Keith Harris, English football's Mr Fixit who has brokered a series of takeover deals in the top two divisions, has urged Liverpool and Everton to re-consider groundsharing and forget about developing Anfield and Goodison Park.
Harris says adopting the European model of investing in the same stadium is the only way the two clubs can progress in the current economic climate. Liverpool's American owners are assessing whether to redevelop Anfield or move to a new stadium on their own while Everton have suffered a series of setbacks trying to find a new site.
But Harris, chairman of the investment bankers Seymour Pierce, says none of these is the best option. "Groundsharing has worked well in Milan and Munich, so why not? It makes so much common sense," he said. "Is it more sustainable for both to build a £250m stadium that is predominantly empty when not being used for playing?"
The municipally owned San Siro has become antiquated but Harris, noted for his mediating skills between club owners and potential buyers, says merging is the best way forward. "The technology is there and Liverpool is not a wealthy city. At some stage it will be forced on us and that will be a change for good."
Harris, who spoke at last week's SportAccord conference in London, joked that he had received "more death threats from fans than from my ex-wife" over his initial comments about groundsharing on Merseyside. But he persists with his belief that it will work, because the two sets of fans are not as hostile to one another as some rivalries. "It should be given serious consideration rather than dismissed as something that is crazy."
A former Football League chairman, Harris also painted a grim picture for the future of lower-league clubs as a result of the new £195m three-year TV deal with Sky to start in 2012-13, which is worth £69m less than the current deal. "This deal will mean a squeeze at the bottom," said Harris, who said budgets may be slashed to accommodate player contracts that run beyond the current deal. "I can see the teams not competing to reach the Premier League being cast off and becoming feeder clubs, or even semi-professional."
Harris said the new TV deal would have a huge negative effect. "Clubs may have been thinking they would get the same again but now they will have to adjust their belts." He also revealed that new owners for Portsmouth would be revealed within a week but admitted it was becoming difficult to find buyers for League One and League Two clubs. "The Championship is the attractive preying ground right now because you are one removed from milk and honey and should be able, by judicial expenditure, to avoid going down into what is becoming more of an abyss."
Harris also cautioned against Leeds being allowed into the top flight unless they disclose more about their owners. West Indies-based holding company FSF, run by three discretionary trusts, is said to run the club, but its bosses are unknown. "The Premier League is fastidious about ownership. Someone somewhere knows who the owners are. It's a question of preparedness of disclosure."Reuse content