With City of Liverpool FC now established as a credible player in the non-league football pyramid, the directors of the club have stepped up their efforts to achieve the club’s primary off-field goal – building our Liverpool home, the City of Liverpool Community Stadium.
Addressing our city’s lack of any facility capable of accommodating football at Step 6 was one of the critical factors in the club’s appeal to be allowed to enter the Hallmark Security League. It is without question a worthy goal, but how does City of Liverpool FC find its way home?
The process is undoubtedly complex. It is also, by necessity, often obscured behind commercial confidences and non-disclosure agreements. However, the ongoing behind the scenes work is beginning to bear fruit. While it is far too early to begin publicly naming sites, the directors can reveal that conversations have taken place and wheels are in motion.
So what does all the often clandestine job of building our Liverpool home involve? What’s happening and what’s going to happen? We cannot be certain of the exact chronology or precise details, but we can outline the milestones that will mark our journey home.
The first step will be to identify a site that we can begin to progress towards occupying and developing. For almost two years the club’s board has been involved in a lengthy and laborious search for a suitable location within the city of Liverpool boundaries. This has involved meetings with stakeholders, landowners and potential partners. At one point this process appeared to have yielded a positive outcome, with outline plans being drawn for what would have been an iconic location.
Numerous other sites have also been inquired about, appraised and ultimately fallen by the wayside. However, we now feel that a realistic shortlist has been drawn up, which may be added to, and appropriate partnerships established to enable us to envisage completing this initial step.
What then? Once a site has been identified, the club will seek to enter into a non-binding agreement with the vendor. The purpose of this will be to allow us to instruct our architects to enter into pre-planning investigations and for the club’s directors to put the financial package into place that will enable the acquisition and development of the chosen site.
These processes will run concurrently as we seek to the secure outline planning consent and agreements in principle from lenders and funders needed to make the plans become a step closer to reality.
With outline planning and in principle financial agreements in place, the club will proceed to making a without prejudice offer with a view to securing either ownership or long term leasehold to the site. Should the offer be accepted, and draft heads of terms be agreed, the directors are proposing that the club looks to raise a deposit through a Community Shares offer. The club will draw upon support from Supporters Direct in drafting, launching and managing this offer.
Supporters Direct has previously assisted supporter owned clubs such as Portsmouth, Darlington and Wrexham raise significant sums of money.
The raising of this deposit is a cornerstone of the move to a ground of our own in Liverpool. Raising money of our own will give lenders and grant funders confidence that the club is a viable long-term prospect – “skin in the game”, so to speak. While funds are in the process of being confirmed, full planning consent will be sought and, once obtained, the purchase or lease will be completed.
Then we just need to build the ground!
Nobody should expect a shiny new 4000-5000 all seater stadium at first. We only have to build to the National Ground Grading Criteria, which is staged to increase capacity and other stadium neccessities as a club hopefully grows and rises through the Pyramid.
For example at Step 6 of the National League Pyramid (our current position) there is only the requirement for covered accomodation for 50 people standing and 50 people seated, whereas by Step 4 of the Pyramid that requirement rises to covered accomodation for 200 people seated & 200 people standing, amongst many other criteria that we will have to meet.
So at this stage we envisage a “starter stadium” of around 2500 capacity, a facility that future proofs the club for the possibility of three promotions. This would involve 200-300 covered seats, a covered goal end terrace and the all-important club house. While we will not burden the club with an unnecessary vanity project, the chosen site would, of course, have to be capable of further development should the club continue to progress and attendances grow.
Just need to do it now, don’t we?