Football: Everton given go-ahead to plan new 50,000-seater stadium

Chelsea's Nemanja Matic (fourth, left) scores a goal against Everton during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, northern England on Aug 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Chelsea's Nemanja Matic (fourth, left) scores a goal against Everton during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool, northern England on Aug 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Everton have been given the green light to begin planning a new 50,000-seater stadium in Walton Hall Park in north Liverpool, the English Premier League football club said on Tuesday. The new stadium will spearhead a major regeneration of the area planned by the city council.

"On my journey to our home games, as I pass Walton Hall Park, I inevitably think that I am only a minute away from our beloved Goodison (Park)... for several years now, I've also thought, if only it was available for our new stadium, it ticks all the boxes," Everton chairman Bill Kenwright said in a statement outlining the plans on the club's website.

"An opportunity to explore the possibility of securing the new home we've looked for, for so long, is hugely exciting to me, but to do that in a way that supports, transforms and sustains our local communities, in our Everton heartland, is such a wonderful, added bonus."

Everton's Goodison Park ground, where they have played since 1892, is one of the most atmospheric in the top flight of English football, but a 40,000 capacity means the club cannot generate the kind of matchday revenue to enable it to compete with their north west rivals and London's big clubs.

"Like all Evertonians, I love Goodison Park and have done since the day I first set foot in the Boy's Pen but the prospect of developing a new stadium, and a new and vibrant community, just down the road from us, is to be grasped and encouraged," Kenwright added.

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson said a new ground for Everton would be the "catalyst" in a regeneration scheme that would create significant job opportunities and economic benefits.

"This is a starting point for something which could be a real game changer for this part of the city," he said. The club said its partners would develop ideas for the site in collaboration with the local community and supporters' groups and that a formal planning application could be lodged in the next 12 months.

Plans to revamp Liverpool's Anfield Stadium, just across Stanley Park from Goodison, have also been recommended for approval by the city council. The 150 million pound (S$300 million) scheme would eventually see the stadium capacity rise to 58,000 from the current 45,000.