West Hams Upton Park upheaval a sign of the times

30/11/2015  19 Comments  [Jump to last]

In a piece about the gradual loss of England's traditional old stadia, Daniel Taylor laments the loss to London's E13 when West Ham move to the Olympic Stadium next year and draws parallels to what might happen in Walton should Everton ever make a move away happen.

Take a walk down Goodison Road and you can feel the history. There is a soul here, created over 100 years, that cannot be found, or recreated, at a gleaming out-of-town bowl, with a park-and-ride scheme and a Frankie & Bennys next door.

» Read the full article at The Guardian

Reader Comments (19)

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Tom Hughes
1 Posted 03/12/2015 at 07:12:08
I believe that the upheaval that a move from Goodison Park would cause would be far more damaging and momentous than West Ham's move from the Boleyn ground... and the others covered in this very interesting article.

Elstone made much of the regeneration prospects of the WHP project at the recent AGM. Firstly, I'm not convinced by the regenerative effects of building on a suburban park. What significant regeneration is there to be had in this case?

A new football stadium for Everton is not regenerative in itself, beyond the short-term construction and new-facility jobs and the club's needs – which could all be equally applicable to a redevelopment of Goodison Park. And there is only scope to add some relatively low-value new residential and perhaps a small retail/leisure development in that mix, in that location.

This is all hardly going to scrape the surface of the issues our traditional heartland faces... and all with the backdrop of losing the amenities of the local park too.

Secondly, surely that heartland is centred around the existing ground itself – not the relatively leafy garden-suburbs on the other side of Queens Drive, ie, the district of Walton itself and the County Road and Walton Road corridors. Which, if this article is any indicator, will be devastated by our move, with the loss of many businesses currently reliant on the footfall the stadium brings to the area.

So, instead of regeneration, WHP could seriously tip the delicate balance that has helped preserve one of our few remaining and functioning Victorian High Streets and the community it serves... quite the opposite of a "regeneration" project in fact.

I also personally believe that we are potentially sacrificing so much more by the prospect of leaving than many other clubs. Why? Well, put simply, because Goodison Park holds a far higher place in the history and development of football stadiums in that its historic, physical and cultural qualities and almost talismanic status represent so much more to lose. No other stadium has that depth of quality, nor as any other witnessed as many top flight games as the Grand Old Lady, and there might be a good reason for that...

Therefore, if we are ever to move, I would suggest that it has to be to something measurably superior in every respect than what we have now, and (perhaps more importantly) what we can have at Goodison Park for the same level of investment. So far, only Kings Dock has satisfied that fundamental criteria.

A basic flat-pack in WHP, that will also cost more in short, medium and long term, will almost certainly not be in our best interests, and definitely not in terms of regeneration of Walton... if that really is a priority.

Sue Brown
2 Posted 03/12/2015 at 19:04:09
As always ,Tom, you talk sense.

I still believe regeneration of Goodison Park is the better option, and done in stages would suit our "budget". There is so much history here and I don't think it should be passed over for another soulless arena in an area that, let's face it, the new neighbors are totally against before we start.

I sympathize with the West Ham fans fully and feel for those businesses that will go under when the ground closes. The article is quite an eye-opener when you see how many grounds have moved.
Tom Hughes
3 Posted 04/12/2015 at 10:13:24
I agree Sue, I think the whole cost-outcome or cost-benefit issue is a very important factor that is always forgotten or even heavily and disproportionately skewed whenever the redevelopment of Goodison is discussed. That is why this option was not allowed to be placed side by side with these last two ill-conceived projects.... because they would instantly highlight the folly and the fundamentally flawed approach on both occasions.

I believe that Goodison Park, what it is and represents, and importantly what it can become, has to be the benchmark against which all other options are measured. It should be the starting point and not the afterthought. There is no evidence that it has ever been fully considered.

It can be very quickly shown that Goodison could be dramatically transformed for a fraction of the cost of even a whole new basic stadium elsewhere. Furthermore, I feel that the resultant transformation, whatever format that would take (a wrap-around new upper tier on two or three sides, or a bigger new cantilevered Upper Bullens, and/or extended Park End in single- or two-tier format, or any other of number of variations on the theme), would all all lead to a far superior stadium than the one planned for WHP, where nearly the whole stadium was single-tier, and hardly in-keeping with our rich history and tradition in stadium development since 1892.

It is true that quite a few clubs have moved in recent years... approximately one third in fact. However, it perhaps should be remembered that the vast majority have been lower league clubs with small capacity requirements, meaning that quite often the sale of the existing ground and/or a small enabling development, and/or a reasonably wealthy local benefactor have been able to comfortably cover costs that can be as low as just a few hundred pounds per seat. With every added 10-15,000 seats in final capacity, the cost per seat can more than double, meaning the simple sale of the existing site, and say a small supermarket development will never cover the costs of a 45,000+ stadium.

That is why most larger clubs have redeveloped and why both Kirkby and WHP were doomed to failure from the start. Without significant financial injection from elsewhere (or a sale), these were always pie-in-the-sky schemes made to fit an imaginary template that had no foundation.

Goodison Park is literally a real and solid foundation that can be built-on. With the existing stands long paid for, and either wholly or partially re-usable. We can preserve that famous intimacy and character, add modern quality capacity and amenities. These can be real high-value additions as the bulk of the stadium is already in place. Hopefully, whatever option we eventually choose, it will be measured against what we have and can have at Goodison Park.

Ciaran Duff
4 Posted 05/12/2015 at 01:21:54
As an overseas supporter, I have not gotten too involved in the ground move debate as I felt that it was not my place.

I have to say that was a very interesting and eye opening article. As a club, I would say that our "core values or brand" (to use corporate speak) are History, Community and of course Football played in the right way. In this light, redevelopment of Goodison Park WITH THE LOCAL COMMUNITY would seem the way to go.

The club will talk about obstacles etc but I have always thought that, if you have the vision, then you are well on the road to achieving your goal.

James Flynn
5 Posted 05/12/2015 at 02:04:13
A Goodison expansion means more than what it does for us. It represents something English footy supporters, whatever club, can hang their hat on.

The first Park, on the planet earth mind, built for footy specifically. What other big club is sticking to the tried and true? None, right? Right.

Goodison's expansion refutes "It's all about the Money!!!" world football. It's offers something to hang the Game's hat on. Tradition.

A sad business where two born and raised, generational, Evertonians, got control of the Club and gave over to some sharps looking for a buck.

For Everton first, but for the game in England too, Goodison Park should remain the home of the Toffees. And as Tom and others have posited over and again, there's every reason it can be done.

Paul Andrews
6 Posted 05/12/2015 at 18:30:37
Would you swap John Stones for a new stadium?

The 㿔-50 million he will go for would cover our contribution to WHP.

Brin Williams
7 Posted 05/12/2015 at 18:40:20
'Would you swap John Stones for a new stadium?

Simple answer........ No!...... 'cos I don't think we need a new stadium – we already have a great stadium – just needs upgrading!!

Ian McDowell
8 Posted 05/12/2015 at 18:41:08
Paul @ 6,

No I wouldn't. The board should find another way of coming up with the money – not selling top young players. I wouldn't trust this board with the money or the management of a new stadium/building project anyway.

I recently went to the Sunderland game and sat in the Upper Gwladys. Half of the TVs didn't work. A trivial point, people may say, but as an engineer if people aren't keeping an eye on the minor details, then god knows what's going on with the important stuff.

Tom Hughes
9 Posted 06/12/2015 at 08:39:57
While 㿔-50m would be a good boost to stadium funds, it wouldn't bridge the financial gap that a whole new stadium presents...... 𧵎-250m depending on the quality of the design.

Conversely, it might be enough to add 10,000 seats to our current capacity at Goodison.

But that doesn't answer your question about sacrificing playing assets now to improve stadium infrastructure for the future. After all, we need a good team to help fill any new capacity. So I suppose it will always come down to how replaceable or irreplaceable that individual is. Can we cope without him? Then once again there is the whole cost/benefit analysis of comparing that cost to the team with adding quality amenities to increase matchday income and change perception of the club in terms of its stadium.

My feelings are that while it is a fine line, there are very few players who are genuinely irreplaceable in real terms, and while the loss of a Stones would be a setback on the pitch, a 50,000 seater Goodison with another 40-60 boxes could be transformational for our whole future.

Unfortunately, a whole new stadium at WHP may require the sale of a few more of our prized assets for it to become a reality... and at some point that sacrifice would tip the cost/benefit balance into a negative outcome. Especially if the result is a low quality soulless flat-pack bowl with years of careful team-building undone. Which brings us back to my original point... far better to secure funding for the incremental phased rebuilding, to preserve and enhance what is good — preferably both on and off the pitch.

Paul Andrews
10 Posted 06/12/2015 at 09:22:08
Morning Tom,

Thanks for the detail in your answer, some very good points there.

I only asked the question as, under the present regime, we will never progress with either a new stadium or a refurb of Goodison if they have to fund it.

I fully agree with you on your thoughts about the possibility of refurbishing Goodison. In the long term, as much as it hurts, I would take the £45million if it meant we could start to enhance the ground. It is our spiritual home.

Tom Hughes
11 Posted 07/12/2015 at 09:40:51
I agree, and this has been a recurring issue all along. The predominant motive appears to be the desire to get something/anything for nothing..... and to invest little or nothing in the process.

Kirkby, was all about securing enabling funding to pay for the "effectively free" stadium, regardless of the quality of the design, or the location and it's accessibility. Let's just get anything for nothing.

The retail partners (including at least one on our board) wanted something they couldn't possibly have on that site without a supposedly "community enhancing" project, and the scheme was dreamt up whereby we became their enabler..... The proverbial square peg in the round hole...... hammered into place with endless promises that were all untrue.

Despite this, in the end the enabling funding didn't even amount to enough to build one basic stand in a basic stadium. The transport scheme was a catastrophic failure from start to finish, threatening to reduce the workable capacity to less than we have now, and was laughed out of the inquiry even after multiple desperate revisions failed to save it.

Similarly, WHP was essentially a blind stab in the dark. Perhaps an attempt to deflect much-anticipated criticism, and buy some time at last year's resumption of AGMs..... hence the complete lack of tangible progress throughout the intervening months, and the embarrassing public excuses and accusations at the recent AGM.

It would appear that the whole scheme could merely have been an attempt to package the club for a lucrative sale. A bit like a house seller or property developer applying for planning permission on one of his houses or a plot of land, with no real intention of ever building on it himself, but to entice a buyer and maximise profit.

They simply have to go through the motions and bag the sale just as planning consent is given. No real investment required, and the club flogged at maximum value....... again, with little regard for the outcomes in respect to the quality of the resultant stadium, and its transport infrastructure.

On this occasion, the stadium was apparently even more basic than the Kirkby proposals, but with a large home end as the only redeemable feature. A sweetener to avert the inevitable criticism that the flat pack would've no doubt received. It's little surprise that no official images have ever been released...... now that scheme has also faltered after the council has lost patience and called the club's bluff.

Goodison Park's redevelopment would require a far more focused and structured engagement with all parties than the blank canvas new-build on a large Park. It would require commitment to various landmark stages rather than vacuous promises of intent.

Perhaps this is the main reason why it is dismissed out of hand despite more and more evidence pointing in its favour. This lot simply don't have the will or ability to undertake such a task, and/or they have been very poorly advised to date.

Paul Andrews
12 Posted 07/12/2015 at 17:54:17
Tom, they certainly don't. People sometimes forget how close we came to moving to Kirkby. Indeed, if it wasn't for you and the lads and lasses from Keioc, I believe we would now be on a slippery slope.

For that every Evertonian should be forever grateful for the work you all put in.
Tom Hughes
13 Posted 08/12/2015 at 02:18:07
Can't make any real claim to fame there, Paul.

Some of my stuff was already in the public realm... thankfully the KEIOC lads saw it and used it to demonstrate their points.

Perhaps one day the obvious will shine through.

Eric Myles
14 Posted 08/12/2015 at 02:43:17
Paul (#6), no need to swap any player for £40M, we are being given an extra £40M by Sky and their friends next season, and it would only need half of that to be 'ringfenced' to redevelop the Park End.
Tom Hughes
15 Posted 08/12/2015 at 08:33:41
You're right, Eric... The sums you're talking about for TV money now mean that there can be few excuses for not delivering new facilities now. Let's face it – most clubs have delivered without those levels of TV money.
John Hughes
16 Posted 08/12/2015 at 08:54:11
Tom Hughes for Mayor.
Tom Hughes
17 Posted 08/12/2015 at 19:37:52
No thanks John..... haha
Peter Lee
18 Posted 08/12/2015 at 19:59:14
Tom, which retail partners that you refer to – and your use of the plural indicates more than one – are on the board?
Tom Hughes
19 Posted 09/12/2015 at 08:14:02

Perhaps I should've prefixed with the word 'alleged"..... as regards Philip Green's involvement and/or Robert Earl's potential investment in the retail/leisure element of the Kirkby proposals.

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