Everton Football Club praised for exemplar public consultation

Posted 19th September 2019
12 minutes read
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Leading experts in civic engagement, sports business and marketing have hailed Everton Football Club for its “exemplar” approach to the two-stage public consultation into its proposals for a new state-of-the-art stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock on Liverpool’s Waterfront and for a community-led legacy project at current home, Goodison Park.

The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) has joined two internationally- renowned academics in praising the Club for its inclusive and comprehensive approach and genuine desire to listen to the public viewpoint.

Under ‘The People’s Project’ brand the Club held their public consultation in two stages – November/December 2018 and July/August 2019 – generating a huge response from fans and residents from across Liverpool City Region and beyond, offering their thoughts on the Club’s ambitions plans.

Across the two stages there were travelling roadshows, the second using the latest Virtual Reality technology complemented by a downloadable app, workshops for fans, residents, civic societies and key stakeholders to test the Club’s approach to the design of the new stadium, plans for transport, heritage and the environment and what it plans to leave behind at Goodison Park. The Club also publicly engaged with national politicians and members of the upper house with a drop-in session at the House of Commons.

Chris Daly, the head of CIM, a professional body which has more than 30,000 members and operates in 132 countries, has praised Everton’s consultation process as outstanding. He said: “Strong brands put their customer at the heart of everything they do, and Everton’s stadium consultation is a shining example of this. The club has not assumed, but asked fans what it is they want, inviting Evertonians and the wider public alike to play a meaningful part in the process.

“Its choice of engagement channels has marked the club out as an innovator: incorporating the latest VR technology and recognising the popularity of apps, while not abandoning proven marketing techniques such as drop-in sessions and workshops. 

“It has succeeded in marrying the integration of this fan feedback with an unfaltering commitment to its heritage. While the stadium is changing, Everton FC has made it clear that its values will not, confirming their authenticity, and securing loyalty through this period of change.” 

During the first stage of consultation ‘The People’s Project’ roadshow visited nine locations in Liverpool City Region to prove the principle of Everton moving to the Bramley-Moore Dock site and to explain the socio-economic benefits the project would have. The results would be used to help the Club finalise its thoughts on stadium design which was revealed during the second stage consultation.

The Club received overwhelming support for their stadium and legacy plans from the first stage public consultation, attracting more than 20,000 respondents making it the largest commercial public consultation held in the city of Liverpool. The Club’s planned move to Bramley-Moore Dock was backed by 94% of respondents while 95% supported the Club’s plans for a legacy project at Goodison Park.

This year’s second consultation, influenced by the feedback from the first and visiting 12 locations, featured a Virtual Reality (VR) experience to allow people to fly over and through the stadium to see its stunning proposed design as well as allowing users to place themselves in the centre-circle and in the stand on matchday.

At the same time the Club released an app downloadable to phones and tablets for people who were not able to experience the VR. The Alternative Reality (AR) app allowed users to immerse themselves in the new stadium offering 360-degree views in day, night and matchday modes.

Upon its release, the app was ranked in the top 10 of most popular free sports apps in Apple’s App Store – ahead of downloads of BBC Sport and a number of book makers and gaming apps.

As well as having all information online, the Club delivered consultation materials to as many as 50,000 homes living around Bramley-Moore Dock and Goodison Park, during both phases.

Professor Michael Parkinson, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Civic Engagement at the University of Liverpool and an advisor to national governments and the European Commission on urban affairs, said: “Everton’s consultation and engagement has seen them live up to their reputation as the People’s Club. There has been a real rigour and depth to their engagement over the last two years – so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their plans have been received so well.

“The Club has acted in a clear and transparent way and genuinely reached out to fans, the business community and local people to ensure that the dialogue around the scheme is meaningful and in-depth. Some of the immersive technologies they have used to bring their plans to life, coupled with the breadth and depth of the engagement activities can provide valuable lessons for organisations undertaking engagement and consultation processes.”

Everton’s engagement started in the Autumn of 2017 when the Club carried out an initial survey to understand fans’ preferences on a new stadium and their thoughts on what makes Goodison Park special. The results from that survey helped refine Everton’s ’11 Key Principles’ which was seen as the blueprint for the Club’s stadium move. The principles covered the look and feel of the stadium and crystallised the views of fans and the Club by committing to paper a desire to create ‘a fortress’, ensure fans were as close to the pitch as possible and deliver steep stands including a steep, recognisable and iconic home end.

Transport, heritage and environment also featured heavily in the Club’s new stadium values as did the Club’s commitment to leave a legacy at Goodison Park – a site which Everton has called home since 1892.

Over the past two years Everton has asked a total of 141 questions through engagement questionnaires and consultation surveys which have generated more than 1.6 million responses from Evertonians worldwide as well residents of Liverpool City Region who may not support the Club or follow football.

Chris Brady, Director of the Centre for Sport Business at Salford University, as well as an independent commissioner on the Football Regulatory Authority, said the Club’s strategy is one that others should emulate: “The terms `engagement’ and ‘consultation’ are often bandied about as soundbites, but Everton have actually taken the terms very seriously in developing their plans for their new stadium. They have involved fans, residents, businesses and even members of the public who have no interest in football but who understand the positive effect such a development can have on the local community. 

 “All of the various stakeholders have been made to understand that they are fellow travellers on this arduous journey and that their views and support are central to the success of the project. The credit for this inclusive approach must go to the Club and, indeed, the way Everton have gone about this project could be seen as a model for how such huge civil engineering developments should be approached in the future.

“Stadium relocations are special because they have such an enormous emotional element. Everton appear to have understood that reality and have consequently managed the whole process extremely well.”

During the consultation the massive economic and social benefits of The People’s Project, which includes building on and expanding the work of the Club’s award-winning charity, Everton in The Community, were revealed in two independent reports by international property consultancy CBRE and socio-economic specialists Real Worth.

They indicate that The People’s Project would deliver a £1bn boost to the city’s economy and the potential for up to 15,000 new jobs and £34m of local income to local families while societal value would reach £793.4m between 2024 and 2033, compared to £556m generated solely through Everton in the Community activity, a difference of more than £237m.

The results from the second stage public consultation are currently being analysed and fed into the stadium design team. Prior to the submission of the planning applications, the Club will reveal the final designs for a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock and a community-led legacy at Goodison Park.

The Club remains on track to submit planning applications for both sites before the end of the year.