Just three months ago, we could believe that the money was real, but we know now that the money was funny . As the world tips into recession, football is already finding empty spaces in the stands and on the shirts. Like every other industry, football must come to terms with what the credit crunch means for its future.
Even in the days when Tony Benn was the only man who advocated nationalising banks, Liverpool’s plans for a new stadium progressed glacially slowly and Everton’s plans to move to Kirkby were vigorously opposed. So it’s time to find the middle ground, financially and geographically – a shared stadium for Merseyside’s clubs is the solution and Stanley Park is the location.
Many fans will never entertain such a thought, but those with open minds should read on and imagine this vision as reality.
The shared stadium must seat 80,000 fans with hospitality as impressive as that on offer at The Emirates. A variety of season ticket and multi-match packages should be sold to fans, with single match tickets sold over the internet using a sophisticated real-time price modelling programme (as used by airlines such as Ryanair) which varies prices with availability. Fans willing to buy tickets in packages or in advance for less popular matches would receive hard discounts helping to bring back the supporters, especially young ones, priced out of Anfield or Goodison.
The stadium will have two names, one for each club. Though this would be awkward at first, fans would soon settle into hearing, “Over to (say) New Anfield, where Wigan have taken a shock lead” or “Stuart Hall has a fifth goal for Everton at New Goodison”. Stadiums without their club context are just buildings, so it would be The Stanley Park Stadium for conferencing etc.
Match day experience
The stadium must transform visually to create an “Everton” or “Liverpool” identity. Plain white exterior walls offer the opportunity to project giant images of “Dixie” Dean, Howard Kendall, Kevin Sheedy, and other Hall of Famers on to the Stadium (for an Everton match) which identify the seating areas (no more Section B16 Row 23 Seat 144, it’s Alan Ball Row 23 Seat 144). This identity is followed through on the website, in promotional materials and on tickets. Inside the stadium, screens, signage and staff uniforms etc are used to brand (sorry, but it’s the right word) spaces according to which team is at home. The transformation would be thoroughgoing and complete, with only the “away” derby feeling artificial.
This proposal honours the rich histories of the clubs, keeps both in a city that is identified by them and identifies with them, and allows the Boards to build the long-term financial stability success requires. Furthermore, it allows live football to be watched by twice as many fans as at present and at a lower price. My father, dead now, but a regular at Goodison for over fifty years, would like the proposal.
Am I alone? Not quite.