AGM 2014

Everton restart Annual General Meetings, 29 April 2014

This was the first Annual General Meeting for the shareholders of Everton FC Co Ltd for six years.  It was precipitated by the Everton Shareholders Association, who garnered support of over 10% of the small shareholders to force the club to hold an Emergency General Meeting, with frustration mounting after the traditional Annual General Meetings had been suspended by Bill Kenwright following a fractious AGM in 2007.   That EGM was held in the Philharmonic Hall on 26 June 2013, when it was announced that Annual General Meetings would be reestablished..

Official Business

The first order of business was a near-unaminous show of hands in support of the permanent reinstatement of annual AGMs. 

Mr Elstone was then first to present, starting with a video overview summarising events on and off the field since the last AGM, including the recent successes against Arsenal and Manchester United and the kit manufacturing contract with Umbro which was listed as being worth £10m.

Following the video, Mr Elstone praised the work done by Everton In The Community over the past year, citing the programme's ability to "create loyalty" to the football club, before moving on to providing attendees with an overview of the club's finances. He summarised the year as being one of steady growth, albeit relatively modest in commercial income, but with every Premier League place being worth an extra £1.2m, he expects broadcast and prize money revenue to be substantial this season. Broadcast revenue is projected to be £88m for 2013-14.

Mr Esltone reiterated the club's commitment to keeping Goodison ticket prices affordable, particularly for younger fans and was encouraged by the average home attendance of 37,636 this season, an increase of around 1,400 on last season which includes nine sell-out crowds. He reported early-bird season ticket sales of 24,812, an increase of 21% on last year and stated a target of pre-selling 3 out of 4 seats at home games next season.

Wages are forecast to be £67m, 55% of adjusted turnover, "other operating costs" are forecast to be £26m for this season and profit for this season will be almost £30m. One of his slides emphasised the current model of growing attendances, managing costs, making commercial progress, investing in the first team and youth, reducing borrowing and improving the balance sheet overall.

"To outperform our rivals, we have to be better at everything we do; scouting, coaching, player recruitment, trading players," he said.

Under the title of "Opportunities and Priorities", Mr Elstone listed "A new stadium", news of which was published by The Guardian while the AGM was underway. The article carries quotes by the CEO saying that an unnamed site has been identified for a 50,000-seat stadium but the club will require significant support from Liverpool Council, including the possibility of becoming tenants, at least initially. It would, in his words, bring significant regeneration to the area concerned which is said to be not far from Goodison Park and is rumoured to be Walton Hall Park.

Walton Hall Park

As part of his presentation regarding the club's finances and new initiatives, Chief Executive Roberto Elstone explained that the Board are working with Liverpool City Council and are focusing their attentions on a particular site in the city for a new ground. While Mr Elstone said that a number of potential locations are being looked at, there is one site in particular where most of the exploratory work is being done. The CEO declined to identify the location but it is widely believed to be on Walton Hall Park and was reported as such by a number of media outlets who published stories on the proposal while the meeting was underway.

"The stadium remains a big priority," Elstone said. "We're not ruling out any of the sites that we've identified and that the council has presented to us, but there is one site which is getting more attention and has been getting more attention for a number of months.

"It has been worked on very carefully, diligently and in some detail by not only Everton, but by the council and by advisors, planners, architects, designers, cost consultants, regeneration experts and solicitors. So there's a lot of work going into something that we're very excited about."

Elstone admitted that Everton would be unable to fund the development themselves and, as such, will require significant assistance from the local council, most likely in the form of a tenancy agreement like the model used by Manchester City who moved into the council-owned City of Manchester Stadium.

It would, in his words, bring significant regeneration to the area concerned. "We are excited about the site and our fans will be proud of. It is a fantastically exciting project," he continued. "When we have more news to report, we will." Elstone indicated to journalist Richard Buxton after the event that an announcement could come just before the start of the new season in August.

With the board "assessing risks and opportunities" in terms of the debt burden required, the new development would require naming rights to complete the funding so the club's new stadium would bear a sponsor's name.

"The stadium remains a big priority for us, there is one site taking our investment and time. I can't name it," Elstone said. "We are excited about the site and our fans will be proud of. It is a fantastically exciting project."

With the board "assessing risks and opportunities" in terms of the debt burden required, the new development would require naming rights to complete the funding so the club's new stadium would bear a sponsor's name.

"It's a site we are very excited about and one our fans and city will be very proud of. When we have more news to report, we will," he said and concluded by saying that the search for investment in the club remains a top priority.

Bill Kenwright, Chairman of Everton FC

The CEO was followed by Bill Kenwright to introduce Roberto Martinez and he reiterated that, "Nothing will get in the way of the search for massive investment for this football club."

Mr Kenwright explained that the first season under Martinez has brought him great joy and that while he didn't say when he would get the club into the Champions League when he first arrived, he promised he would, "and I believed him.

"Roberto texted me on day one and said 'Bill, I'm in blue heaven!'," Mr Kenwright continued.

Roberto Martinez, Manager

Mr Martinez then took the stage and began by saying that he was fortunate to have inherited a terrific squad. "I knew we had something special," he said.

He backed up the change in philosophy he has brought to the Everton team which has seen a more possession- and pass-based approach.

"That gives you more control of the game and the ability to score goals from open play," he said.

He reserved special mention for the younger players: "The biggest success story this season has been the development of the young players". Players under the age of 24 have played 4,499 minutes this season, up from 4,079 last season.

"For me, it is extremely exciting to see how players like Ross Barkley and John Stones have developed," he said.

"What's next? I think all the good things we are doing, we need to master them. And we need to bring European football."

During questions from the floor, Mr Kenwright was asked to name the backers for the new stadium project but he declined to answer.

Asked about the safe-standing initiative, the Chairman said that he has never discussed it and is "not for it" due to his closeness with the families of the Hillsborough victims.

Regarding potential summer transfer business, the Chairman said that Roberto Martinez "will be responsible for bids on our players. We don't have to sell anyone." He confirmed that none of the current squad have buy-out clauses in their contracts.

The manager insisted that Everton do not need to sell players. "If we do, it will be on football grounds," he said. He pledged to replace departees with 2-4 players.

"Ross Barkley came to me and said 'I love playing for Everton', Mr Martinez continued. "We don't have to sell to survive."  

 

 

For comments on what was said in the AGM, click here