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Notes from an Evertonian on the 2004 EGM of Everton Football Club Co Ltd

EFC EGM, 9 September 2004

I have never been to an AGM or EGM before, but given recent events and all the supposition and rumour flying around, I decided that I would like to go along and see if I could find out what was really happening at our club. I was fortunate enough to be able to obtain a proxy vote so off I went, with a reasonably open mind, but quite firmly believing that something needed to change drastically, that we had been sold down the river regarding Wayne Rooney, and that the current board, given the time and money they have expended since they have been at the club really were in the Last Chance Saloon for me.

I have to say that ultimately it was as disappointing and as much of a "whitewash" as I had originally feared it would be, having heard about previous AGMs etc. In the pub beforehand, everyone seemed to be in a very bullish mood, all ready prepared with their carefully-worded and hard-hitting questions and facts to present. More than once I heard the phrases "We've got the bastards here" and "They haven't got a leg to stand on" said!

Then, around 25 minutes before the meeting started, rumours started to circulate via frantic phone calls, that maybe the Shareholders Association's proposed agenda was going to be ignored and that maybe they were even going to try to avoid the vote of confidence in the board!  Obviously, this rattled a few people, but as it turned out it wasn't quite as severe as that, however, with hindsight, I think that Bill Kenwright definitely used the "equalise before they score" tactic perfectly.

He started off by making it clear that "everyone in this room is an Evertonian and we all want what is best for Everton Football Club" – clearly an attempt to try to keep proceedings calm. He then went on to give a presentation with a potted history of True Blue's tenure at the club � the situation when they took over, where the money had been spent, and a little bit on where things went wrong.  He also admitted (and apologised) that they had made mistakes, and then announced that True Blue Holdings was to be dissolved. 

This was then followed by his introduction of the new Chief Executive, Keith Wyness, and a claim that the Russian/Geneva-based consortium (Fortress Sports Fund) would be buying a large chunk of newly created shares (bye, bye Paul Gregg ?).  He also promised to improve the communication with both the fans and the shareholders.

By providing ALL that "good news" at once, he clearly swung a LOT of support (but still not mine) over onto his side, even though the only concrete thing that he had produced was a new CEO, it was almost as if he was saying "Look, we've been here for 4 years now, we've made a right bollocks of it so far, but we want to start again from scratch if that's OK ? Here are some pipe dreams which 'might' happen (to buy ourselves a bit more time)" - and unbelieveably, it seemed to work on the vast majority !!

One old guy even stood up and said that the whole EGM was an affront to Bill Kenwright and all the effort he had put in!! I genuinely think that the main problem we have is that Kenwright is an Evertonian. If he wasn't, then he'd have been gone a long time ago, but his "Blueness" (of which I have no doubt, incidentally) seems to excuse him from being absolutely useless at what he does!

"He's one of us – he'll be doing his best for Everton" seems to be the general view; however, when his best clearly isn't good enough, then surely he has to go? There were hundreds of passionate Evertonians there that night, but that doesn't mean that they have any right to try to run the football club!!! It just amazes me!

Anyway, the rest of the meeting was pretty much taken up with some fairly decent questions from the floor being pretty much deflected (King's Dock, Proactive link) answered with "woolly" ideas (the Russian investors, plans for a new ground) or not answered at all due to "confidentiality" (how much money Moyes has to spend and the reason for Trevor Birch's departure).

The blame for Rooney's departure was also firmly placed at Rooney's feet, with Kenwright claiming (and getting Moyes to back him up) that they only found out that Rooney wanted to go a week before he actually did! Despite the fact that people pointed out that Rooney himself said it had been 6 weeks at his press conference and their Head of PR, Ian Ross, has told several people (myself included) in emails that it was actually 6 months ago that Everton knew!!!

Lots of people also pointed out what an appalling "deal" the Rooney transfer had been for us and were amazed that we allowed the richest club in the world to only pay a bit up front, and add all those ridiculous conditions (and possible conflicts of interest) into the deal. Kenwright insisted that he had got the best deal for Everton Football Club and, regarding the conditions – "that is the way these deals are done nowadays". Unbelieveable.

The whole situation was confirmed as being pretty much farcical with the final vote. Firstly, Kenwright tried to argue with Tom Cannon that they didn't need to have a vote as his original motion only said it would be necessary if the board hadn't reassured the shareholders of the situation. Whilst Tom Cannon was arguing with EFC's lawyer over this, Kenwright asked "What are we voting on anyway?" and then said "Okay then – a show of hands – is everyone happy with what we have told you here tonight? Hands up for Yes?" (80-90% of main room raises hands) "For No ?" (I raise my hand, along with several others). "Okay – that's settled then – meeting closed".

Everyone stood up to leave, and I could still hear Tom Cannon protesting to their lawyer: "That wasn't what the vote was on! It was supposed to be a vote of confidence in the Board". There were also probably 100+ people watching proceedings in an overspill room next door whose votes weren't even taken into consideration!!! It really was absolutely farcical and maybe even illegal, given that this was a company EGM???

Anyway, that's pretty much what happened overall during the meeting but, about 5 minutes afterwards, there was an angry exchange between Ian MacDonald of the Independent Blues and Ian Ross, Everton's Head of PR, apparently concerning some disparaging comments that Ross was alleged to have made about Evertonians with regard to Everton's official attendance at the Bluehouse meeting a few months ago. Someone also told me that Ross had apparently referred to MacDonald as a "reptile" in an Email! Whatever had happened, MacDonald was certainly not very happy about it and was shouting that Ross should get out of our club.

I must admit to having seen printouts of a few emails from Ian Ross beforehand in the pub, and I was far from impressed with the tone of them – most inappropriate for someone in his position, and he also had the affrontery to put his own little retainer (not the official Everton company one, but one typed in by him) at the end of his emails saying that they are for personal viewing only and not to be distributed/posted on the Internet etc! I'm not sure of the legality of this, but surely if he is sending emails discussing Everton business, using his official Email address, ending the Emails with "Ian Ross, Head of PR, Everton FC", and personally abusing Evertonians in the emails, then he really needs to be brought to task? Do any legal eagles know the situation with the disclosure of emails?

After this argument, someone came around asking us if anyone had seen any blows exchanged, as Ross was alleging that MacDonald had physically assaulted him; however, we all confirmed that we had seen no physical contact take place and indeed, I even heard MacDonald shout "I know you want me to hit you but I'm not going to give you the satisfaction".

Anyway, sorry this has gone on so long! As I said at the beginning, I was ultimately very disappointed, primarily with the whole manner in which the meeting was run really. The key questions were not, in my opinion, given solid enough answers and those that were answered weren't really answered in a satisfactory or concrete way.

I also still have grave reservations about us allowing a Geneva-based "Fortress Sports Fund" that is contributed to by "Russian Businessmen" to buy a major stake in our club – and even if this was to all be proved to be above board, wouldn't the net result be that we would simply be swapping True Blue Holdings for the Fortress Sports Fund (with the sme restrictions on getting in further investment) and moving our major shareholder even further afield from London (TBH) to Geneva???

One thing is for sure – I most definitely will be trying my best to get another proxy for the AGM, when I believe Everton have to solidify a lot of the "plans" that they put forward at last week's meeting, but ultimately, I came away with the feeling that they had "gotten away with it" again!

An Evertonian


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