Would groundsharing work in British football?

November 27, 2009

Earlier this week, the government rejected Everton’s proposal to move to a new custom-built stadium in Kirby. This rejection was seen as a shattering blow by many as the club look to move out of the relatively dilapidated Goodison Park. However, just as many people are rejoicing at the decision which will surely ensure that the famous old club stays within the city boundaries.

Now, it would appear the Everton board are proposing a ground-share with their old rivals across the city. Despite how close the two current grounds are, a ground-share appears to be a controversial call, but in a time of financial crisis, is it not just good economics?

Ground-sharing is common on the continent, with Italy being the best example. If two clubs the size of the Milan duo can share the San Siro, surely anybody can share a stadium? Same goes for Roma and Lazio and the Stadia Olympico. Or maybe not.

Whilst economics would certainly play a part towards the building of the stadium, both Everton and Liverpool would be realistically hoping to spend the next 100 years in their new home. Of course, football grounds are more than just stadiums these days, with many being used to house concerts, meetings and banquets. In one stadium, both clubs would have to share these potentially huge profits, which is highly unattractive long-term.

However, surely the most important factor is the feeling between both sets of fans. On a recent survey, it is painfully evident that neither Everton fans or Liverpool supporters fancy sharing their home with the other, despite the relationship between both clubs being known as the ‘Friendly Rivalry’. Indeed, my own favourite thing about the game is seeing the two groups of supporters sat-side-by-side in the stands. That being said, the fans have made it clear they would neither welcome nor support having both clubs under one roof.

I think the issue here is the size of both clubs. In smaller cities, I think it is much more appropriate. Indeed, the city of Dundee has recently made a similar proposal. For anybody who is unsure on the distance between the two stadiums, they are both on the same street, literally a stone’s throw away. Neither club gets gates over 15,000, and so a shared stadium would be ideal. Indeed, United manager Craig Levein has suggested a brand new 20,000 capacity ground shared by both clubs would be brilliant, and he’s quite correct.

To expand on this, I believe it would be appropriate in many Scottish cities, and would perhaps provide much-needed revenue for clubs outside the Old Firm. A shared 30-40,000 ground for Hearts and Hibs would certainly help bridge the gap between the Old Firm. However, I do not believe that as a proposal many ‘big’ clubs would accept it. I’d be surprised if it was accepted in any English city, to tell you the truth.

Can you imagine the Manchester clubs, the North London clubs or the Old Firm in shared stadia? Neither can I. There is just too much to lose, and not least home advantage in local derbies. It is for this reason why i think the Everton board are barking up the wrong tree here.

Surely the Everton support will be even more against this than the move outside the city limits? I’d be interested to hear how you would react if your club issued the same proposal with your nearest-and-dearest.

As always, all comments are appreciated.

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