Robert Elstone says major shareholder Farhad Moshiri’s investment in Everton has allowed the Club to “push forward” with the Bramley-Moore Dock stadium project.
Speaking at Tuesday’s General Meeting, Elstone explained funds have been committed to “the land, initial designs and planning preparations”.
However, while encouraged by the progress of the project, Everton’s CEO reiterated there is still work to be done in order for the proposals to become a reality.
“Much work, time and resource has gone into advancing the stadium project over the past 12 months,” said Elstone. “But, there is much still to do. And if there is one enduring message to take away from tonight, it is that while we are fully committed, and optimistic, there are still hurdles for us to overcome, not least securing all the money needed for what will be a huge financial commitment with very long-term consequences.”
Everton confirmed last year that land at Bramley-Moore Dock, close to Liverpool city centre, had been secured.
The premium location and cost of preparing the land for building has seen the price tag for the project increase significantly, with the Club continuing to work alongside Liverpool City Council to deliver a home Elstone says will “put football and the fans first and challenge the predictable formats that have shaped stadia over the past two decades.”
“The site commands a sizeable cost premium - not just the cost of the land but the cost of preparing the site to build a stadium on,” said Elstone.
“But it’s a site that comes with some fantastic commercial upsides, opportunities our business plan continues to explore.
“We are confident that around two-thirds of what we need will be supported by Liverpool City Council in an arrangement that generates not only a very healthy financial return for the Council but, most importantly, kick-starts a scheme that will provide significant numbers of new jobs, houses and new business.
“It is important that we thank the Mayor and his colleagues for their commitment to the project over the past 12 months.”
Elstone said Everton will now work to “firm-up” the Council’s support and develop its financing model for the project, before consulting fans on what they would like to see from the new stadium and ultimately finalising a planning proposal for the site.
“Of course, that [consultation] will further inform costs and budgets, a circularity we will monitor throughout to ensure the stadium project, full of opportunity but not without risk, remains the right way forward for the Club,” he added.
“We will prepare and submit a planning application, and a big part of that process is also our aspiration for Goodison Park.
“We will keep working on and keep updating our business plan, ensuring we capitalise on all the opportunity offered by such a great location.
“We hope it will take a year to secure funding and planning, and to conclude designs, and then three years to build on what is a complex site.
“If all goes to plan, we hope to be kicking-off at Bramley-Moore Dock in August 2022.
“Committed? Yes. Optimistic? Yes. But still with lots to do.”
Elstone also underlined Everton’s strong financial position and explained the Club’s commitment to continuing to invest in its playing talent.
The Blues are welcoming record crowds to Goodison Park - for the first time in the Premier League era average attendances exceeded 39,000, an occupancy of 99 per cent - and commercial revenue continues to climb thanks to an expanding roster of blue chip partners.
“Commercial revenue has grown substantially, in line with the forecasts presented at the last General Meeting,” said Elstone.
“We landed high-value and record-breaking deals with USM and, to be reported in this year’s numbers, with SportPesa and Angry Birds.
“Matchday is a very simple but impressive story; full houses, caps and queues on season tickets, ticket price freezes and new concession groups. After many years of hard work, it is no longer easy to get a ticket to Goodison Park.
“Total wages have increased significantly, and that number includes everybody on our payroll. And while it is mostly player wages accounting for the increases, our organisation has grown substantially over the past three seasons; strengthening our team off the field and improving what we do and how we operate.
“Over recent transfer windows we have spent heavily on players. Put simply, over the past seven windows, for every £1 we have received from the sale of a player, we have spent £2; almost £340m invested, with only half of it covered by the sales of John Stones, Romelu Lukaku, Gerard Deulofeu, and Steven Naismith.”
Elstone confirmed Everton repaid all their long-term debt in 2016/17, during which time the Club posted a record turnover figure of £171.3m – almost £50m more than the previous highest in 2014/15, when Everton reached the Europa League last-16 - and a record post-tax profit of £30.6m, following the £24.3m loss posted in 2015/16.
“In 2016/17, we can report the repayment of all long-term debt,” said Elstone. “Mr Moshiri’s initial investment of £105m, bolstered with a further £45m since the year-end, has allowed us to repay the Prudential loan that sat on our balance sheet since 2003, saving us around £3m every season.
“Mr Moshiri’s investment with no fixed repayment date and no contractual commitment to repay, is reported in shareholder funds, not in ‘liabilities’. And at the year-end, the Club is reporting net assets of over £90m.
“The conclusion from all of that, and the overview of the accounts more generally, is the Club’s underlying financial position is healthy.”