Merseysiders urged to reconsider plans for ground-sharing

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The sports minister, Richard Caborn, will attend a meeting between Liverpool and Everton executives next week to urge them to consider sharing a new ground, although Liverpool reiterated yesterday that they are against the idea.

The sports minister, Richard Caborn, will attend a meeting between Liverpool and Everton executives next week to urge them to consider sharing a new ground, although Liverpool reiterated yesterday that they are against the idea.

The meeting, scheduled for next Wednesday, will involve Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry, Everton's chairman, Bill Kenwright, Caborn, and a variety of officials from the North West Development Agency, which may provide funding for a shared venue.

"Mr Caborn has had a request to convene a meeting and he is more than willing to talk through the issues," a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, said yesterday. "He is generally behind the concept of ground-sharing and has supported the recent agreement between Leicester City and Leicester Tigers [the rugby union team]."

The only times that any English league clubs have opted to share a stadium in the past have been when a club has become homeless for one reason or another, usually financial hardship. Wimbledon, Charlton and Brighton are among those who have "lodged" in recent times at another club's ground.

Liverpool already have plans for a new stadium at Stanley Park and were granted planning permission for the project in September. Building could start in 2006 but questions remain over whether Liverpool can afford the venture, with the original projected cost of £80m having risen to more than £100m.

Everton are considering their future at Goodison Park, with three options tabled: a redevelopment of the ground, a move to a new ground on their own, or a ground-share with Liverpool. An Everton spokesman said yesterday that the club had "an open mind" on the issue.

As recently as September, Parry ruled out sharing and said that Liverpool would simply ditch plans for a new ground if the costs became prohibitive.

A club spokesman said yesterday: "The position of Liverpool Football Club remains unchanged. We have asked the North West Development Agency to consider our grant application on the basis of our single club use of a new stadium. This application isn't just about a new stadium - it is a project which will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the whole of North Liverpool. It will bring benefits to the local community and it is time there were signs of real progress on delivering these."

Taken at face value, those comments would suggest Caborn has little chance of brokering a ground-share.

Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benitez, backed his club's stance yesterday. "Two teams sharing a stadium always causes problems and in my view it would not work," he said.

"It would not be good for the pitch, because there would be double the amount of games played, and it would not be good for the supporters. Liverpool and Everton are teams with lots of supporters and each have their own identity. By sharing a stadium with their rival team they would lose that.

"I know from my time in Spain that ground-sharing is not popular. In Madrid you have Real and Atletico, in Valencia you have Valencia and Levante, in Barcelona you have Barça and Espanyol, and in Sevilla you have Sevilla and Real Betis. They all have their own stadiums. That is what the supporters want.

"True, Inter and AC share a stadium in Milan, but look at their pitch. It is not good. Also, in terms of atmosphere it is better that a team plays in its own stadium. In five years' time, we hope to be playing good football in our own new stadium."

Comments