Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Toffees consider grounds for a move

Everton chief executive Robert Elstone spoke about the progress of new stadium plans at the club's 2014 General Meeting at Liverpool Pilharmonic Hall

Everton have expressed their excitement and "cautious optimism" about a particular site they have been looking at with a view to building a new stadium.

Last year the Toffees revealed they were exploring locations for a new home in collaboration with Liverpool City Council.

And club chief executive Robert Elstone said at Everton's 2014 General Meeting on Tuesday that, while a series of sites were being examined, one - which he refused to name - was being focused on more than the others.

A team of external advisors, including planners, architects, designers and regeneration experts have been consulted on the proposed venture, with the viability of a new 50,000 capacity purpose-built ground inside the city boundaries of Liverpool under consideration.

Elstone said: "The stadium remains a big priority.

"We're not ruling out any of the sites that we've identified and that the council has presented to us, but there is one site which is getting more attention and has been getting more attention for a number of months.

"It has been worked on very carefully, diligently and in some detail by not only Everton, but by the council and by advisors, planners, architects, designers, cost consultants, regeneration experts and solicitors. So there's a lot of work going into something that we're very excited about.

"We need a council being supportive financially and supportive entrepreneurially as well. At the moment there are signs that they are being that, and that's to be welcomed and we're delighted with that.

"We hope it comes to fruition and, if it does, I think it's something that the city and our fans will be very proud of."

Elstone was keen to emphasise that the risks, and debt, associated with any move away from Goodison Park were being contemplated by the club.

He added: "The board is currently looking not only at this opportunity but also the associated risks and the debt that the club may well have to take on to deliver this, which may or may not be the right thing to do.

"That's exactly where we are in terms of the project at the moment - that consideration is ongoing by the board.

"But, in summary, there's a degree of optimism - perhaps some cautious optimism - but a degree of optimism.

"We wouldn't be investing what we're doing without thinking it had a chance of success, and there's a commitment as always to share information with our fans as soon as we can."

Elstone later suggested there could be further news on the matter by the start of the 2014/15 season.

He said: "The timeframe is relatively short-term because we are sitting and evaluating whether this is the right thing to do, and we are certainly not going to dwell on that.

"So at some point in the next few weeks and months, we will need to make a decision, and when we do, we will announce it to the fans."

Also speaking at the General Meeting at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall were Everton chairman Bill Kenwright and manager Roberto Martinez - both of whom stressed the Toffees do not need to sell any of their star players.

Last summer, when Martinez arrived as boss, the club lost midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United.

Fellaini had a buy-out clause in his contract and Kenwright said: "I think everyone here knows Marouane chose to have a price on his head.

"We don't have to sell anyone.

"There is no-one with a price on their head like there was with Marouane."

Everton have thrived under Martinez - they still have an outside chance of a top-four Barclays Premier League finish - and several of their key players are likely to be on clubs' wish-lists this summer.

But the Spaniard said: "I think the answer everyone needs to know is that we are not in need of selling players, and I think that is important.

"We will never sell a player due to financial needs. If we make a sale it will be in our football plans.

"It has to be the judgement of the player, because we need something better or because it is the right time to move them on. If that is the case, the squad will be in a stronger position, because we will bring in two, three or four players."

Martinez chose to make specific reference to one of the stand-out performers of Everton's campaign, 20-year-old England midfielder Ross Barkley.

He said: "Ross came to see me and said 'I love playing for Everton' and that is a rare statement - you don't get that any more.

"Will there be new faces coming in and players going out (this summer)? Yes, of course - we need to do that.

"I think we have all seen from window to window that we need to get fresher and newer. We need to have core players but also need to have good players coming in as well.

"But you can rest assured the decisions will be football decisions."

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