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Time To Follow The Old Lady?
by Peter Bottomley

Originally written by Peter when we *didn’t* have money, so much of this still holds true for a club at a real crossroads…

We make no apology for returning to the divisive and vexed question of a new stadium: It is after all the single most significant issue facing this generation of Everton stakeholders. The Club’s current position is that they are considering all options including; relocation to a purpose built stadium; redevelopment of Goodison Park on the current footprint; a groundshare with Liverpool FC. To express the importance of this decision in financial terms let’s just look at the impact a state-of-the-art stadium can have with its higher proportion of premium seating and associated catering facilities, corporate hospitality and vastly improved food and drink offering for the ‘average’ fan.

Currently a Premier League game at Goodison with an average attendance of 36,500 produces about £950,000 in revenue from all sources – tickets, catering, programme sales etc. The average attendance at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium is 60,000 on which the revenue is £3.4m per game. Thus the attendance is on average 39% more at the Emirates but the take per game is over 70% greater. Arsenal, with a ground and fan-base centred in a global city is an extreme example, but it clearly demonstrates the impact of a modern stadium on cash flow. We can imagine how the new or modernised grounds possessed by the likes of Manchester City, Newcastle and Sunderland must be enhancing their income streams. It clearly shows why West Ham are itching to get their hands on the Olympic Stadium and Roman Abramovich is bursting every blood vessel to unlock the increased revenue which a new ground would provide for Chelsea.

Over the last decade two plans have been promoted by the Everton hierarchy. The first was for a 55,000 seat arena at King’s Dock costing about £125m, which was abandoned in April 2003 due to the club being unable to raise adequate funds; the second was the move to Kirkby. This was to be a 50,400 seater stadium (with provision for expansion to 60,000) which would supposedly cost £78m as part of a joint retail development with Tesco valued at some £240m. However the overall stadium build cost was never clearly revealed and was reported as being nearer £140m. Whatever, this plan was never universally popular and was scuppered in November 2009 following a decision by the Secretary of State on planning grounds.

Goodison Park may not be the cash cow that is a modern stadium but The Old Lady possesses an atmosphere which is as intimidating for visitors as it is supportive for the home team. It is a venue which can make the difference between a game won and a game lost and it is also addictive; as an Evertonian once you have tasted an evening game under the lights at Goodison you are lost forever to the Blue side. Most ‘real’ Gunners will tell you one thing about their new stadium; it lacks atmosphere and they miss Highbury, they miss it a lot. But how to reconcile this invaluable non-economic emotional bond with the cold needs of modern day football finance.

Let’s travel 800 miles to Turin, Italy, a city which is home to two famous football clubs Torino and Juventus. Juve, nickname ‘The Old Lady’ are Italy’s most successful club with 28 Serie A titles and 2 Champions League wins plus a host of ‘lesser’ silverware. The reason we have taken this journey is because at the start of the 2011/12 season they moved to the Juventus Stadium, a new purpose-built ground. It has a capacity of 41,000 with 3,600 premium seats, 64 executive ‘sky boxes’and parking space for 4,000 cars. The stadium is designed for football being rectangular, not an oval, and provides an “intimate and atmospheric venue”, the pitch is only 7.5 m from the front row of seats and 49 m from the back row in the main grandstand. It has quickly become ‘home’ for Juventus and is hugely popular with the club’s fans AND accountants. The construction cost for this new stadium was Euro120m or about £100m.

We hope CEO Robert Elstone and Bill Kenwright take the time to spend a day in Turin. A smaller stadium than the previous grandiose plans for King’s Dock and Kirkby but with cash flow enhancing facilities yet retaining atmosphere and at a cost which is not prohibitive. Too good to be true, possibly, but at least take a look.

Written by Peter Bottomley

Blogs for Everton site Dixie's60. First game at Goodison: 5 Nov 1960, EFC 1 - WBA 1...hooked ever since Follow me on Twitter: Follow me on Twitter: @dixies60pete

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