Everton are beginning to bounce back from the rejection of their new stadium plans at Kirkby last year. The Toffees are reassessing all options including renovating their current Goodison Park ground.
The news that the government had rejected the plans for Kirkby in November came as a serious blow for the club. The need for expansion is clear, with the club able to fill their current ground. The financial success of the club requires greater match-day revenues and the current Goodison Park is at least in need of a revamp.
The move to a new 50,000 seater stadium in Kirkby was however a far from popular decision. Two camps of Evertonians emerged with the pragmatists accepting that change was essential and then others wanting to maintain the passionate, tight knit community with Goodison Park at its core.
The Times quotes Robert Elstone, the Everton Chief Executive;
Talks have kicked off with [Liverpool] City Council to review potential new stadium sites and explore how the council can assist the club in finding an economic solution to our stadium challenge.
In addition to these meetings, we have met with developers and land-owners and we’ve commissioned a fresh look at Goodison Park with a highly recommended architect.
This will come as good news to all Everton fans. A renovation of Goodison Park must surely be the best scenario for all fans. It will enable the club to stay at the heart of its community and it will also please the board, increasing match day revenue. The same problems do remain however with the ground surrounded by housing, with little room to grow the stadium. Some innovative architecture will be required and most Everton fans will pray for a successful outcome.
There are other options, with authorities preferring the idea of a ground share between Everton and city rivals Liverpool. Everton have previously suggested a willingness to discuss plans yet Liverpool have remained firm in their refusal of such proposals. Both clubs are struggling to expand their stadiums and sharing the financial burden would make sense, it just seems a shame to lose two of the more atmospheric grounds in the country.
The attempt to renovate Goodison Park will therefore be met with much support in the football community. There are cases of successful moves to new grounds such as Arsenal to the Emirates, but there are many where the atmosphere has been indefinitely lost. Generic football stadiums lack the character of traditional grounds such as Craven Cottage, Fratton Park or even Goodison Park. Although all three of these stadiums do not fully capitalise on their financial position, they definitely add to the fans experience and involvement and in doing so contribute several points to their clubs league tally.
I hope that the Everton board under the stewardship of Bill Kenwright, a passionate fan himself, can find a way to stay at Goodison Park, in doing so balancing the financial implications and the atmosphere of a traditional stadium.