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New pressure for clubs to agree ground sharing; pounds 10mat risk with deadline a month away.


LIVERPOOL Football Club is coming under mounting pressure to agree to a ground share with Everton.

The Northwest Development Agency has indicated it would turn down an application for around pounds 10mof grant funding for a new stadium at Stanley Park unless Liverpool and Everton agree to share.

Furthermore, the agency has given both clubs one month to make a decision about whether they will agree to work together.

Another pounds 10mof grants from Merseyside's EuropeanUnion funded Objective 1 programme is also in doubt because no money has been earmarked for the Stanley Park scheme. For that to change, theObjective 1 Programme Monitoring Committee would have to transfer money from other projects that already have cash allocated to them.

The NWDA's reluctance to finance a separate ground for Liverpool follows a consultant's report that has analysed the business case for two new football stadia in Merseyside in the years ahead.

Compiled by accountancy group KPMG, the report concludes that it would provide better value for the taxpayer if the clubs shared a single ground.

The agency itself must act within tight constraints after a recent review of its finances concluded it needed to curtail its spending commitments by pounds 300m this year.

Steve Broomhead,NWDA chief executive, said:``The NWDA and the city council did commission KPMG to provide advice around the business case for the shared stadium.

``We are pressing both clubs to come to a conclusion about this within the next month.''

Mr Broomhead refused to say what the unpublished report said about cash-strapped Everton's ability to afford a stake in a shared stadium,but he added: ``It is still worth progressing.''

Neither the NWDA nor Objective 1 would allow their cash to be used to build a football ground.Instead, their contribution to the Stanley Park scheme would be to finance ancillary developments such as the planned visitor centre and other community projects. They would also part-finance the Anfield Plaza at the site of Liverpool's current ground.

A member of the Objective 1 Programme Monitory Committee told the Daily Post: ``Objective 1 has received an application from Liverpool. The problem is there's no money in the pot for this scheme. To fund it, we would have to take money back from other schemes that have already had cash allocated to them,and that would need agreement.''

The Objective 1 committee includes representatives of each of the five Merseyside councils, business and community leaders.

Without funding for the ancillary schemes, the whole Anfield project could fallthrough. Mersey Docks and Harbour Company is trying to persuade the two clubs to develop a shared ground at its Central Dock estate in north Liverpool.

It believes that the Stanley Park scheme, which has yet to win planning approval from Liverpool City Council,could be called in by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

A source close to the company claims the Stanley Park proposal could fail on the grounds that planning rules require new developments to take place on brown field sites rather than at parks.

The source said: ``The Stanley Park planning application states that the Central Docks scheme was not proposed before Liverpool submitted its application. But that's not true. The Central Docks plan was on the front page of the papers months before.''


An artist's impression of the stadium Liverpool wants to build in Stanley Park
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 12, 2004
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