Ground share – a problem shared is a problem doubled?

At the risk of being sad or some kind of anorak I wonder how many clubs in the league have moved to new grounds since the Taylor report was published in 1990? I suspect there are many more than the 100 years before this date?

The report was sparked by Hillsborough however, it is ironic that Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday, the three clubs directly or indirectly involved in the tragedy, still play football in the grounds they occupied before 15th April 1989. However, as the game gets bigger and bigger, and the need to compete and keep up becomes more and more compelling, the issue of moving to newer, larger and therefore more lucrative homes to realise these dreams increasingly comes to the fore.

For Liverpool a new stadium appeared to be a genuine prospect when we were taken over by The Star Spangled Duo that is Hicks and Gillett. However, cock sure promises about spades hitting ground proved to be empty ones. Admittedly much of this was down the economic downturn which still prevails today so I guess it is no surprise that the present owners, although not ruling out a new build, have gradually floated the cheaper idea of, to use technical terms, of “biging” or “tarting up” Anfield!

Then of course there is the long running and always controversial saga of ground sharing with our neighbours from across Stanley Park. Martin Broughton has been the latest person to raise this suggesting it is a viable alternative to a new build or an “Anfield makeover”.

“If that’s not possible (improving Anfield) then in my personal opinion, ground sharing should be seriously considered. Fans are understandably emotional about this issue, but this has to be addressed. It’s not the case of being red or blue. You can be red one week, and blue the next….. It’s up to people like Kenny Dalglish to communicate the business sense of all this. It would mean open minds on all sides”

Predictably Broughton has taken a lot of flack for these comments from those with very short memories regarding his part in ousting of Hicks and Gillett, some have even suggested he shouldn’t be allowed near Anfield again. However, all he was suggesting that if other options fail, the ground share should be considered. I suspect it already has in previous years so it’s not exactly going out on a limb or suggesting anything new?

Perhaps Broughton’s mistake is to look at this with a cold, dispassionate business head on? Clearly there are economic benefits to sharing a ground, half the build and running costs for example. However, what this fails to take account of is that football is not a logical business. There are parallels in other walks of life for example would Pepsi and Coca Cola, in an attempt to reduce costs suddenly decide to share the same facilities? Would my mother want to sell her house in Chester, pocket the cash, and come and stay in our spare room? It makes good economic sense but hell, even in these hard times, money isn’t everything. By the way Mum if you’re reading this don’t get any ideas!

So judgement is often governed by emotion and loyalty not necessarily purely monetary considerations? Why else do otherwise savvy and rational businessmen keep ploughing millions of pounds into clubs for no desirable return? Perhaps it just needed someone brave enough to break away from the pack and take a risk? A pioneer and ground breaker? I can’t speak for Everton but Liverpool always see themselves as being different and special but I doubt it extends to suggesting we share the same tea making facilities as Everton?

What if someone did this, ignored fans wishes and built a shared stadium? There would be a period of disquiet and maybe some folk would stay away however, no doubt these would be replaced by other fans. Eventually everything would settle down to a peaceful but grudging co-existence such as the two Milan clubs have? Maybe entrenched local rivalry would be overarched by a collective civic pride in the stadium, one that the City of Liverpool as a whole could be proud of? However, there doesn’t appear to be an appetite to take this risk. Perhaps one day someone will and, after a rocky ride, see their bravery pay dividends?

Me? No doubt if we did ground share I’d get used to it. It is only bricks and mortar and it’s the fans that make the ground’s atmosphere not the joists or the concrete. However, I am an old stick in the mud and would prefer to see us plough our own furrow away from Anfield or, as seems more likely, giving the existing structure a lick of paint and erecting an extension or two somewhere!

I also can’t help thinking that Everton have more to gain from a ground share than we do. Ok we’ve just escaped administration but we have the greater fan base and wider appeal to exploit and make a go of it our own. It would also be interesting to see if Everton can consistently fill out a new stadium with say a capacity of 60,000 – casts bait and waits for angry bite!!!

So whilst not 100% ruling it out surly a new build or an Anfield redevelopment is the key if we are to truly to compete? After everything we’ve been through recently we need some stability something to stabilise our identity, sharing will only erode this further. We need our own space!

As you all know there is sign above the player’s entrance to the pitch that says “This is Anfield” that is way it should stay. Everton can sort out their own issues, alone.

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