“Welcome back to the sixties”, said Pete as we entered the lower Bullens Road stand at Goodison. Pete likes the ground, as do most Evertonians. Bernard Walker, in an excellent “who are you” put it like this: “I absolutely love Goodison Park for all its memories, history and Leitch architecture, so would be very loath to move away.”
I can see where they’re coming from, and any Sunderland fan with memories of Roker will immediately find Goodison resonating when they enter the ground. Goodison opened in 1892, Roker some five years later, and both came to bear the imprint of Archibald Leitch (1865-1939). His designs are described by Wikipedia as “initially considered functional rather than aesthetically elegant, and … clearly influenced by his early work on industrial buildings” but I’m not a fan of Wikipedia and think that judgement is harsh, especially after having read what the architectural historian and writer Simon Inglis has to say about him, for example:
‘If you look at the First Division table in 1927, of 22 clubs, 16 had been, at one time or another, clients of Archie.
“Or think of the 1966 World Cup. Of eight venues used, six were grounds where Leitch had played a significant role. That is some legacy for an unknown engineer.”
And it is. But 1927 is around the same time as the general strike – just about beyond human memory – and even 1966 is half a century ago. Of the eight stadia used in the world cup, four no longer exist and the inadequacies of a fifth, Hillsbrough, played a part in the UK’s worst football disaster. It may seem strange, even inappropriate, to mention Hillsbrough here but I think it’s true to say that Goodison has seen no major investment since the changes forced on clubs by the Taylor report, which made recommendations following the disaster.
So it’s no surprise that Goodison is a little bit crap. As Sam Myers, our most recent blues ” who are you” contributor, put it “Much as I love Goodison, its ‘charm’ as an older stadium doesn’t make for the most pleasant matchday experience,”
I’d put it another way:
Despite its history and its significance to Evertonians and football fans everywhere, Goodison should not be used as a Premier League stadium. Its facilities and the view it provides of the playing area are inadequate for a league that boasts of being the best in the world.
My matchday experience is of a crowded concourse, of seating whose rows are too narrow (i.e. too close together – it’s impossible to walk to your seat without standing on feet) and of the likelihood of there being a large lump of wood between me and the pitch.
I know that our midfield has a tendency to disappear but we usually mean that in a metaphorical sense. Two weeks ago it got a bit more literal. At times four players, the ref and the ball couldn’t be seen for a good many seconds. There could have been a toffee lady, her six kids and their Shetland pony on the pitch and I wouldn’t have known. And even if you aren’t stuck behind a pillar there’s a high probability you won’t be able to see play if it takes place near the touchline at the other end of the ground.
But enough of that, the decrepitude of Goodison is not really my point. As Pete, Bernard and Sam say, there’s a certain charm to all of this and, in a perverse way, for those of us old-timers who wallow in nostalgia it’s enjoyable.
But not when we look at the prices.
Last season my SOL ticket for the Premier Concourse against Arsenal cost £33. I had a seat between the half way line and the box. This season it was £36 to sit behind the goal in the North Stand for a derby match. Both seats, it goes without saying, give unobstructed views of the pitch, both were easy to reach, and no-one stood on my feet when they were passing me to get to their place.
And what do you get at Goodison for the same price or more? You get stuck behind a massive block of wood, or concrete, or metal, or whatever Archibald Leitch decided was the best technology a century ago. Crap seats to see second tier games at Goodison cost more than good seats in top tier games at the SOL.
That can’t be right
Now, Evertonians will tell you their ground is too hemmed in by housing to be rebuilt on a bigger scale, which it is. They might say that they desperately want to move because that’s the only way they can get a bigger stadium, one which would allow them to fully exploit their potential on the commercial side. They might say that the club has tried to move, which it has, (at least three new venues identified to date, but nothing doing so far).
Some might also say the club’s investment model is inadequate and they want change at the top (there have been protests, including airplane banners, about the Board). It might all be true but, really, it’s irrelevant. As far as I’m concerned, it is missing the point.
As far as I’m concerned, as an away supporter, whatever they say about investment, poor commercial income, or anything else, Everton FC are minted (geddit?). They’re in Deloitte’s 2015 Money League with revenues of £144 million euros. They have the 20th greatest revenue of all of the football clubs in the world and with an even better TV deal coming they can only get richer. They have no excuse for ripping off fans by charging them top prices for second-rate facilities.
Dear Mr. Elstone, Mr. Kenwright et al, please stop your bleating about “the people’s club”. Stop ripping off people. You give us 1960s facilities. You give us 1960s views. You even give us a 1960s record when you send the teams out.
How about charging us 1960s prices?