|The atmosphere in the lounge was subdued this year. There was no
fizz of anticipation nor cheer or applause as the big guns took their
seats on the top table. As with last time the place was packed. The
overflow room and video link had to be used to accommodate those who
came in last. It was a full house with no buzz.
Bill started with a moment's silence to reflect on George Best’s
plight, then launched into the business proper. The statuary part of
the evening was the usual rubber-stamp exercise . Bill gamely tried to
sound like he understood his notes as he gave the briefest of
summaries of the accounts and then handed over to the auditor for his
Bill has made it clear before he is no accountant and is clearly
uncomfortable talking figures. When challenged by one shareholder
about a statement he made last year about ‘Sky money being brought
forward’ and how this was different from a loan, he was unconvincing
(and wrong) in his reply. But the debate was one of semantics rather
than substance and Bill would have done far better to defer the
question to Wyness than try and bluff it out. His sly asides to the
gentleman asking the question were out of character for someone who
usually seems to see the good in most people — even when they come at
him daggers drawn. We would see more of that later in the evening...
Someone noted that whilst the Deloitte & Touche annual charge for
auditing was static, their additional service fees were significant.
Nobody on the Board seemed aware of the corporate governance
conventions behind the question, nor why this may constitute any
issue. And so the accounts were accepted, the auditors retained, and
Anita Greg reappointed Director. The formal business was swiftly
The real reason most people attend the AGM is the non-formal
business that is now tradition: the presentations of the main Officers
of the Club, and the chance for questions and answers straight
Keith Wyness went first with the presentations and regurgitated the
usual spin about the accounts. It was noticeable that he didn’t refer
back to the targets he presented to us all last year, but one thing he
does do well is use benchmarking against our peers to demonstrate
progress. He certainly presented data which was a powerful rebuttal to
anyone who would claim David Moyes hadn’t been supported in the
He wisely pre-empted topics he knew he would have to account for
later such as the Villarreal ticketing shambles, the Bucharest charter
nightmare, and the season-ticket victims of the lounge developments.
He was honest to admit mistakes, but must realise that you can only
get away with being upfront about mistakes and chalking them down as
‘lessons learned’ for so long. He is paid for foresight not hindsight.
He then introduced our new Chief Operating Officer. I work for a
global corporation — one of those FTS100 things that everyone loves to
hate. The COO’s I have met fill a room with their presence, have a
sharpness of mind that is rapier-like, and a capacity to understand
the minute detail that turns strategic vision into operational
reality. The guy they presented to us last night oozed with the
presence, command, sharpness and style of, well, let’s say a regional
sales manager for a mid-cap. Competent but not inspiring. Keith has
been careful not to recruit anyone who would be too obvious a
successor if he were to appear vulnerable... Canny!
The sales guy sat down (without applause) and Keith wound his bit
up. The real gems of info in his presentation were that Phase One of
the Youth Academy development (readying the ground, to be ready to lay
the foundations) is underway, and (of interest to those in the room) a
new club exclusively for shareholders which will clarify shareholders
perks. He had a pop at the lack of support or focus we have had from
local or national government on the Stadium issue because they are too
fixated on our neighbours. Then the bit I liked most was that we will
trial smartcard access to the stadium (like Man City) later this year
— and this will form the basis of tracking loyalty for ticket
allocations in the future (now that is a step forward).
Finally, Moyes gave his speech. It was the most interesting part of
the evening and the bit that was really worth the trip. As a public
speaker, he actually puts our CEO, Chairman, and COO to shame. He has
a rare blend of humility, purpose and honesty that demand to be
listened to when he speaks.
It was a difficult message for him to deliver. He feels he has made
great progress in the club but has to reconcile that with the
situation we are in today. In his speech he never shyed away from the
situation we are currently in. He showed who he had let go, who he had
brought in and challenged anyone to say that on paper at least that we
don’t have a better squad than the one that qualified for Europe last
year. He pointed out that his defence going into the WBA game had the
10th best record in the premiership, which he described as ‘not bad,
could do better, but not bad’— whereas our attacking record was the
worst in the Europe. He made no bones that this is where he will be
looking to strengthen the squad in January. He believes in his
strategy of buying young internationals. When he joined, the average
squad age was 30, he has now reduced this to 26.
He made it clear he felt at home at Everton and that he thinks it
is the club for him. He made it clear he feels he has been given the
full support of the Board, and that he takes accountability for
results on the pitch.
Personally, I thought he gave a good account of himself.
Then the questions began. They tend to come in only two forms at
these meetings – the sycophantic and the overtly hostile. This year
was a wee bit different as the usual suspects who you expect at the
hostile end of the spectrum were far more diplomatic and restrained
than in the past. The most entertaining exchange was between Bill and
Frank Hargreaves. Frank wanted to know, amongst other things, if the
Fortress Sports Fund was a charade. Before Bill responded to the
direct questions there was a bizarre to and fro about ‘them and us’
and ‘gangs’ and ‘conspiracies’ and ‘goodies’ – it was a coded
conversation I couldn’t decipher. There were points put to Keith
Wyness about his engagement and recognition of the Everton
Shareholders 2005 group. Keith responded that he would meet with any
duly constituted group. The questioner (a Mr Quinn) asked if he set up
a new shareholders association with only one member would he meet with
that. Mr Wyness assured him he would.
Moyes received direct questions about some of the squad. We learned
that Moyes still hasn’t liked what he has seen of Krøldrup in training
enough to risk him (though if we play like we did at WBA, he will get
his chance, and in any case will start to play when Yobo goes of on
his inevitable international trip for the African Nations Cup). We
learned he has made it very clear to Richard Wright that so far he has
fluffed his chances and they are searching for a long-term solution to
when Martyn starts to weaken. We also got an in-depth explanation of
the frustration of the 4-1-4-1 formation this season.
There were a few pops from people about the lounges, queries about
birthday cards for J-Blue members and other little anecdotes about
club failings. The meeting though never got the charge of atmosphere
or passion you would expect. So it ended as it began. Without fizz,
people filed away.