It is now 18 months since Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, opened the debate on whether Everton should be allowed to move forward with plans to build on the public land, but very little else has come from the opening debate.
At the time, Anderson seemed confident that the council could facilitate funding for the regeneration project through introducing new partners to the scheme that would help Everton build a 50,000 seater stadium, and the council fund much needed regeneration for a park so sorely underused. Since then, however, the silence has been almost deafening.
Tonight, it was publicly broken.
“A new stadium is a challenging prospect until we get in a real true partnership with Liverpool Council it will be hard to do,” Everton CEO Robert Elstone said.
“It’s not just an Everton stadium with a few nice things around it. It’s a vision for North Liverpool that includes a stadium, and at the moment in my view the council doesn’t see it like that.”
In private, Elstone has been growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of movement on the plan. Almost as frustrated as many others have been via social media.
Tonight, he voiced that frustration at the AGM and drew an almost immediate reaction from Joe Anderson.
But not before he had continued, “The biggest risk in my opinion is the failure to grasp collectively the belief in the transformational possibilities of Walton Hall Park. But we need help – we need a true partnership approach.
“Let’s be clear this is not about Everton asking anyone for money.
“We have offered a solution which will offer cash, and social development (to the council)
“The onus cannot just be on the club – we have to do it in partnership.”
He continued, stating that Everton have around £2.5m put aside for drawing up planning applications and PR work for the scheme, but Anderson hit back via Twitter.
He tweeted, “Re EFC, CEO comments at AGM that they are ready on stadium. I am looking forward to receiving their planning and financial proposals tomorrow.”
Anderson is an Evertonian, and last year when he sat down with me to talk about his love of the club and his life in politics, he seemed genuinely pleased that the club and the council had such a positive working relationship. That seems to have changed.
Elstone aired his frustration in an attempt to appease shareholders. Anderson has reacted and hit back far too quickly but both need to sit down in the same room and thrash this out privately.
A new stadium built within the city boundaries will only be done so with the co-operation of the local council, and in Anderson we have had the most accommodating leader for decades. It is vital that tonight’s outbursts don’t continue and put the future of ANY stadium plans in jeopardy.
This isn’t 1892. Tonight’s AGM wasn’t held upstairs at The Sandon. And nobody – but nobody – has a stadium “in their pocket” like George Mahon did.
Mahon took a gamble by publicly calling out John Houlding, but he was holding all the aces. Neither Anderson nor Elstone can boast such a winning hand.
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