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2000 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Notes on the 2000 Annual General Meeting of Everton Football Club Co Ltd, prepared by Phil Pellow, Editor of the fanzine SATIS?


 SUMMARY

 
Last night's Annual General Meeting started with a predictable statement by Sir Philip Carter: as both the media negotiations and the application for the King's dock were subject to strict confidentiality rules, there could be no specific discussion of either topic at the meeting.  

Sir Philip added that there were seven proposals accepted for the King's Dock, and that their second round submissions have to be in by 17 January 2001, including a model of how the development will look.  Sir Philip urged all Evertonians to go and look at all the submissions when they are put on display in St Georges Hall, then write to your Councillors, local press, etc showing support for the Blues' bid.

Report and Accounts 

Turnover up by 11% to £28.1M; match receipts up by 10%.  Sales costs up by 4%.  The Club would have had a £1.35M operating profit but for exceptional items, like: 

  1. Costs associated with the takeover (£513k) – this cost was solely for Johnson's advisors, as True Blue Holdings paid all of their own costs incurred in the takeover;
  2. EFC's share of the Football League Pension Scheme deficit (£750k) – this scheme is under close scrutiny by the regulatory authorities, and EFC may get some or all of their money back; and 
  3. Under a change in the Accounting rules, depreciation on Buildings is now charged to the profit and loss account, some £600k. 

Liabilities reduced by £7M.  Insurance valuation of playing staff in May 2000 was £43M, now increased to £60M after further acquisitions.  The Club is confident that the current transfer system will be maintained, and that the book value of the playing staff is therefore sound.

Re-Election of Directors

Lord Grantchester retires from the Board. "I have had no disagreement with my fellow directors, but feel that business commitments now make it impossible for me to continue on the Board.  I will, however, continue to attend at Goodison Park for football.  I wholly endorse and support the takeover by True Blue Holdings."  Keith Tamlin re-elected, with John Woods and Paul Gregg.

Special Resolutions

First resolution makes provision for (among other things) the payment of dividends.  Second resolution changes stock into shares.  Simple conversion, bringing the Club into line with modern practice.

Both resolutions were intended to bring the Club's rules and articles into one document, in modern terminology and using modern methods.  They were both passed.

 

 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

 
Mike Owen: The two main ideas to address the deficit (Kings Dock and the Media Deal) we cannot discuss; but the statement skates over the Youth Policy and the Academy – we must NOT ignore this crucial part of the Club.  We MUST develop the kids.  Maybe the Club needs more "hands-on" talented Administrative people and Senior Management to run the Business.  Where is the STRATEGY?  If we don't get the King's Dock, what's the alternative?  Have we investigated other sites?  We've lost Speke and Gilmoss, now given over to other development, so what else is there?  Have the Club considered a shared stadium, because if we don't get the Dock, many fans might be prepared to agree to it?  

Sir Philip Carter:  Thank you, some very good points there.  Please come and see us afterwards, and we can talk about them then.

Steve Allinson: Why is the Club now making provision for the payment of dividends?  I don't want dividends, I want all the money ploughed back into the Club, and I'm sure I speak for all of the shareholders.  

Club Lawyer   The old articles of association, dated 1862 [Eh? 1892, surely???], make provision for dividends, and there is in fact no departure from that position.  Should the Directors continue with the policy as heretofore, then dividends will continue not to be paid, but essentially nothing has changed.

 

 Questions and Answers with Walter Smith

 

There followed a question and answer session with the manager, which went on for some time:

Paul Wharton: In the Daily Express a couple of months ago, you were quoted as saying we were a top six side.  How much cash do you need now to make us into one?  

Walter Smith: What I said was that last season's top six were the six clubs that spent the most.  We can strive to get up there but we are hampered by historical problems at the Club, plus some unenvisaged changes (ie, the loss of Barmby and Collins) didn't help.  There's been no stability at the Club – 56 transfers in 2½ years.  Usually when we have brought in a player, we have had to sell one out to balance the books.  The bottom line is that we must raise our financial profile before we can raise our standards on the pitch.

Gary Woollam: You talk about the loss of stability, but recently you sold three internationals – Hutchison, Barmby and Dunne.  Did you have to sell them? 

Walter Smith:  We're still not in a great financial position.  With Barmby, we tried as hard as we could, but he wouldn't stay.  In the end, we got £6 million for Barmby, and made a profit on Hutchison.  We are trying to make the Club more attractive to players, but it will take time.  The initiatives the Board are working on will help in the medium term.  It has been years since we had any stability, but now we have it and this will eventually show through.

Philip Harris:  Do the players have 'flu jabs? 

Walter Smith: Yes, they all do.  But the lads who are ill at present have a viral infection, not the 'flu. 

Philip Harris:  As we've so many players ill, I would like to commend the ground staff in failing to get the pitch ready for tomorrow's match v Leeds United.

John Sweeney:  Why did you sell Don Hutchison?  He's doing so well for Sunderland, and he never let us down.  

Walter Smith:  There were awkward contractual problems, and negotiations were fraught and protracted.  There was a fair bit of aggravation for about six or seven months, and eventually we felt that it was right not to continue, but to let the player go.

Kevin Nolan:  Referring to the Boxing Day match v Coventry City, I note that this was the feast of St Stephen, the first Christian Martyr; after this performance, many fans must have known exactly how he felt.  We wonder about the spirit and motivation of the team; some players don't seem to know each other; is the right level of motivation there? 

Walter Smith:  At our level, motivation is a more subtle and different thing.  It's true the players are strangers – with our injury levels running at an average of eight players for every game, we have not yet settled the team, and this means problems in team organisation.  The last five games were very disappointing, especially Manchester City, and I take responsibility for it.  At Maine Road, I remember saying to Dave Watson, "Look at those fans stuck out in the open over in that corner – they must be soaked.  And we're serving up this display."  It was miserable enough under cover.  I do know it hurts, and I do take responsibility.

Norman Dainty:  On behalf of all the shareholders, I would just like to say we wholeheartedly support you in full, both the Board and the Manager, and we would particularly like to thank Michael Dunford for the time he has devoted to talking to us and the fans groups, and to thank our wonderful manager, Walter Smith.

Ian Macdonald: Ian read out his "Wake Up Call" to the meeting.  Afterwards, he said that this was not intended to rock the boat or criticise anyone, but to make sure the Board and the Manager know that the fans are very, very worried about the Club's current position.  It must be sorted out now, before we end up going down the divisions – just like Man City! 

Walter Smith:  Everybody shares the disappointment in the poor recent results.  It's a natural assumption to say the players aren't trying, but they are.  At Everton, the problems have been here for years and years.  Only since I came here did I realise how much instability there is and has been.  At my last Club – a Club older than Everton – I was only their ninth manager, and the current manager is the tenth.  Here, there have been seven managers in ten years.  This is a recipe for disorganisation, and that's what has happened.  I don't want to leave, but I also believe that it would not be in the Club's interests either, because another change of manager might bring further instability into the Club.  The bottom line is that finances dictate success, and until we sort out the financial side, we can't hope for lasting success.  Because of the deep-seated problems at the Club, we've not yet had a team as such this season, I admit it.

Phil Pellow:  At the present time, the Kings Dock and the Club's Media Deal are not what the fans are interested in.  The Club's survival in the Premier League is by far the most important issue, and I urge everyone at the top table to make sure it is their number one priority as well. 

Walter Smith:  I agree.  Although we will be concentrating all our efforts on every PL game, I would also add that we will be hoping for a good FA Cup run as well, for – if we get our injured players back – we feel we might have a chance.

 

 Questions and Answers for The Board

 

Sir Philip Carter then attempted to wind up the meeting, there being no further questions for Walter Smith...  Mike Owen pointed out that although questions to Walter Smith had been allowed, there had not yet been any questions to the Board.  At the start of the meeting, Sir Philip had indicated that there would be questions and answers, but did not specify only for Walter Smith.

Sir Philip agreed to take questions addressed to the Board.

Paul Wharton:  Did Nick Barmby receive any loyalty bonuses when he left us? 

Michael Dunford:  The terms of Barmby's contract were paid up in accordance with the contract, but we cannot divulge personal details in such matters.

Paul Wharton:  Will some of next year's TV cash be set aside for the Youth Academy? 

Sir Philip Carter:  It is not possible at this time to specifically allocate funds to any particular project, because there are so many other costs consider, like stadium maintenance, players, etc, so we can't specify at this early stage how next year's monies will be allocated.  We do, of course, place a very high priority on the development of young players, and we accept that although our youth coaches are excellent, at present their facilities are poor.

Paul Wharton  I would like to ask Mr Gregg if he has any football background. 

Paul Gregg:  Not as such.  I have known Bill for some time now, and when he told me he had made a deal to acquire the Club, I said to him that if he needed help in financing it, he should let me know.  He did, and here I am.  Since I have been on the Board, I have been struck by the determination and enthusiasm of the Board and the fans – this is the binding characteristic of Everton Football Club.  I am certain that the Board will wake this sleeping giant, and make it competitive in the Premier League.  As to football background, I suppose not much, but I believe I can be an asset to the Board.  

Paul Wharton: I think it's GOOD that you have little football background, because you can take business decisions without blue-tinted glasses.

 

 CONCLUSIONS

 

First, I think that the fans who dared to question the smooth running of the meeting and bring up at least some of the problems did very well.  It is a very smooth operation, and they nearly railroaded it all through without demur, but a small bunch of us stood up and asked at least some questions – the other 200 said nowt.  It is not easy, believe me, to stand up in front of the microphone and have a go.  

Second, Ian MacDonald remarked this morning that it was like watching the orchestra playing on the Titanic, and very astute that remark is.  Lots of self-congratulatory back slapping and smiles, lots of patronising patter – one almost felt that we were being fed crumbs from the table, and jolly grateful we should be for them, too!  Meanwhile, the team is shite and we are plummeting down the Premier League.  

Third, after the meeting was over, and everyone was upstairs for drinks (free bar) and nibbles, Walter Smith arrived and made straight for the fans corner, where resided myself, Charlie Crosby, Keith Wilson, and Ian Macdonald.  Walter ignores everyone else in the room and spends twenty minutes talking to Ian and the other fans.  He knows how wet we were at Maine Road and Bristol.

Finally,  although we didn't achieve much, we at least got some debate onto the agenda, and set the precedent of questions for the Board at the end of the meeting. All Evertonians owe a debt to Mike Owen, Ian MacDonald, Garry Woollam, Steve Allinson and Paul Wharton for having the courage to stand up and have a go.

Phil Pellow 

Editor, SATIS? 

 


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