Everton has engaged with tens of thousands of people across the Liverpool city region on plans for a £500m stadium at Liverpool Waters and a Goodison Park legacy project. Tony McDonough reports
Everton FC’s public consultation into its £500m new stadium and Goodison legacy projects has been hailed as a “shining example” by international experts in civic engagement, sports business and marketing.
As part of the the ‘People’s Project’, the Premier League club has engaged with tens of thousands of people across the Liverpool city region on its plans for the new arena at Liverpool Waters and a community-led legacy project in its current home in Walton.
Across the two stages there were travelling roadshows, the second using the latest virtual reality technology complemented by a downloadable app, workshops for fans, residents, civic societies and key stakeholders.
Everton also publicly engaged with national politicians and members of the upper house with a drop-in session at the House of Commons.
Leading the praise for the People’s Project is Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing which represents more than 30,000 members and operates in 132 countries. He said Everton’s consultation process has been outstanding.
He explained: “Strong brands put their customer at the heart of everything they do, and Everton’s stadium consultation is a shining example of this. The club has not assumed, but asked fans what it is they want, inviting Evertonians and the wider public alike to play a meaningful part in the process.
“Its choice of engagement channels has marked the club out as an innovator: incorporating the latest VR technology and recognising the popularity of apps, while not abandoning proven marketing techniques such as drop-in sessions and workshops.
“It has succeeded in marrying the integration of this fan feedback with an unfaltering commitment to its heritage. While the stadium is changing, Everton FC has made it clear that its values will not, confirming their authenticity, and securing loyalty through this period of change.”
During the first stage of consultation The People’s Project roadshow visited nine locations in Liverpool city region to prove the principle of Everton moving to the Bramley-Moore Dock site and to explain the socio-economic benefits the project would have.
The club received overwhelming support for their stadium and legacy plans from the first stage public consultation, attracting more than 20,000 respondents making it the largest commercial public consultation held in the city of Liverpool.
The club’s planned move to Bramley-Moore Dock was backed by 94% of respondents while 95% supported the Club’s plans for a legacy project at Goodison Park.
Professor Michael Parkinson, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Civic Engagement at the University of Liverpool and an advisor to national governments and the European Commission on urban affairs, added: “Everton’s consultation and engagement has seen them live up to their reputation as the People’s Club.
“There has been a real rigour and depth to their engagement over the last two years – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their plans have been received so well. The club has acted in a clear and transparent way and genuinely reached out to fans.”
And Chris Brady, director of the Centre for Sport Business at Salford University, as well as an independent commissioner on the Football Regulatory Authority, said the club’s strategy is one that others should emulate.
He said: “The terms `engagement’ and ‘consultation’ are often bandied about as soundbites, but Everton have actually taken the terms very seriously in developing their plans for their new stadium.
“They have involved fans, residents, businesses and even members of the public who have no interest in football but who understand the positive effect such a development can have on the local community.”
The results from the second stage public consultation are currently being analysed and fed into the stadium design team. Prior to the submission of the planning applications, the club will reveal the final designs for a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock and a community-led legacy at Goodison Park. It remains on track to submit planning applications for both sites before the end of the year.