Everton’s plans to move from the city to neighbouring Kirkby have left a lot of Goodison regulars up in arms. Mark O’Brien reports

There are few things in life more predictable than death, taxes and stories linking Manchester United with Klaas Jan Huntelaar. One of them is talk of Everton moving to a new stadium.

It started in earnest ten years ago, when then chairman Peter Johnson proposed a move to a new ground on Kirkby golf course. However, that came to naught, as did a subsequent attempt by the present owner, Bill Kenwright, to get a project at the King’s Dock off the ground. Since then there have been intermittent rumblings about sharing with Liverpool, and now things appear to have gone almost full circle, as the club’s official website recently displayed artists’ impressions of a proposed development on the edge of Kirkby.

This proposal’s big selling point, as far as the club are concerned, is that the new stadium will provide the centrepiece to a retail park that is seen by the local council as key to the regeneration of the area. As a result, they are willing to give Everton the land for free, while Tesco, who plan a new superstore on the site, will provide £50 million towards the building costs of the Blues’ new 50,000-capacity home. According to club chief executive Keith Wyness, these factors all combine to represent “the deal of the century”. Such is the club’s confidence in their plans they have taken the rather unusual step of organising a vote on the issue, with somewhere in the region of 33,000 fans expecting ballot papers to drop through their letterboxes shortly.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic as Wyness, though. The taboo of leaving Goodison was broken a long time ago, when the King’s Dock idea received almost universal acceptance from the fans, but crucially that proposal put Everton at the very heart of the city – indeed, it would have made them part of the iconic skyline. This latest project would shift the Toffees a mere four miles, but into neighbouring Knowsley, therefore no longer strictly within the city of Liverpool. To many that feels as if Liverpool’s founding football club are essentially surrendering the city to their offspring, the club who have already appropriated the city’s name and emblem. Those feelings have been reinforced by the fact that Liverpool FC are planning to build their own new home right in the middle of Stanley Park.

At the forefront of the opposition to the move to Kirkby are a group called Keep Everton In Our City. They believe that a move out of the city will be disastrous for the club and, along with the Everton-supporting head of the city council, Warren Bradley, they are committed to showing that the Blues do have other options, despite the CEO’s insistence that there is “no plan B”.

KEIOC’s approach is two-pronged. First, they believe that Everton could redevelop Goodison in its present location. A feasibility study carried out by architects Ward McHugh Associates shows that, despite the club’s insistence to the contrary, it is possible to expand the ground’s capacity on the current site to either 50,000 or 55,000. Alternatively, they also believe that if the club insist on moving, then alternative sites are available within the city limits. A piece of land near the entrance to the Wallasey tunnel (which links Liverpool to the Wirral peninsula), owned by cash and carry firm Bestway, is just one suggestion.

The club seem reticent, though. The Kirkby proposal is deliverable as early as 2010, and the involvement of Tesco means that they would incur negligible debt – a massive incentive for a club who seem to have done nothing but struggle for money over the last ten years.

From WSC 247 September 2007

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