In September Liverpool City Region Combined Authority offered £45m towards Everton’s new £500m stadium and it’s now revealed the club first asked the CA for help back in 2018. Tony McDonough reports
Everton FC first approached Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (CA) three years ago to ask about the possibility of financial support for its £500m stadium.
On September 24 this year Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and the leaders of the six Liverpool city region local authorities approved a £45m funding package for the 52,888-capacity arena which is being built at Bramley-Moore Dock on Liverpool waterfront.
And LBN can reveal that discussions over that funding package stretch back three years to 2018. It was in January that year that the then Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, was pledging the city would loan the club £280m towards the cost of the arena.
State bodies such as local authorities can borrow money at interest rates significantly lower than those available to private companies. The 25-year deal would have seen the council borrow the £280m and hand it over to Everton. The repayments on the loan would have offered an annual profit of around £7m to the city.
In March that year Everton appeared to welcome the loan idea. Appearing at a Downtown in Business event alongside Mr Anderson, the then chief executive of the club, Robert Elstone, admitted securing finance for the scheme at Liverpool Waters was challenging.
Mr Elstone said: “The project has seen a significant increase in costs but with ambition comes cost. We need to maintain careful management and control of those costs. The next important issue is how do we find the additional funding. That will not be easy and we are currently looking at a number of funding solutions.”
In April that year, with the funding for the project still uncertain, Mr Anderson went even further. In an interview with LBN he said the city was prepared to fund the whole scheme. The council would own the stadium and lease it back to Everton. However, opposition politicians claimed this would not be possible under state aid rules.
Later that spring Mr Anderson’s plan to part-fund the stadium was backed by Sir Richard Leese, the then leader of Manchester City Council.
“We were heavily criticised for our investment in the Etihad Stadium,” said Sir Richard, “That development has not only generated more than £5m a year for the council, but it acted as the catalyst for the renaissance of east Manchester.”
However, as the weather started to cool in the autumn, so did Everton’s interest in the city council loan. It was reported the club was seeking to secure funding for the whole development itself, rather than take the loan. Although popular with Everton fans, the idea had met with some resistance in the city.
Now LBN can reveal that 2018 was the year the club informally approached the CA to ask what funding options were available. Everton then made a formal request for funding in 2019. This triggered a process of more detailed discussions along with due diligence and an assessment of how the scheme could support wider regeneration.
In a statement to LBN, the CA said: “This resulted in the Combined Authority approving a grant of up to £15m that will assist with infrastructure and heritage work including preserving historic features, restoring derelict land, and providing public access to the docks.
“In addition a loan of up to £30m will contribute towards the overall project to build the club’s new stadium. The Combined Authority funding was always separate to any discussions Everton FC may have held with Liverpool City Council.
Everton started work on the stadium project in August. The first phase of the scheme, enabling works taking around 32 weeks, will be funded by the club’s majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri. The source of the funding for the main build of the stadium has yet to be revealed.
It is hoped Everton will leave its current home at Goodison Park in Walton and kick off the 2024/25 Premier League season at the 52,888-capacity arena. The entire build is scheduled to take around 150 weeks in 12 separate phases.
Estimates say the stadium will deliver a £1bn boost to the city’s economy and provide up to 15,000 jobs for local people (12,000 during the construction phase). It is also estimated that it will attract around 1.4m visitors to the city and more than £255m will be spent through the local supply chains.
The latest statement from the CA added: “This project stands as one of the most significant regeneration projects our region has seen in more than a decade and will be a major catalyst for regeneration in an area that is in considerable need of revival.
“It promises to create thousands of jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities for local people, attract hundreds of thousands of new visitors to our City Region and launch programmes that will help to tackle health and social inequalities, whilst supporting vulnerable people in our communities.
“The detailed financial arrangements of the project are a matter for Everton Football Club and are subject to commercial confidentiality. As a result, the Combined Authority considered the details in private which is normal practice with these types of investments.”