KEIOC call debate on Everton FC's move to Kirkby
CAMPAIGNERS against Everton's proposed move to Kirkby are challenging the club to a Question Time style debate.
Keep Everton In Our City (KEIOC) say such an event would allow their representatives, together with those from Everton and Liverpool city council, to answer the questions to which supporters need answers.
KEIOC spokesman Dave Kelly said: "With a known 40% of supporters in opposition and a move that will take them further away from the local regional centre than any other premiership club, we are concerned that Kirkby represents the greatest gamble in the history of Everton Football Club."
He said a public debate would give an opportunity for many concerns to be aired following the recent 11-week public inquiry into the proposal for a new stadium and superstore put forward by Everton and Tesco. These include:
* The chosen location for the new stadium. KEIOC believes that with restrictions already in place limiting the opportunities for generating non-match day revenue and bona fide concerns surrounding the ability to fill the stadium, the club's claim that this offers the only realistic available option "hardly provides confidence" that Kirkby will enable Everton to compete with the elite of the Premier League.
* The transport plan for the proposed new stadium. KEIOC says that although this was described as 'trailblazing' at the public inquiry, its inadequacies were exposed by opponents of the scheme. KEIOC contends that a 50,000-seat stadium cannot be serviced by the infrastructure of a town of 38,000 no matter how hard people try. It says the result will be inadequate rail services requiring supporters to stand in the open for up to 90 minutes before being crush loaded onto trains or boarding buses that will need to leave at a rate of one every 14 seconds if the estimates of those behind the scheme are to be met.
* The role of new stadia. KEIOC says 'Everton's chief executive, Robert Elstone, has continually claimed that new stadia are a panacea for struggling football clubs but says that an analysis of all such grounds, using information supplied by Deloitte, reveals average attendance levels to be significantly below capacity, with only Arsenal and Reading delivering forecast levels.
Mr Kelly said Everton was forecasting an additional ÃÂ£6m of profit from an average attendance level of 47,000, but KEIOC believed the average gate would be 38,000 at best.
He also strongly disputed Everton's account of the public inquiry detailed in a blog by Mr Elstone on the club's official website.
"No witness for KEIOC agreed that there had been co-operation with other parties in a bid to influence the club ballot; neither did KEIOC's witness, Trevor Skempton, describe the experience on offer at Goodison as horrible.
"The planning inspectors advised all parties that unsubstantiated evidence would carry no weight whatsoever yet Everton refused to supply the inquiry with their business plan or details of their exclusivity agreement with Tesco. They were unable to demonstrate any demand for a 50,000-seat stadium in Kirkby but did confirm to the inspectors that not a single penny of their contribution was actually in place.
"KEIOC agree that there is a clear requirement to improve facilities for supporters and guests alike and that there is an equally pressing need to become facility led.
"While it appears to some that the current custodians are willing to embrace mediocrity in a heartbeat, supporters of KEIOC campaign for facilities that will enable Everton to once again take its place at the forefront of English football."
A decision on the Kirkby project will be known before the end of November. The planning inspector, Wendy Burden, told the inquiry she expected to deliver her recommendations to Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears by the middle of June.
* On February 13, in a report of Mr Elstone's comments on the Everton website, we stated that the chief executive had accused KEIOC and the city council of colluding on a report designed to influence the club ballot on the ground move. In fact, Mr Elstone claimed there had been collaboration between the two parties. We wish to make clear that the ECHO was merely reporting his remarks and in no way endorsed them.