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By ESPN Staff

Credit crunch hitting Kirkby stadium plans

Everton chief executive Robert Elstone has admitted the credit crunch is making it harder for the club to find investment for their proposed move to Kirkby.

A 36-day public inquiry into the £400million regeneration plan ended last week with lead inspector Wendy Burden promising to present her report to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, before the end of June.

Known as ''Destination Kirkby'', the plan would see Everton relocate to a 50,000-seater stadium on the outskirts of Liverpool, where a supermarket would be built to create new jobs for the local population.

If the plans are given the green light, the Toffees could be playing in their new ground by the start of the 2011-12 season.

Elstone, who was named permanent chief executive last month, admitted that the current global financial crisis had made it harder for the club to secure investment but remained confident they would be able to finance the move should it be given the green light.

''The current market will make it harder than we expected to raise finance,'' he said in a webchat on Everton's official website.

''However, we have a mix of financing options, including stadium naming rights, and we remain optimistic on that particular project of securing a substantial contribution to our overall funding requirement.

''We are looking all the time at different options, and remain confident that we will be successful. The downturn is also likely to benefit us by way of cheaper construction costs and keener pricing from all our suppliers. Of course, this will reduce our funding challenge.''

Elstone believes the move will be crucial in helping Everton beat the negative effects of the current financial downturn and help the Toffees' finances rather than hinder it.

''It's a proven fact that clubs moving to new stadia enjoy a significant uplift in attendances,'' he said.

''I believe Everton will experience the same, I also believe we are capable and qualified to ensure that uplift remains permanent.

''A few people have pointed to clubs who have allegedly suffered after building a new stadium. I'm not sure there are too many of these and I am also of the opinion that Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Sunderland, Manchester City and perhaps one or two others, wouldn't be playing in the Premier League had they not been able to build new stadia.

''It's no coincidence to me that the clubs at the top end of the Premier League have large, modern stadia.

''It's getting harder and harder to compete with the billionaires or the clubs with big stadia out of Goodison, and accordingly, the second option is to take control of our own destiny and move to a modern stadium capable of being funded, within the Liverpool city region, which is capable of taking us to the next level. Kirkby is a fantastic opportunity for this football club.

''The medium term benefit of securing a 50,000-seater new stadium capable of lifting the club to higher levels is one we had to give our best shot to delivering.''

Elstone denied that players would have to be sold in order to fund the project and said the move was vital to securing the club's long-term future.

''There is a Plan B. Unfortunately, in my view, it is not particularly attractive. I am more convinced than ever that major redevelopment of Goodison is unaffordable, equally I am certain there are no other viable sites within the city boundary or indeed elsewhere,'' he added.

''Plan B would be to re-evaluate what we have at Goodison and make largely cosmetic changes for very marginal gains. Over a period of time, our competitive position will erode.''


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