A shared stadium in Liverpool is a bad idea!

Last year I wrote about why I thought a shared stadium in Liverpool was a bad idea, which I still vehemently believe. In the past few days the subject has reared its head once more after Everton had their plans to move to a site in Kirkby rejected by the government.
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This has lead to more calls for Liverpool and Everton to share a stadium. Indeed, there have been reports in the past few days that Everton Chief Executive Robert Elstone has spoken to Liverpool’s MD Christian Purslow about a possible stadium share. Liverpool have rejected any plans to share.
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This story has really gained momentum in the press because last week cities hoping to stage games in the 2018 World Cup, should England win the right to host it, had to submit their applications. At present, neither Anfield nor Goodison Park is suitable to host games under the current FIFA regulations so there is a risk that Liverpool, one of Englands top football cities will not host any games.
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Apparently though, Liverpool FC are not so keen on the deal. Hicks and Gillett have always viewed the new stadium as the lynchpin of their plans for the club and they want to build it before they sell the club on. Both owners made promises when they took over at the club that a ground share was not going to happen.
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Also, it is believed, rightly or wrongly, within LFC that the credit crunch is easing a bit and that construction may finally start on the new Stanley Park Stadium in 2010. Some reports say that that Liverpool were not keen because Tom Hicks has contacts in the construction trade and wants to use them for building the new stadium. There is also the issue of naming rights. It is believed that agreements are already in place to name the new Liverpool stadium when it is built and any ground share would lead to renegotiation of these deals.
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Liverpool and Everton have two very distinct identities and have different requirements for a stadium. There has been some loose talk of an 80,000 capacity stadium but that is too big for Everton. The rejected stadium was 50,000. Liverpool does have a larger fan base and a greater demand for tickets than Everton, but I’m not sure that we’d fill 80,000 consistently either.
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There are many fans on either side of the debate that just wouldn’t want to share their seat with a fan of the other club. That’s not a problem for me but it is for many others and they cannot just be ignored. Some fans say it would be too strange watching a home game knowing that next week your city rivals would be playing in the same stadium for you to ever think of it as a ‘home’ stadium. Not wanting to share is about the only thing both Reds and Blues fans agree on.
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Everton’s fans were not exactly thrilled about the prospect of moving to Kirkby, which is just outside the city boundary of Liverpool, but the board seemed hell-bent on pushing the idea through. Some Everton supporters groups even paid for architects to assess other potential sites but the club ignored them. If they weren’t too keen on that idea there’s no way that they’ll want to share.
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The usual line trotted out by people pushing for a shared stadium is to look at other shared stadiums such as in Italy. Italian stadiums are council owned, which is why the clubs are happy to use them. It is also why Italian football is rife with hooliganism and dilapidated stadiums with bad pitches, as the clubs pass the buck to the council, who pass it straight back so problems with security, facilities and the pitch are never properly solved. A recent study has found that Milan’s brand has been weakened by their ties to Inter and have lost money due to constantly switching advertising. Inter Milan are looking to build their own stadium. Torino and Juventus will no longer share when Juventus move back to the new Stadio Delle Alpi. Shared stadiums don’t really happen in the top leagues in the rest of Europe.
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A fortnight ago, I visited the Allianz Arena in Munich and magnificent as it is, it just would not work in Liverpool. The stadium was supposed to be joint owned by both Munich clubs but due to 1860’s financial difficulties, Bayern own the stadium at present, with 1860, currently tenants in their home stadium, due to buy back their half in the next few years. Looking round the stadium it was obvious that 1860 were very much the junior partners in that particular stadium and that kind of situation would be intolerable to Evertonians if they were ever asked to play second fiddle to Liverpool and vice-versa.
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While the two clubs, Bayern and 1860 paid for the stadium, the city picked up the tab for the infrastructure improvements around the ground. There has been no indication that Liverpool council would pick up the tab in any similar way. Liverpool had to agree to pay for all kinds of local building projects before they got planning permission so any kind of transport upgrades would in all likelihood have to be paid for by the two clubs.
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Remember as well that English weather is a factor. We have had so much rain last week that a fair chunk of the country resembles Atlantis at present. That rain plays havoc with football pitches and a shred pitch may not stand up to the demands that would be placed upon it. Motherwell shared their stadium with Gretna a couple of years ago and had so many problems with the pitch that there were calls in Scotland to ban ground-sharing altogether.
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The only shared stadium I can recall in England, in the top flight at least, was Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park when Charlton (who had previously shared Upton Park), then Wimbledon made it their ‘home’. The pitch was awful due to the amount of games played on it and the fans of all clubs hated it.
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A shared stadium would also be a message that despite Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Bristol all being capable of supporting two stadiums, Liverpool, despite having done so perfectly well since 1892, cannot.
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Liverpool and Everton both have their own separate, unique identities, fans and stadiums. They are two of the biggest names in English football. They both have rich histories that should not be ignored. They have survived separately for 117 years now and can survive separately in the future. Hopefully the powers that be in both clubs will ignore the moneymen and listen to their fans who want to remain separate.
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What do you think?