As I write this on the eve of the most momentous week of our Everton lives I feel great sadness. This week the voting ballot papers will fall through our letter box, we will open them expecting to tick a box in a few seconds. Please, please stop and think what your 'X' mark will mean to the future of Everton and future Evertonians. Make a decision that you can really put your head on the pillow and think I've done the right thing not a selfish for here and now vote but for our children and their children.
This Kirkby proposal is short term gain with long term pain.
Emotions are running high, we are passionate Evertonians, if we take emotion out of the debate then please take up chess.
I'm sad about the events of the last few weeks when really I should be happy about the best team in years and European football beckoning us. I'll explain .All I have seen and heard pre-season is Evertonians wrestle with what the future holds which for many will be life changing.
I have a great friend called Barry Murray, a rough diamond who lives and breathes Everton — in fact his four children are named after former players (even his daughter Toni is named after Tony Cottee) — he has not missed a game anywhere for over 20 years and has run out of skin space for tattoos Everton-related. He wells up with emotion like the last time we won the cup and says to me "Ian, I love this club but if they take us to Kirkby for their own self-interest I'm not going anymore. It will break my heart but I will feel betrayed and my children will be abandoned by the club."
Barry lives in Southdene, Kirkby. He has no vote. Why? Because he spends all his free money travelling the length and breadth of the country organising coaches to follow the Blues. An extreme and isolated case? No a frightening common theme running throughout the Everton hard core, you know the ones who don't question the board or the manager's tactics too much and pour scorn on anyone booing the team but will support the team on a cold winter's night at a far flung venue in the League Cup. I've heard of season tickets will be sent back and future games picked if we get sent to Kirkby.
The Everton extended family is in turmoil, fearful of what is to become of us .I ask a simple question? Who is this stadium really for? Is it for a desperate board devoid of money and real ambition? Selling us off to Kirkby for selfish reasons to maximise their share value .Will the present CEO and custodians be with the fans left by the Kirkby move in this 'nice stadium' on a retail park in five years time .Make no mistake this crime of the century will be called in and the initial 'free stadium', (now its costing us £50 million plus), will increase in cost at least another £30million. Steel prices are going through the roof. The land where our new home is to be placed was landfill and the foundation costs could soar.
Everything we have been told by our sales-pitch owners changes almost daily. We were acquiring 9,000 car spaces on the retail park now its 1,000. So, if you live a few miles away you will have to drive to a car park (with a fee) then get on a coach (with a fee) watch the game and en masse after the final whistle wait in hour-long queues to get on a coach to pick up your car wait in another queue to get out of the car park to your home destination. The fabled trams and new train station will not cope according to experts on transport in the Mersey region.
The world-class stadium initially promised is now a "nice" stadium — ask yourself is this stadium presented to us worthy of the fourth most successful team in English football; we're not a Bolton or Coventry, we're Everton. The price we are quoted to build this stadium says a lot of its finished style and quality.
Bringing the existing playing staff to endorse our move is a bit below the belt and I thought we did things the Everton way. Hardly anyone in the present first team will be with us in five years' time, Beatties gone already. And just who scripted their quotes and how could they say anything else if they did say it, they are employees. Another nail in many fans' coffin of Everton to do this.
Fear factors used by the PR machine say Goodison will fall down soon and we will end up playing Marine. The reds are building a new stadium across the road. Do we want to see this? No let's cower away on the edge of the city, eh? Would our newest fan, Rocky, do this? Run away from a fight to keep the hearts, minds and souls of future generations in this City? Make no mistake, we will not grow in Kirkby but erode. We have the biggest walk-up attendance in the league and the best dispersal rate of fans, why are we making it harder for our fans?
Ten million pounds extra for team building in Kirkby! Based on what business plans shown to the fans? By the way, £10 million in five years' time might get us an average left back if we're lucky.
A new stadium will not make us compete to the level to which we aspire, only big backers with money will accomplish this. If we're skint now finishing sixth, how will we survive to get to this fabled site in Kirkby? We need financial help right now ,today!
And therein lies our problem. Money.
Our board has never put one penny of extra investment in our club, just paid the bank for Mr Johnson's shares. In the fast pace and money-driven Premiership we have a mansion but try to live there on a working man's wage. Only Moyes's magic wand has put us in European football, not our custodians. We have the smallest squad in the history of the Premiership just now, net spending in the last seven years averages out at just three million. Ask yourself why? We budget for 17th place, we finished an admirable sixth adding to our spending power with £500,000 per place. We get given £35 million by the great God Sky yet tonight we are in a plus-monies in with two players and less than a week away to kick off. Relegated Sheffield Utd have spent more than us with eight strikers now to choose from.
An indication that we have no real money still after Moyes's exploits. God help us next season if we finish mid-table. Our best players will be sold as we've sold everything else, even the new Academy. We have only Goodison left which is costed at £7 million in the Everton stadium accounts but £14 million on the company accounts to make our holdings look better. Let's be honest, the fee quoted that Goodison to be sold will secure us £15 million is over-optimistic at best. Where will we get this fee, Narnia? The naming rights for £35 million? Arsenal only get three million a year from the Emirates over ten years, the rest is for shirt sponsorship. That's a London team consistently in the Champions League.
All our PR spin is like a wish list for Father Christmas. Where is the detail to back up their claims? Where is the stadium detail? This project is over 18 months in the making and we're shown what? A lit-up stadium at night that anyone could have Photoshop'ed from a stadium in Europe.
Why do we feel were being rushed into something we will regret?
We're told we are special in that we will have a vote on our future. If the deal and stadium was as great as we were initially told, why are our custodians not just making the decision for us? When you buy Everton you should show leadership and vision. Did we vote for the magical Kings Dock? No, the vote is a double indemnity passing the buck so to speak when it goes horribly wrong if we move. What major company would accept a 51% mandate to move, disenfranchising thousands of fans? Maybe a desperate company?
We're told there is no plan B. Goodison cannot be re-developed and that the council has not helped us with no land available. Well, we all know now this is not the case. A group of caring Evertonians picked up those terse statements and the gauntlet, spent hundreds of hours and their own money to get real alternatives.
I take my hat off to KEIOC. I went to the exhibition last Friday, not in a pub or school hall but in the great building of St George's Hall. There I found detailed plans stage by stage to dispel the myth that Goodison cannot be done. Did the owners of Spurs, Villa, Celtic, Rangers, Chelsea, Newcastle and Man Utd say this as well? Or did their boards put their hands in their pockets for the future of the club in the best location, where they heralded from and made their name. They acquired planning permission and funding, had a real will and ambition, doing what was best for the fans not just them.
It struck me at St Georges, where would we want to parade our next trophy, here in the heart of our city or from Knowsley's Civic hall?
The four thousand fans who came to view plan B and C came also in hope that a real alternative could be found, a holy grail to many of the pilgrims on Friday. I believe many will vote yes to Kirkby because of the club's spin of impending disaster and doom, a cruel way to treat our loyal supporters of the People's club — a banner that should be taken down in Kirkby if we go.
If this board is so skint then please move on and let someone else take up the baton to further us.
I'm thankful also to KEIOC for making sure that the Electoral society will count the votes of our destiny. The last vote we undertook was under suspicion.
I hope the local media give this week a word-for-word balanced view; they have a responsibility to its Blue readers not to be influenced by our club. Many fans are throwing mud already at our local papers citing the fact that they only give the club's PR spin. They will lose more readers and accountable if the vote is yes. So many fans last Friday thought there was only one side to our future, many left disgusted at the bias.
If the local media explore Bestway proposals then it's a no brainier where our future lies. In Everton looking over the Mersey and St Rupert's tower. An iconic setting at the gateway of the City centre with a statement to all visitors who we are: WE ARE EVERTON!
A club rich in history and tradition, a founder member of the Football League and a much-loved institution of the City, its roots based on the working man not based in Kirkby for corporate reasons. Incidentally, what corporate business would spend money seven miles from a vibrant growing City? Would you buy a pub in the City or one in Kirkby?
The new Kings Dock arena will be the aim for most business conferences not on the outskirts.
These naming rights... where would you get more money, Kirkby or a location seen by thousands of tourists and business people coming in from the planes and boats on the Mersey? You would hear the roar of a goal in the city centre just like when Dixie scored 'that' goal that gave him immortality.
I have said before if we leave to go to Kirkby, in five years' time everyone visiting our growing city will be met at Speke, Lime Street, Skellhorne Street and Lime Street with billboards proclaiming 'Welcome to Liverpool home of Liverpool FC and the Beatles', job done. Erosion of our brand name in the city. Why should the LCC council and tourism board endorse another councils business?
I've met high powered representatives of Bestway and they mean business but need above all co-operation from Bill. It's deliverable. Our council will back this scheme and all political parties will transcend differences. It will re-generate a massive area coupled with Project Jennifer on Great Homer Street.
We had one fantastic opportunity in the Kings Dock lost, a quantum leap for our club that every red was envious of, (now they are laughing at us with the Tesco dome) but to be fair many proper reds tell me they truly don't want us to leave the City. Its not Liverpool FC being the cuckoo in the nest but our own board.
Don't do it Bill. I want you to use your vote to help this man to do the right thing. By voting No we have to explore the other options given to the club by concerned fans. I asked Bill, how does he want to be remembered. This deal and Goodison will ensure he will be remembered as a visionary custodian not pilloried for taking us out of the City. I don't wish harm on Bill but he must do what's right and take notice of what is on offer now, not be blinkered and swayed by non-Evertonians for personal gain.
Let's not play cat and mouse with Bestway. Send a clear signal of intent to do what's the best way for Everton long term and most of all think of our children please.
Say No to Kirkby and let's be together, a powerful force.
Let's have that feel good factor not one of division and fear. Let's get back to supporting our team and manager.
Please take time on your vote delve more into options and say NO!
PS — This week I expect a last-minute seduction to the wavering fans with the likes of a director will put in £50 million for players if we say yes and add at least two players to our dangerously small squad. Please don't be sucked in, think long term and think of who we really are. Maybe the Tesco deal was the best thing that happened because now there is a momentum to address our stadium issue. Let's continue this and explore and embrace the City plans.
Only a vote No to Kirkby will enable us to go the right way and buy time for our children's future. Any doubts, vote NO over Kirkby and put your head on the pillow knowing you have done what's right.