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Toffee Talk

Young fans crucial as Everton covet Champions League

We are proud of the fact that, in a season of sold-out fixtures at Goodison, one in four of our season ticket holders are young fans, under the age of 22, securing a new generation of Evertonians.

This is important as we move forward as a club, building not only the kind of support and environment which will help our manager, Ronald Koeman, and the team, but also paving a path towards long-term, sustained success.

For more than a decade, we have challenged the Premier League's Champions League "regulars" - we'll be competing alongside Arsenal in the Europa League next season.

However, to really push on and break into the top four, we needed new investment, which has been provided by our major shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, and we need a larger, modern stadium.

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With confidence and optimism, we are proceeding with the next phase of work on our planned new stadium, for which there has been support from fans and residents across the city of Liverpool and Liverpool City Council.

In return for that support, the City will benefit not only from an annual cash sum that will contribute to vital local services across Liverpool, but a city-wide boost from new jobs, new businesses and wider community benefits kick-started by the developments at both Bramley Moore Dock, the site for our new stadium, and Goodison Park.

A young Everton fan invades the pitch to celebrate with Romelu Lukaku after the striker scored the club's last goal in the 3-0 victory against West Bromwich Albion in their Premier League encounter on March 11.
A young Everton fan invades the pitch to celebrate with Romelu Lukaku after the striker scored the club's last goal in the 3-0 victory against West Bromwich Albion in their Premier League encounter on March 11. PHOTO: REUTERS

There is a lot of work still to be done and ensuring that the new stadium makes commercial sense and securing the finance are crucial next steps. Only when these elements are in place can we move forward.

As evidenced this season by a strong, sustained effort by the team to finish seventh in the Premier League, behind Arsenal and Manchester United, Everton remain as ambitious as ever and we want to continue to build towards challenging for a place in the Champions League. It is a big task but it is one we relish.

If you believe it's simply about money - where you finish is based on what you spend - it probably looks even more daunting. But we feel we've shown it's more than that and, with the right manager, player recruitment and trading, as well as home grown-player development, you can buck that trend.

We have taken big steps forward commercially but we are not yet where we want to be and we will never rest on our laurels.

We remain driven by our Latin motto, so wisely selected by our forefathers - Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (nothing but the best is good enough). We're pleased to have secured the biggest commercial partnership deal in Everton's history with SportPesa, a growing global company.

I'm also really pleased that we will be continuing to work together with Chang, who have been our friends and partners for 13 years, with a clearly-defined focus on community going forward.

We have taken big steps forward commercially but we are not yet where we want to be and we will never rest on our laurels.

Community is at the heart of what we do and we will never lose sight of why we were formed almost 140 years ago.

We're "The People's Club", with a rich heritage going all the way back to our founder, Reverend Ben Chambers. He wanted to bring his community together, get them active, provide them with a focal point and an identity, make them proud of where they're from.

We spend all our time doing the same things - bringing the community together, listening and reacting to what they tell us and, above everything, making them proud to wear that blue jersey.

• The writer is the Everton chief executive.

• Toffee Talk is an occasional exclusive column by English Premier League club Everton for The Straits Times that gives a more intimate look inside Goodison Park.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Young fans crucial as Everton covet Champions League'. Print Edition | Subscribe