Thanks to the Liverpool Echo for this picture which really sums up the difficulties that EFC will have in developing this old dock for a new stadium
Three weeks ago, I did a blog about the problems which could occur if Liverpool Council proceed with the planned investment at Bramley Moore Dock for Everton.
I received thousands of hits and hundreds of e-mails following this. Surprisingly, apart from a very few extreme Everton fans, the comments I made about the key questions that need to be answered were broadly supported.
Three things have happened since then.
My colleagues and I have continued to call at thousands of doors in the City. The question that people raise most with us unprompted is “Why is Liverpool doing this when the Club is a private company?” When we dig a little further we find concerns about whether the council should be doing it at all; why the owners of the Club don’t borrow the money direct; are there other things that the council should be concentrating on; do we know the full costs; who will pay for the necessary remediation in the County Road area; and who will pay for the wider infrastructure costs. We suspect that Labour canvassers must be receiving similar questions.
All of these are questions that we have no answer to and neither the Club nor the Council are responding to these obvious questions in the statements they have made in the past few weeks.
Yesterday, we saw details of a proposal which could enable EFC to do what Liverpool has done and redevelop their existing ground. I do not claim to understand the technical details of this proposal but I do know that it has been drawn up by competent professionals who understand what they are talking about. Both Liverpool Council and Everton must consider this proposal properly.
Today we understand that two Constituency Labour Parties out of the 5 in Liverpool have called for an open meeting to discuss the proposals. Significantly the Mayor’s Office refused to comment to the Echo on the story. I welcome this in part. The part that I welcome is that this will force a much wider review of Anderson’s plans and might force into the open answers to questions which have been ignored when I have asked them. What I would not welcome is a possible attempt to mandate Labour Councillors to vote in a particular way. At the end of the day elected members are responsible to their constituents and not to their Party.
I want there to be a good stadium for Everton. I am agnostic about whether that is provided on the docks or by redevelopment of the existing ground. I know that having two major clubs in the city is good for our reputation and for our economy. On that basis I would strongly urge the EFC directors to have a plan B.
Given the hostility of many of the people of Liverpool who would underwrite this deal; of clear hostility of parts of the Labour Party and the huge level of debt that the council would incur (in total £1.14 billion) and the possibility that such a level of debt could incur Government intervention because of the guidelines around prudential borrowing the deal with Mr Anderson is not a done deal and may never happen.
So, you must find an alternative option for proceeding even if the deal that you really want is the Anderson one. This is just common sense and the actions of prudent business people. My fear is that if you don’t look at all options you might end up with no way forward at all.
These are the questions that I believe need answering. The Council won’t answer them to me so perhaps they will be more inclined to answer them to Labour members at their open meeting.
- Is this an appropriate type of investment for a Council?
- Should the Council be using its borrowing powers for things like schools, social services and roads?
- Will this affect the ability of the Council to borrow for vital services?
- Why isn’t Everton borrowing the money on the open market which they can do at roughly the same price as the Council?
- How much is required? The £280 million that the Mayor says or two thirds of £500 million that the Club says.
- Who takes the risk of the stadium costs being more than £500 million? This is almost certain to be the case given the nature of the terrain.
- Who will pay for the wider infrastructure costs for road improvements; transport connections etc outside the immediate environs of the ground? These are normally estimated to be 15% on top of the building costs (£75 million) but in the case of this very old infrastructure might be more.
- If the Council are getting the security of the ticket and tv rights what will any other borrowing by the club be secured against?
- Where will the costs of dealing with the hole in County Road area come from and have they yet been evaluated?
These are the types of questions that the fans and the wider taxpayers and residents of Liverpool have a right to see answered. The Directors of EFC must not be a one-trick pony. They and the Council must look at all contingencies or they may end up with no new or improved stadium at all. I do not want to see that and no-one else does either but that is what may happen if all attention is focused on just one potential solution to RFC’s stadium problems.