Friday, November 21, 2008

Thinking inside and outside the Box - Mouth of the Mersey

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.

Capacity

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.

Names

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.

29 comments:

Allout said...

Nice to see a football fan thinking outside the box!

You got in your description of how things would work; it would have been nice to read why this is better than other proposals. Maybe some time when you are not limited by a 500 word limit!

MotM said...

Cheers Allout.

It's better because 80000 people could watch the teams, it allows both clubs to compete with the bigger boys and that the teams stay near where they have been for over 100 years.

I suspct most poor decisions are a failure of imagination: both clubs may be about to make poor decisions for the want of imagination.

andrewm said...

80,000? Even with reduced ticket prices I just can't see either club getting that many people in. My brother maintains Liverpool are insane trying to build a 60-70,000 capacity ground because they won't fill it, and I suspect he's right. Aren't your lot struggling to get people in at the moment? Would reduced prices be enough to bring them back?

Very interesting though, Mouth. I wonder whether fans of both clubs would prefer to have their own grounds and be less successful, or share and potentially dominate the league? Since I don't go to games I have no opinion.

MotM said...

andrewm - as generous as ever.

My dad always said that Everton would get 80000 and, for a repeat of the Bayern Munich match, they would. Liverpool would get it for many home games and I think Everton's fan base in the diaspora and North Wales would bump it up. Of course, I'm thinking that many seats would be £15 or so.

One thing is for certain - the stadium should be built to last 100 years and who knows what capacity we might need in the future.

andrewm said...

I suppose at those prices you'd be hopeful of capacity crowds. You'd know far better than me how people would respond to this kind of project. I just wonder if pricing is the only reason people seem to be drifting away from many clubs.

Ebren said...

Before they moved to Milton Keynes there was a serious possibility that Wimbledon would move to Dublin.

The idea was that a 70,000 stadium would be built, not to be filled every week, but each time Liverpool or Man U came to town it would be packed, and the difference in cost between building a 40,000 and a 70,000 stadium is not huge - and would be paid for by the 30,000 extra they would get at least twice a season.

If you look at the Bernabeau and the Camp Nou, these stadiums are not filled for most league and cup games. But for the Classicos they are rammed.

The idea that a stadium needs to be foll for every game is not supported by the economics - it's a matter of pride. And pride is not the most helpful of motivations when times get tight.

Oh, and a lack of imagination is behind many bad decisions. But so is imagination not rooted in pragmatism. Being outside the box is not always the safest place to be.

Metatone said...

It's cruel, but in the spirit of the Harry Pearson interview, perhaps there should just be one team, in a white strip and then they project red or blue light into the stadium to make you think it's Everton or Liverpool...

More seriously - and a good article - and you didn't even mention Inter and AC... but I guess that's the 500 words...

andrewm said...

Ebren, I'm sure you're right about the economics, but what about atmosphere?

Not so long ago, Juventus were getting about 15,000 people in a 70,000 stadium for some European ties. Leaving the economics aside, that's not a good experience for fans or players.

I've been to see Scottish league games at Hampden, with maybe 3000 people there, and it's strange and far from exciting. An extreme example maybe, but a two-thirds full stadium doesn't do anyone much good.

Ebren said...

The move to the Communale (a 40,000 stadium) is something I was thinking about, As was Wellington's decision to make the Westpack arena 35,000 and fill it every game (NPC, Super 14 or All Balcks Test) rather than have it empty and filling it for the Tests only.

The thing is, design is to blame.

You need intimidation, steep banking, selling the cheap seats first. Make the crowd a wall of noise on top of the players, pressing down on them.

And you can intimidate better with 20,000 more than 50,000 at Old Trafford van manage.

So I would say, 80,000 capacity, but design it right. Of course, that implies competence and an understanding of what matters in football from those in charge....

MotM said...

Metatone
"seani
Nov 15 08, 1:09pm
Staff writer Couple more responses -

Cameldancer - a great piece of comment should be insightful, original and brilliantly written. Get all three right and you'll be onto a winner."
Best, Sean

I deliberately didn't mention AC and Inter because it would not be insightful, nor original, nor add brilliance to the writing.

Again, I confess to feeling a little chagrin in that my piece is original and does show some insight - whether the writing is brilliant isn't for me to say, but I'll own up to it being passable. With all due respect to the shortlisted three, how much insight and originality is there with their three? I haven't read all of the offerings here, but I'm pretty sure there'll be more here.

andrewm - Yes, half empty grounds can be cavernous, but 50000+ Blues and 10000 or so say of the Toon Army should generate a bit of atmosphere and who would notice the empty seats? Everton's great days in the mid-80s often played to crowds of 30000 or so. Have a look at http://www.evertonresults.com/198485.htm. We didn't notice the empty spaces I promise you!

Anonymous said...

Motm,
I think it's a great idea, very interesting to use modern technology to change colors or logos regarding the club hosting the game-With hi-tech visual effects it's posible.

guitou said...

modern tehnology? I can't even click on the right button, sorry for the Anonymous

marcelaproust said...

I would love for both clubs to share a ground and to so as quickly as possible, not so that our respective finances could receive the boost that it would bring, but so that the people and communities of Anfield and Walton could benefit and enjoy the longterm stability that affirmative action would bring.

But it ain't going to happen because neither club wants it to.

MotM said...

Guy - Thanks.

There's sonmething of the Bladerunner in the projection idea, but the quality of some of these things is very good now. In time, I fully expect many exterior walls to be used as advertising (alas) but perhaps some walls might be used more imaginatively.

You will have been to the postmodern Vegas I take it? The use of buildings to construct identity there is way beyond anything I have seen in Europe (other than cathedrals etc from the pre-modern periods). The Strip was, at least in part, the inspiration for the outside of the Box.

marcelaproustbrooksgayereed said...

Ain't going to happen, although I wouldn't mind if it did. Very good arguements though Mouth.

MotM said...

Marcela - thanks for reading this and considering the idea, especially after I have been less than complimentary about your piece!

You're dead right that neither club wants it, but I almost strated the piece with the old cliche about the chinese character for "crisis" and "opportunity" being the same (until I found that it wasn't!). The credit crisis is the chance to think imaginatively again about a single stadium to be bigger and better than Old Trafford and The Emirates, even Wembley. We just need imagination and determination to limit the doubters and back the idea to the hilt.

But it's a 1 in 100 chance at the moment.

andrewm said...

Marcela, I enjoyed your piece over at GU (before I knew it was you as well) and congratulations on making the final three. Of course, longtime Pseuds readers knew you had it in you.

guitou said...

Mouth,
it's digital projection, a process actually under development - artichects are already planning to use this as an application in order to be able to switch from one look or design of a building to another instantly.
You should get the licensing rights for Sports arena and stadiums, just keep in mind we can use the visual effects all in favor of Everton F.C compare to Liverpool.
ah..ah..ah...!

MotM said...

Partnership Guy?

guitou said...

successful partnership, with your acumen and my good look so much can be accomplished :)

offsideintahiti said...

Mouth,

you state your case extremely well, it's definitely insightful and original but probably more efficiently than brilliantly written. But that's down to the subject matter, which is more pragmatic than romantic. It would definitely work well as a blog.

My best stadium-going memory is from a shared ground, the Stadio Communale in Torino where my dad took me to see the derby back in 1978 (or 79). The dullest nil-nil you could imagine as both teams tried (successfully) to outcatenacce each other, but the show was in the stands. Smoke, flares, giant banners, including one unfurled by the Torino supporters at half-time which was a giant hand holding up the finger to the opposing curva, and non-stop chanting, hollering and piss-taking. Unforgettable.

JamesWormold said...

Mouth,

An idea that I'm very strongly for and would love to see developed- it's interesting to see a relatively large number of fans being interested in it too.

As a Saints fan, I certainly understand the problems, I couldn't imagine sharing a stadium with our rivals, however sharing a city and particularly one with an identity as strong and often communial as Liverpool it is a different issue.

A point you didn't mention (because its pretty obvious) is that both clubs would get to remain in Stanley Park- personally I find the relocation the hardest part of new stadium plans, I like the traditional journeys.

As for the style, it seems to be nominated you would have needed to make it more poetic and metaphor loaded for that particular competition- but I've little doubt it would generate a lot of comments were it written and developed as the opinion piece your writing intends.

To that end, I'd love to see a debate of this kind and how it goes over in an Everton fanzine for instance, and would hope that you perhaps have the contacts within that community to advance this argument? It would be a dear service to your club.

Also.....I'd like to see two seperate approaches to the ground across Stanley Park, each with their own status etc along the way, or Tony Cottee and John Aldridge holding hands skipping..

Allout said...

Mouth

Your piece is original and insightful. Personally, I think I've seen your writing more sparkling but it's certainly proficient.

Without wanting to sound like a blogger who is yet to trouble the voters, it's pretty clear to me that Sean et al are judging the blogs more from a literary angle (i.e. what reads well to them) rather than an opinion angle. All nine finalists have been well-written in a literary sense but few have offered original arguments.

Personally I would like to see more emphasis on opinion (after all that encourages the interaction which is unique to blogs) but at the end of the day taste in blogs is a very personal thing.

MotM said...

Offie - Cheers. I've always felt grounds to be the people rather than the environment, and your example makes that point well.

James - I like the idea of separate approaches. I tried to find a better photograph of Stanley Park with the Goodison and Anfield in shot, but the link I included isn't that good. It does show how one "side" of the Park could be Blue and the other Red (as I believe the colour favoured by our rivals to be). I've posted this piece as a discussion point on the biggest Everton fans Facebook page - I don't expect a sympathetic hearing!

Allout - nail on the head! Definitely non-sparkling from me (I sparkled a bit in BB1 in 2007 and got nowhere) but you're 100% right that taste in blogs is highly personalised.

JamesWormold said...

Mouth- thanks. I think you're onto something in that in order to work the sharing would have to be done in a very idiosyncratic and collective way, not a copy of the Italian system because that won't sell.

I'm not sure how the seating etc can be set up so it represents both clubs colour schemes etc though and the visual ideas whilst mostly great need to be affordable so as not to negate the financial benefits.

I look forward to reading the Facebook responses, although you may need to change the title to attain more of a crowd! Im particularly interested in the views of those strongly opposed to the Kirkby move, surely their ultimate aim would be to stay in Stanley Park, and is this not the only way that could be achieved?

Its certainly a tough sell, but even before the whole financial credit crunch, it seemed a sensible one- the pool board are in the weaker position so the onus would have to be on your guys to make the first steps I'd imagine.

wisden greengrass said...

Mouth,
as a cricket fan you should be well aware that the box protects the part of your anatomy least capable of thinking.
This is, indubitably, a good idea - and you have argued your case well.
I'd like to see the players sharing houses, too - then the respective gangs of burglars could share one set of tools.

MotM said...

They'd all want to share with Big Duncan!

Chris G said...

For a good example of technology creating the appropriate match day experience at a shared stadium, look no further than the Allianz Arena in Munich.

It's lit up in red for Bayern games, blue for 1860 games and white for Germany games. See here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Allianzarenacombo.jpg

I don't see why a similar thing couldn't work on Merseyside.

Anonymous said...

you're suggesting fans from two opposing teams share a stadium... obviously you know NOTHING about the liverpool-everton rivlary. Fans have died behind this rivlary. Sharing a stadium will only make things worse.

Plus a stadium is as much a part of the team as everything else is. Emirates has come to symbolise Arsenal just as Old Tradford is Man U and so on. Anfield is Liverpool to the core with the Shankly Gates and You'll Never Walk alone plus the THIS IS ANFIELD sign. There is no way any true supporters would allow their clubs to share with other clubs, especially two clubs with such an immense rivlary

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