LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 23: An aerial artist’s illustration of the proposed new Everton … [+]
Last week, Everton FC got the news it had been hoping for.
The Premier League side was granted planning permission to build a new $696 million stadium by Liverpool City Council.
Barring an unexpected intervention from the UK government, who will now sign-off on the project, work can begin this year.
The aim, according to the planning documents submitted by the club, is for it to be completed in time for the 2024/25 football season.
In a letter to fans announcing the news, chief executive officer Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale didn’t even bother to reiterate the reasons why moving home was a good idea.
“I am sure you are aware of how important a new stadium will be for us – providing the state-of-the-art facilities befitting of an ambitious Premier League club,” she said.
Obviously, Goodison Park with its steep stands, pillar-obscured views and actual church in the corner, was not an appropriate venue for a club seeking to challenge the league’s elite.
Nevertheless, at a time when soccer is being played in empty arenas, it seems strange to discuss the benefits of a soccer club moving to a bigger, flashier ground.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Chelsea shelved its new stadium plans because of the costs.
Everton’s neighbors Liverpool put its Anfield redevelopment on ice as a result of COVID-19.
As I’ve discussed previously, the benefits of building a new stadium aren’t what they were.
The globalization of Premier League soccer means the money earned by teams from a spectator’s fortnightly spend at the stadium is dwarfed by commercial and broadcast revenue.
This is demonstrated by the fact that Chelsea, a club which has made minimal improvements to its stadia since the 90s, and Arsenal, who built a modern high-capacity arena in 2004, make roughly the same amount from matchdays.
Commercial revenue is fast become the most important revenue stream.
The plateauing of TV deals suggests broadcast revenues may have peaked and it was telling that sponsorship was the only area in which teams in the 2021 Deloitte Football Money League found growth.
So why would Everton build a new stadium?
A new home might not boost the bottom line like it used to, but for Everton, there are still a range of intangible benefits that can’t be ignored.
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 19: Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti and James Rodriguez chat after … [+]
Ever since Farhad Moshiri’s takeover of Everton in 2016 the ambition and investment at the club has ramped up significantly.
There have been some missteps along the way, but this season the money it has spent is beginning to make the Merseyside outfit look like an elite club.
In the dugout sits one of Europe’s most decorated managers, Carlo Ancelotti, and on the pitch is a genuine global superstar; James Rodriguez.
Sparkling early season form and stand-out victories against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have forced the league to take them seriously.
But, while Goodison undoubtedly has endearing character, its appearance is some way behind the sleek modern environments its rivals use.
In the era of the global soccer fan, where the majority of supporters will never visit the stadium of the club they follow, having an impressive modern venue that looks good in television drone footage or in a video game is even more important.
The incredible experience of visiting an endearingly old-fashioned stadium like Goodison Park simply doesn’t communicate to those watching through screens on the other side of the world.
That might seem shallow, but it makes a difference.
It’s been reported that part of the reason Manchester City was bought by Sheikh Mansour in 2008 was that the stadium was already built.
Tottenham Hotspur boss Daniel Levy, not a character who spends money lightly, also identified a larger modern stadium as crucial to the club securing elite status.
An old ground is not an insurmountable obstacle for an ambitious team, but they normally have to have a lot of existing brand value to fall back on.
It’s telling that Manchester United, arguably the club with the biggest international reputation of the past three decades, faces consistent criticism for not keeping its stadium on a par with its rivals.
History, of course, can be used as a powerful tool in attracting interest in a sporting team.
But if we are being honest, memories of billowy shorted players scurrying around muddy pitches don’t provide the ‘wow’ factor that might impress a seven-year-old who’s discovering soccer for the first time on a far-away continent.
The bold new waterfront home Everton is set to create will certainly be an impressive sight.
Who knows? it could be the thing that propels them above their city rivals Liverpool for the first time in decades. Evertonians will certainly hope it is.
Currently I am head of content at Construction News, specialising in investigations. I have led numerous collaborations with major media outlets. These include an