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Future Vision

Robert Elstone, 3rd February 2010 - 16:58

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Robert Elstone

Robert Elstone

Posts: 38

Robert is Everton's Chief Executive.

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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.

Where Next?

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.

Latest Blogs by Robert Elstone

Stephen EvansJohn Jarvis I thank you for your response but I am not fortunate enough to live in the city of Liverpool and do not benefit from regular updates through the local press. All I see is this website and the national papers. I have been on many football grounds watching the blues over 40+ years and always have the Blues in my heart and soul. I wish the CEO every success but still feel he needs to keep the fans updated more regularly

Sunday 23rd May 23:46 Report Comment

Steve DaulbyVery well put Mr Elstone. Some very good comments. Lets get the 3 points tomorrow and a new stadium sorted asap. Thanks for your's; the Boards and team's hard work. It ireally is appreciated. Keep it up!

Friday 5th February 13:25 Report Comment

john jarvisStephen Evans you are obviously the one who is not in touch. You say mr Elstone has been anonymous for such a long time , yet he has constantly kept us upto date and spoken with us since he took over maybe you have the answer to bringing in new investment unlike every other chairman or CEO in the country and yes the club will still be around when Robert has gone and for that he should be aplauded, maybe you you should think about what you say before you critisise in future and give some support to this great club instead of knocking all the time.

Friday 5th February 12:54 Report Comment

Patricia ShacklockGood to see that we are thinking of alternatives for the ground.Surely now the Council will see that we are making every effort to stay in the city, we now need them to support this and agree to the ground options and the plans for Bellefield to support this.C'mon Council there are two teams in this City.

Friday 5th February 12:52 Report Comment

Mike WilliamsOf course the club will still be around when the C.E.O moves on, it will also still be around when David Moyes moves on; the community that is Everton will endure. In the mean time let's stop the whingeing get behind those entrusted with the club's stewardship and offer greater and more insightful comment than 'where's the money' etc. We need the club to be run on a business like basis where it manages, as far as is possible, to maintain its cost base at or below the revenue it generates. Large scale debts allied with a hardening of attitudes from financiers would be a greater threat to this (or any) football club. The reality is that we need to generate the income organically not be handed it from dubious sources that have a reckless appetite for risk. Our best source of organic growth is a stadium that is fit-for-purpose and can easily be put to non-footballing use when matches are not scheduled. However this will need investment from more than just the football club in the supporting infrastructure, hence my previous comments about the City Council and perhaps Regional Development Agencies giving proper commitment.

Friday 5th February 11:37 Report Comment

Stephen EvansI am suprised to see so much thank you kind sir and doffing of hats, whilst this is a refreshing article and goes someway to addressing the fact that the man has been anonymous for such a long time it does not convince me of the mans commitment to the greatest football club in the world. I would like to see him bringing in new investment to the club or being as up front as he seems to want to be more often. No confidence in the man. Thankfully Everton will still be around when he finds another job.

Friday 5th February 00:21 Report Comment

gary johnsExcellent Blog, great to see the CEO is in touch with the feeling of the club, lets hope that city council puts the effort in to work with our great club to find a much needed new home.

Thursday 4th February 23:09 Report Comment

Gary EvansRobert, another very interesting and informative blog. As Deputy Head of one of the 'very good' schools near to Bellefield (and about to relocate to brand new premises!) may I extend an invitation to you to come and visit to share your vision. Keep up the good work!

Thursday 4th February 22:04 Report Comment

Mikel ArreguiFirst, let me tell you that I really apreciate this effort of yours very much, Mr Elstone. I'd say it's something really unexpected to see the CEO of a great proffesional team sharing all this information with the supporters, it's one of these so typical Everton details I love so much. They are the kind of small details that make me feel really blessed that the first english football match I saw on the telly was an Everton one at Goodison. They weren't faring very well back then but I fell in love with the most amazing football fans & pitch I had ever seen. When I finally was able to go to Goodison I was overwhelmed by the amazing atmosphere, the history, tradition... really everything about Goodison Park. So I welcome the news of the possibility of developing it instead of going to a new site. If we finally have to go It'll be OK, but I hope if that happens it'll be beacuse any possibility about developing Goodison is not possible. Again, thank you all of you Evertonians who make this club the greatest one in the world!

Thursday 4th February 21:36 Report Comment

Jack Reynoldseverton should stay at goodison it just wouldnt feel the same without godison as evertons home

Thursday 4th February 19:21 Report Comment

David Birchgood to see a CEO who wants to engage with the fans just as much as the big business people, just hope you can deliver for our club.

Thursday 4th February 16:44 Report Comment

colin dolmanGIVE GOODISON A NEW LOOK AND STOP WHERE WE R WE ALL LOVE GOODISON SO I SAY LETS STAY PUT : )

Thursday 4th February 16:40 Report Comment

Mark ReidRobert its good that you're trying to get the fans onside for any future stadium renovation. You need the fans, and we need someone to lead the club in either redeveloping the club's stadium or building a new one close to the club's heart. You should know that if the club asked the fans for direct help in this - many would dig deep to help direct for this. Its good to know you're seriously considering the alternatives in the city really, so the club can work on something together, not in divided camps.

Thursday 4th February 16:32 Report Comment

john jarvisHow refreshing to have a CEO prepared to talk to the fans and keep us in the loop as much as possible keep up the good work Robert

Thursday 4th February 16:20 Report Comment

James SullivanWhat an extremely articulate and enjoyable piece. Well Done: Bob the Blog

Thursday 4th February 13:10 Report Comment

Steve McClelland Thank you Robert for an interesting and informative read, especially about you looking into a redeveloped Goodison with a new architect with fresh ideas. A fresh look is definitely needed, but a sensible one, not like some of the pie in the sky ideas that have been surfacing since Kirkby was rejected. Goodison will be a challenge, some compromises might need to be made, but I echo the comment by Geoff Dunn below, and would welcome a move from Goodison if it ultimately improved Mr Moyes's transfer budget. Thank you for an informative article.

Thursday 4th February 11:50 Report Comment

Robert MurphyWell done Robert for taking the time to keep us informed. I may not like or agree with some of the points but I really appreciate the willingness to share the information. Rob Murphy

Thursday 4th February 11:06 Report Comment

Geoff DunnIlluminating, honest and realistic. Thank you for communicating far more effectively than we've had in the past. It would be fantastic if a way to develop Goodison, could be found. However, as an alternative, most Evertonians I know would willoingly accept a move if it enhanced the team's chances of success.

Thursday 4th February 09:09 Report Comment

Mike WilliamsAs should be expected, this a very positive and well thought out article from the C.E.O. The points about the position of our club in the wider community, alongside the positive economic impact the Everton community (Club, manager, players, employees and most importantly the fans) are well made and cannot be argued against. It is also noteworthy that Liverpool City Council is prepared to publicly celebrate the presence and achievements of two great football clubs and share the kudos. It is a pity therefore that it does not explicity communicate a positive, coherent vision of what it intends to do to help sustain our clubs and communities in the future. We surely do not want to fall any further behind our neighbours along the east Lancs road.

Thursday 4th February 08:55 Report Comment

Mark JonesThanks Robert - I really enjoyed this post, it was informative, entertaining and refreshingly frank. The reality, as most Everton fans know, is that we are operating in a difficult environment with very limited resources. But rather than holding us back, I believe it's this reality which is driving us forward. I rarely see a more committed group of fans who stick by their team through thick or thin, who would run through walls for the manager, and who are genuinely invested in wanting a better future for their club. I'm proud to support this club. I'm proud because of the way the club conducts itself - with dignity, integrity and honesty. I'm proud because our team and our manager embody the virtues of the club. Our players don't dive, don't cheat, don't try to get opponents booked or sent off, don't abuse the referee, and that is why fans of opposing clubs often have a lot of time for Everton. What I'm trying to say is, for a club with very little, we have a hell of a lot going for us. Economic prosperity and goodwill from the local authority may be needed if we're ever going to really kick on and fulfil our potential. But if that doesn't happen, no matter, we've still got a club to be proud of. Thanks again for a great post.

Wednesday 3rd February 19:19 Report Comment

Paul KearneyRobert An interesting summary as to 'where we are at'. It seems atrange to think that the Bellfield situation remains unresolved after such a long time and with Kirkby now a distant memory hopefully we can put both issues behind us and look to the future with renewed vigour. I guess most fans will be excited firstly by the prospect of a redeveloped Goodison at best or at worst an acceptable alternative that makes sense to everybody (including the money men!!) Finally best wishes to David and the team for the remainder of the season starting with success at Anfield. COYB!!!!

Wednesday 3rd February 19:15 Report Comment

Anthony kellyOnce again Robert,your are being economical with the truth. At the inquiry over Kirkby. Counsel for the the developers said 300 jobs would be made ,not 3000.

Wednesday 3rd February 18:34 Report Comment
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