Byline: BY RICHARD DOWN Daily Post Staff
EVERTON FC's chief executive yesterday told a public inquiry the club could not afford to miss the current "window of opportunity" to build its new stadium.
Failure to land the inspector's approval for a new club home would lead to a "vicious circle" of decline for one of the world's most prestigious clubs, Robert Elstone told the inquiry in Kirkby.
Mr Elstone, who began his evidence late yesterday, said: "The club has already incurred delays and any further delays means I can't commit.
"Should this window close, opportunity for substantial improvements looks highly limited."
His analysis followed evidence from Philip David Coles, Tesco's development director, who warned the supermarket giant could take its proposed investment in the pounds 400m stadium and retail project overseas.
Mr Coles said: "If this proposal is not approved, my board may decide that its money, particularly in the current economic climate, is best invested elsewhere, either in the UK or more likely in the growing markets overseas."
Their combined warnings, which are among the first officially put before the inquiry, follow a series of similar threats over the last 18 months from the applicants and Knowsley Council.
Mr Elstone yesterday went on to explain Everton's club debt was rising, and being able to buy or nurture the players needed for a top-flight side was dependent on the new stadium going ahead.
He said: "If this project fails, the club's on-pitch performance risks deteriorating rapidly.
"A deterioration on pitch leads to a probable further reduction in total revenue, particularly in valuable broadcasting revenue, which in turn leads to further onpitch declines - the club would effectively enter a vicious circle."
The levels of success achieved in recent years were largely down to the skill of manager David Moyes, he said, adding: "However, I consider this is not sustainable in the short to medium term as other clubs build higher quality playing squads, attracting the best players for higher wages."
He revealed the full size of the financial pressures on the club. …