Article Written by Ian Kilbride.
I have just returned from a successful visit to a frigid UK, combining some pleasure with a fortnight of business.
While my support for Everton is visceral and dates from childhood, the most rewarding aspect of my relationship is supporting Everton in The Community programmes and the Everton Free School. During the series of meetings as Chairman of Spirit Invest, I committed the Group’s continued support for the Club and its Everton in the Community Programmes. Spirit has been a long-time supporter of the Club’s community programmes having funded the establishment and expansion of the Everton Free School library. The Spirit Group of companies have also been strong supporters of the Everton disability team, along with the Everton Choir.
Everton Commercial Director, Rich Kenyon, hosted me in the brilliant Everton Club Head Office in the world-famous Liver Building – one of Merseyside’s ‘Three Graces’ landmarks. It is quite remarkable what the Club has done to convert this iconic building into a modern commercial and marketing hub.
A highlight was a virtual tour of the new Everton Bramley Moore stadium currently under construction and scheduled for opening at the beginning of the 2024-2025 season. Besides the unique positioning of the stadium on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey, the fan experience is literally going to be out of this world. The Club is really pushing the limits of fan luxury and engagement. The exclusive ‘Beyond’ area, for example, will provide a direct look-through to the players as they emerge from the dressing rooms and line up before entering the Everton roar.
Watch out too for the Blue Wall being constructed on the South Stand, which is designed to improve on the famous Borussia Dortmund Yellow Wall. The Club will be requesting permission to make the South Stand a safe standing area which will not only boost capacity, but will herald the return of the great atmosphere that characterised Everton’s great matches historically.
Speaking as lifelong Blue and with two sons in South Africa who are equally fanatical, I am going to be saddened to move from the Old Lady, but having now been provided with a virtual tour of the Bramley Moore Stadium, I am incredibly excited by the prospect of watching the Blues’ first match at our magnificent new world-class stadium in 2024. Indeed, the future of our club is very bright indeed!
Everton Free School Principal, Steve Baker (OBE), was particularly welcoming and thanked me for Spirit’s support for the Everton Free School and its 120 scholars. The school is developing a sixth form and appropriately, is placing specialist emphasis on the aeras of sports management, marketing and administration. Steve is justifiably proud of the ground-breaking work of the Everton Free School which is enhanced by the financial support of funders such Spirit Invest group.
As a fifth generation Blue, (is this a record in South Africa?), Everton is special and like no other football club on Earth. It’s not just our history and the passion of our fans, but the fact that we really are, ‘The People’s Club’ that distinguishes us. Yet, I am equally aware that our club is located in and draws support from some socially and economically deprived areas and so it is only right that we contribute to local community upliftment. The Spirit Foundation, of which I am the founder and Chair, is committed to education and community development in South Africa and so it is right and fitting that we also support the objectives and programmes of Everton in the Community.