This exclusive interview with Everton F.C is part of “Fan XP” – a newsletter designed to keep you abreast of the latest innovations, strategies and more regarding fan experience across the globe. To sign up, please click here.
With plans afoot to relocate from Goodison Park to a new 52,000-seat stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, Everton is a club on the move.
But as many clubs that leave a historic stadium for a sparkling new facility will testify, fans who have formed a powerful bond with their team’s spiritual home can be resistant to such a change.
In that context, the level of support for Everton’s big move is incredible.
In the first stage of Everton’s formal public consultation into the proposals for the development, 94% of more than 20,000 respondents agreed that Bramley-Moore Dock was an appropriate location for the new stadium.
Meanwhile, 95% agreed that Goodison Park should be developed for the good of the community – the second part of what Everton has dubbed the ‘People’s Project’.
Everton believes that the key to such overwhelming support has been clear and honest fan engagement from the outset, keeping supporters firmly onside by involving them in the decision-making process throughout.
Everton tells that us that supporter feedback has helped the club to shape ‘11 Key Principles’ – essentially a wish-list that has provided a blueprint for the Bramley-Moore Dock and Goodison Park developments.
“Our stadium should be built to meet the needs and expectations of the people who will use it; our players, our partners and above all, our fans,” Everton says.
“It’s important that our supporters have their say, share their opinions and help shape what their new stadium will look and feel like as it will be our home for at least the next century.
“We had over 10,000 supporters surveyed in the creation and testing of those principles, which included workshops with our architect Dan Meis.”
With proposed designs set to be presented this summer and a detailed planning application for the project expected to be submitted later this year, Everton’s big move is still a work-in-progress. However, fan experience will be at the heart of the Bramley-Moore Dock plans – and not just inside the venue.
“Outside the stadium, we want to create an environment where fans will enjoy socialising and congregating with a vibrant and engaging Fan Zone,” Everton says.
No place like home
Goodison Park has been Everton’s much-loved home for 126 years and is still easily capable of creating a crackling atmosphere.
Its limitations in the Premier League environment are obvious though. One in four seats has an obstructed view, while the club has waiting lists for its season tickets and hospitality offerings – meaning it misses out on much-needed matchday revenues – due to a relatively modest capacity of under 40,000.
However, there will be no such issues at the new stadium, which will have a capacity of 52,000, rising to 62,000.
It will also be ‘future-proofed’ for changes in regulations relating to safe standing, allowing for areas to be converted to rail seating. Such facilities have proved popular in the likes of the German Bundesliga and have started to break into British football, with Celtic of the Scottish Premiership having successfully introduced safe standing before League One’s Shrewsbury Town became the first English football club to introduce rail seating last year.
Above all, Everton is determined to establish a new home that will stoke the atmosphere and enhance the matchday experience for fans.
“Within our 11 Key Principles, creating a ‘Fortress’ and a sense of ‘Home’ scored very highly,” Everton says.
“As well as making our stadium a fortress it has to feel like ‘Home’ from the moment fans arrive. We will act on fan feedback and ideas on both the design of the stadium and the facilities that will surround it from our second-stage public consultation.
“Listening to our fans, they are keen to replicate the best characteristics of Goodison Park while providing improved modern facilities.”
With that in mind, an “unambiguous home end” will be the “focal point of the stadium”, while fans will be as close to the pitch as possible to “amplify the intensity and intimacy of Goodison Park”, Everton says.
For fans, this recognition of the old whilst embracing the new will ensure that, far from trampling on traditions, Everton is reflecting on its prestigious past to build for a better future.