that shaped our Game’s future for years to come. It was to be the meeting that debated the so-called ‘Gartside Plan’ – a two-tier Premier League including the admission of the ‘Auld Firm’.
To be honest, the debate never got off the ground and the media hype proved, unsurprisingly, to be just that. The Premier League is in the midst of a review of a wide-ranging list of strategic option including the 39th game, two divisions, winter breaks, more teams or less teams etc.
Top consultants have been brought in to assess the value and feasibility of such changes and present findings to clubs some time in the new year. It will then be up to members to make the decisions.
Apparently, and confirmed to me by Sir Philip Carter, the ‘Celtic and Rangers issue’ has been on the table for decades.
My own superficial view was that introducing, arguably, two of the top ten fan bases in the world must add considerable value into our competition, but, and it was a major but, the politics of sport and regulation rendered the whole debate hypothetical.
When others began to doubt the commercial impact, the Auld Firm proposal began to crumble and the resolution to withdraw the idea was upheld by the room. It looks like it might be decades before the salvation (or death-knell) of Scottish football returns to the agenda.
Eight huge days
An hour or so’s drive into work allows plenty of time for reflection and this morning, along with many of late, saw most of that time occupied by thoughts on the stadium decision.
It also made me think about the significance of events coming up in the next week or so; a vitally important Premier League game with, after Marouane’s booking, another of our first team squad sidelined; the possible stadium announcement on Friday; Derby day on Sunday; and, a trip to Athens for an equally important fixture in the Europa League on Wednesday week.
Apologies for the cliché, but everyone knows Premier League is our ‘bread and butter’. It’s our benchmark on the field and it’s a key driver of earnings off-the-field. Premier League places are worth £800,000 each which is why Hull City and every game is important to us.
Derby day is of course, special, unique and a whole list of other superlatives. It’s so much more than ‘bread and butter’ and it’s a fixture that would stand out on any sporting calendar, any where in the world. Football is all about dreams, passion, emotion and identity and Derby day is when all of these qualities and emotions rise to the surface.
Sometimes, perhaps, they spill over and it’s disappointing for me to receive, the first working day after our visit to Old Trafford, a number of complaints from Evertonians about Evertonians.
Without jumping to hasty conclusions, the behaviour of some fans on Saturday appears to have been below the standards expected by the vast majority of fellow Evertonians. I hope the ‘hairs stand up’ on Sunday; I hope Goodison is ‘bouncing’ to the tune of 37,000 loud and passionate Evertonians; but, I also hope we know when to stop.
Our Athens trip is also ‘a big one’. As I’ve said in the past, the notion of the UEFA Cup or Europa League as a second-tier competition clubs can ‘take or leave’ is incomprehensible to everyone at Everton. We are all aware that winning trophies is the ‘raison d’etre’ of this football club and a European trophy is always extra special.
Our Europa campaign definitely ‘came off the rails’ against Benfica but I know there’s a real desire, in Athens, to put that right in front of, I’m sure another ‘army’ of Evertonians making the long flight to Greece.
The new stadium
Three big games and one big announcement! It appears certain from all sources that we should hear about Kirkby this week as it is the deadline set by the Secretary of State - a phone call, followed by an email, followed by a posting on the Department of Communities and Local Government website will announce the fate of our new stadium project.
Uncertainty has surrounded our planned move since the summer of 2008 and the intervention of central government after Knowsley Council had granted approval. Following our mobilisation of resources to attend the inquiry last November, it is disappointing to be waiting for a decision a year later. The debate on why we need to do something, why we can’t upgrade Goodison, why there aren’t any other affordable options and why Kirkby works for us has been churned over time and time again.
The Club’s position is as it has always been – our ability to compete at the top of the Premier League has to be sustained by filling a large, modern stadium and, as has been the case for well over a decade, the only viable and affordable option is Kirkby.
Accordingly, we believe a ‘yes’ decision is the right decision for Everton. A ‘yes’ will precipitate further discussions with our partners, firming up of the final pieces of the stadium specification and a focus on the funding of the new facility. Hard work, lots of challenges, plenty of excitement, new opportunities and, ultimately, a goal to be proud of.
The wait is nearly over; we will know if all of this is about to start very, very soon!
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