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Fans Focus Meeting
September 2001

Representatives from the major local Everton supporters groups
 met recently with a leading group of senior executives from Everton FC
 to discuss a wide range of current issues 

 

 THOSE PRESENT

 
The Club
Michael Dunford, Chief Executive 
Graeme Sharp, Fans Liaison officer 
Ian Ross, Head of Communications
David Harrison, Club Secretary 

The Fans
Steve Heneghan & Mark Wilson, Everton Disabled Supporters Association 
Jim King & Bob Naylor Official Everton Supporter's Club 
Kevin Nolan & Norman Danity, Everton Shareholders Association 
John Munroe.  Everton Supporters club Southport 
Barry Murray & Ian MacDonald, Everton Independent Supporters Association
 

 MEETING NOTES, by Ian MacDonald

 
Once again, the Club will listen to the fans, proof of that by us just being here meeting with some of the most senior executives.  It's not just lip-service these meetings arise out of a joint quest and thirst for knowledge of our club by us, the fans.  Fans who want to help the club by participating in such meetings not throw more mud at the Club (there's been enough of that over the years...)  

I can't imagine any Evertonian really wants the club to fail in its present form.  I personally feel the club is turning itself around, slowly but surely.  The likes of Leeds, Chelsea and the North East clubs show that from the abyss you can become a force again in the transfer market.  At Everton, we have the fan base, the integral part of this big picture; the decision-makers of this club have the custody not only of our club but our dreams it is quite a responsibility.  I would like us to discuss the following topics as frank and open as possible.  Answers provided by the club executives are in italic's

 

 KINGS DOCK

 

First of all, I'd like to say what a fantastic achievement for Everton to win preferred bidder status, going from being laughed at to pole position a remarkable deed.  I'd also like to thank the EfKD group for their Herculean work in promoting the case for Everton during the decision-making process.  

Of course, the Everton board deserves a pat on the back for their energies and vision so far, whatever happens from this point.  It could transform the club from paupers to Kings again; it's that important!  I hope the board's business-like approach in winning this bid is transferred fully to the club at present.  If it is, the slow turning around of fortunes could become a canter and the long-suffering fans desperately want this to happen.

So what needs to happen now for us to secure this magical site?

In the next six to nine months, there will be frenzied works behind the scenes and out of the public gaze; there will be no publicity from the club during the course of this sensitive matter.  The key players are the public-sector, making the traffic and pedestrian proposals workable and obtaining 35 million of European Funding.  As Kevin Nolan pointed, out Everton will now let the people earn their money behind the scenes working on our behalf to make the acceptance of Everton's bid unconditional.  

Will EDSA and other fans' groups be brought in for the final drafts of this exciting venture?

Yes, we will be brought on board during the latter stages of the process to get the final nod.  Mark Wilson pointed out that the Millennium stadium and Wigan's JJB stadium, both new, do not lend themselves to the disabled, as they should.  They just have two rows blank at the front without a raised platform.  I know during the bidding stage that Bill Kenwright read out part of a letter Mark had written on behalf of all disabled people on Merseyside and it did help sway the decision-makers.  It is a fact that disabled people in Britain have very few multi-use buildings that are handicapped-friendly in design.

I'm sure all aspects will be covered as to what fans will want there for this new era.  Sunderland were very cooperative in listening to their fans' wishes, enforcing the bond between club and supporter.  I would think that a fact-finding mission to examine thepros and cons of new stadia will be done well before building work hopefully commences a kind of melting pot with all the good points thrown in for our ultimate benefit.  Issues like our departed fellow fans' ashes and urns should be addressed with dialogue of those close to this specially sensitive subject.

What is the time scale now with planning permission etc?  Can fans help on this? 

Answer as above: No, the fans have to let the process run it's own course now; the fans input during the bidding stage was vital and very much appreciated by the board.

The naming of the New Stadium?  

This again is a sensitive subject.  A recent survey on ToffeeWeb was in overwhelming favour for the name just to be 'The Kings Dock'.  A name like 'the Friends Provident St Mary's stadium' does little to enhance and respect our heritage.  I think when this subject is addressed Evertonians will be forceful in their opinions.  

Maybe a fund can be raised from the fans for this naming right?  

Yes we are thinking big again with this venture; contact with the fans is vital, there is still a long road ahead but, with the input and help of the fans, the task will be shared.  Just a thought: the new Oxford stadium is called the Kassam; Reading's is the Maijesty after their owners...  Dare I say ... The Kenwright! 

The naming of the stadium will be addressed when necessary, words like "Liverpool" will NOT be incorporated in the title of the new stadium, but if a sponsor comes along with say 10 million then it would have to be discussed for our finances.  

When you think of Boro's new ground, you think Riverside not Cellnet I suppose, so whatever the sponsor's name is we can call it the Kings Dock!

 

 EVERTON FINANCES

 

Can it be explained to the common fan how we have arrived in this state given the recent sales /departures, Sky monies etc?  

I am often asked questions regarding our current finances.  Simple explanations will make the frustrated quizzical fan understand better why we are in this state.  I know a lot of fans think we get the monies up front for our recent sales, when in fact it is on the drip like most deals these days... 

It is hoped in the next eighteen to twenty four months that the words 'club in financial crisis' will not be used in our vocabulary.  Last season as most already know we spent money on players we thought the media deal would bring in.  Availability of players quickened the buys Walter had identified but availability of monies came to a sad end (with the demise of the media deal).  

The unexpected sales of Ball and Jeffers with the out going of the Radzinski deal has balanced the expenditure books a little.  The budget for new players is tight but sales of some of the deadwood will help to provide money for the players Walter hopes to identify for the team. 

A fans' share issue a la Celtic: is there any chance of the fans helping the club out of this financial nightmare? 

Without the fans there is no club.  They must always be embraced on issues that endanger the club.  And the financial restrictions do just that.  

The club has addressed the Celtic share issue twice lately meeting the people who formed this issue.  It does not necessarily mean the existing shares have to be devalued ,there are different types of separate right issues.  The shareholders association have 901 members owning 30% of all the shares.  Kevin Nolan predicts allot of these shareholders would work closely with any new share issue.  

Will SFX / Clear Channel invest in us directly? 

Clear Channel will not be investing money in Everton.  They will be bringing at least four major acts and ten lower-status acts to the new stadium per annum.  It should not be forgotten that the stadium is not just for football use, although that is its primary function, and this is the major reason we got the preferred bidder status as the city badly needs this kind of entertainment facility.  Clear Channel can deliver these acts and shows; Paul Gregg is the link.  

Pay per view, do we get a set fee or is it based on subscription?

Pay per view has been taken up by 150,000 season ticket subscribers then there are 'on the day' payers.  There is no set payment to clubs for them taking part in these events.  From the TV deal 25% is held back as a fund to pay out clubs at the end of the season. There will be no figures given out of viewers per match until the end of the season.  We will figure with pay per view with Chelsea on a Sunday and Man Utd on boxing day.  The Utd game time will be moved because Tranmere are playing Stoke the same day and Stoke have a reputation of fan trouble .  The police don't want fans meeting each other across the region.  Twelve O'clock will be the time I think for the Utd game.

 

 ATTENDANCES

 

Attendance figures at Gopodison Park to date for the two home games were on the low side to be expected, perhaps, after last season's fare... although a sub 30k figure for the first home game would have been unthinkable 5 years ago.  As Everton fans, we are a forgiving lot but obviously the non-performance of the team last season was the final straw for many.  We need to entice the lost sheep back to the fold and improvement in the team's performance is the best way.  

What else can be done to get the long suffering fans back? 

How about placing a facility in the city centre to book forthcoming games without having to come down to Goodison?  The likes of HMV and Virgin could be an agent to take cash off fans in town with an on-line Goodison.  Not everybody has credit cards... 

Andy Oldknow is looking into this facility now. 

What are the season ticket sales to date and can you still buy a season ticket now or do you have to wait until Christmas, as has been mentioned? 

There are 21,000 season tickets of which 1500 are the junior-priced ones; sales are down just 5% although the average price per head of fan has gone after the rquiremnet for valid ID's.  

Apparently, you can still buy a season ticket... 

The new crowd railings for queues (hopefully!) situated at the Park End ticket office are welcome for keeping order but could they not also have some sort of roof cover added for the increasingly inclement weather with onset of winter.  Ask a sponsor perhaps? 

Yes, a roofing system will be forthcoming. 

The Worthington Cup, against Palace: Over one leg now, thanks to our low-priced admission again it might get some fans back? 

And if we progress, let's keep the prices low to entice the younger fan in particular back.  For the Derby game can there be a facility for more Evertonians to gain match tickets before they go on general sale?  Maybe using a voucher from the season ticket book.  

When our attendance average was higher, the dark side could only gain entry to the visiting fans section.  The atmosphere at these games now is less than friendly - we don't want too many of 'them' in.  

The reduction of the 6 category 'A' games to just two helps, and the price freezing of the season tickets goes to show that the club does listen to the fans, as do the junior season tickets.  

Could a step further be taken to do Dad-and-lad tickets for obstructed views and child individual tickets for games like Sunderland does for say 6?  I know the club is wary of abuse of tickets but a height restriction of under 12 is workable like theme parks.  

Last season, after the Tranmere debacle, 35,000 fans turned up on a Wednesday night due to special pricing 4,000 more than expected with just 40 complaints from season ticket holders..  

For the Palace game Everton tried to reduce the prices further but Palace would not agree since they get a cut of the one off gate.  The timing for the night games is 8 o'clock due to the local licensing authority.  And it's the same for the Reds.  The Palace game next Wednesday will be pay at the gate and reserved tickets come early to avoid the queues.  It is hoped, if we get through, that the pricing will remain the same until the quarter ,semi finals ! 

Are we exploring the idea of away season tickets?  

Personally I think the present scheme is fine it favours the lower-wage fan.  I never want finance to dictate the makeup of our fanbase.

No, not in the foreseeable future. 

 

 MEDIA DEAL

 
Is the catalyst for this to happen the Kings Dock?  Could NTL pulling out when they did have been a blessing in disguise if this is the case?  If not, is the issue now dead seeing as no one has done a media deal in over nine months? 

As mentioned before, we bought players last season on the strength of a media deal.  The deal was two hours away from signing and incidentally the biggest media deal the country would have seen in football.  It may be resurrected with the new stadium, and yes it could be a blessing in disguise... 

 

 NETHERTON AND BELLEFIELD

 

Any progress in identifying a location for the new academy?  Are the sales of Netherton and Bellefield to go ahead? 

I have noticed an abundance of portakabins at Netherton.  When you think how much money has been brought in lately from home-grown players I think it is not only a good business venture but proof that we can nurture talent, even if they are sold for whatever reason.  

Are funds available yet?  Is the FA Academy licence still under threat if the academy is not built to their specifications?  

There are three sites identified now and detailed plans in place for the optimum one.  It is hoped to be in place by March next year.  The licence is not under threat.  Bellefield and Netherton will be sold and finance half the project.  There will be only one site with the Academy under the umbrella of the first team training camp 

Has the new Chartered Physio taken up his post yet? 

Yes, three weeks ago.  His name is Rob Stiles and he is already making inroads.  I saw him after the Charlton game on the pitch with some players warming down.  The last time I seen that happen was at Coventry in the league Cup when we were humiliated and Howard Kendal was really warming them down that night.  

The recent saga of the Doherty family's departure from Everton can any details be given as to what happened? 

We are not able to comment for legal reasons.

 

 MARKETING AND THE MEGASTORE

 

Our new marketing manager, Andy Oldknow, has announced a five-year plan.  What exactly does this entail and what are his aims and hopes? 

Andy Oldknow was not present but his aims were explained personally at the recent shareholder's meeting in which he identified the company was fragmented and haemorrhaging money everywhere.  

Andy Oldknow also has been looking into outside sponsors for the Academy other than just One to One.  A lot of avenues are / have been explored to date.  In a recent conversation with Steve McMannaman he said that Andy Oldknow did a good job for the FA and will turn it around at Goodison given time.  

How about placing more offers of store merchandise around the ground inside to a captive audience?  Can explanations be placed on a wider plain as to why we have had lack of stock, particularly baby-wares and letters and numbers for shirts? 

I can explain that the lack of baby clothes, numbers etc is a legacy of the previous manager's buying structure.  The numbers and letters were found inadequate only when certain players came to the club.  As the numbers and letters from now on will be not coming from the original source, orders came too late for the new signings.  

The Bayern Munich game on video is most welcome; how about the Golden Vision video? 

The Golden Vision video is soon to be released.

What do you think of the new third kit is it salmon or pink? Is there going to be fans input on any new designs? 

It is Salmon Pink; the silver away strip is the biggest seller of away strip ever selling eight times the previous first day sale away kit record.  Next season the away strip will be back to the more traditional away kit.  

Guy Buzzard is the new assistant manager in the megastore, taking over from Wade Smith.  The Everton traditional colour 'Reflex Blue' has been patented.  A

I know everything regarding a noticeable leap forward revolves around what goes on in the field of play.  In theory, a successful Everton will mean a successful megastore, etc.  

The Manchester based marketing agency, exactly what role will they play in our future aims? Is there to be a shop within a shop in Wades Smith for Everton Merchandise? 

Yes, Guy Buzzard is looking into this. 

 

 MEDIA RELATIONS

 
How is Ian Ross getting on in his job?  Is the task bigger than he thought to get us back with favour with the nationals?  Does Ian have a plan?  

I still get the impression we are the Millwall of the Prem: 'no one likes us and we don't care ' but we do care!  The current ITV slogan on their matchday programme adverts states 'on a good day you can see Liverpool... on a bad day, Everton', says it all of what the media think of us.  A lot of hard work ahead, methinks, to rid us of this stigma.  

Ian Ross was at pains to make the point that the national press do not have a 'downer' on Everton:

The Club is a victim of it's own lack of success in recent years.  There is only so much coverage in a sports section and the winners take the biggest slice.  Ian has been in contact with ITV over the Robbie Savage mums advert that depicts on a good day etc.  I hope it is not repeated.  Ian thinks it will take at least twelve months to sort out the media profile and communications of Everton.  Ian has had meetings lately with Walter and Bill to make them accessible to the media for a higher profile.

Why has Alan Myers left? 

It was Alan's own decision six weeks ago; it was his choice to resign.  Alan told me he was having a week off and then was going back to media work.  I think Alan worked for Radio Merseyside a few years ago.  

Darren Griffith is the new Press Officer; we did not previously have one.  His job in the main is to work closely with the visiting press.  A recent story in the 'Pink Echo' in the Inside Goodison section reported that the two shirts Alan received off Kevin Campbell and Scott Gemmill as leaving presents were taken back by the financially restrained club was untrue.

When is the next AGM? 

18 October 2001

Has the pitch been made narrower this season?  Have the recent missiles / encroachments onto the pitch had anything to do with it? 

I know we sailed close in recent seasons to point's deductions for these acts of idiocy.  No, the pitch has not been made narrower and it is not a response to pitch invasions.  The size of the pitch is 110 yds by 70 yds.  Glen Hoddle though recently made a comment on how small it has become... 

Supporters' groups: how much contact do they receive such as newsletters or offers for them to meet players?  

Coming from distance they should be embraced in my opinion.  

The new Junior Blue club recently launched has been a success a Adult Blue club is to be launched in October.  More contact with supporter's groups outside Merseyside is to be made, meeting players looking into benefits of forming a group, etc.  For anyone wishing to form a supporters group, contact Gillian Flatly at the Megastore.

The "golden goal", is the concession at the Odeon finished for good and can we have more winners?  I don't know anybody who has won a prize.  Can it be advertised as being for the sole benefit of the youth system?  

John Munroe of the Everton Supporters Southport branch suggested that we follow what Glasgow Rangers did when they changed the golden goal to the 'Rising Stars' ticket in which all proceeds go to the youth academy.   On the first day of sale Rangers sold 76,000 tickets from a crowd of 50,000, and I thought the Scots were tight! 

 

 PLAYERS

 

Players 

First of all, I am more than happy with the start to the new season.  I have looked for the two most important things for me personally after last season and they are passion and commitment; I have not been disappointed to date.  We need to build on this excellent start not stand still with the present squad; it is fragile and small for the demands ahead.  

Have all payments been received from Judas Barmby's sale?  The recent rumour of his departure from the gypsies won't short change us will it? 

No we have been paid in full from Judas's sale, we got the final payment when the dark side qualified for the 'champions' league.

What is happening with the likes of Myhre who is in the last year of his contract and is costing us a fortune in wages and he is not alone?  

Players are like planes and taxi's they don't make us money if they don't play / move.  I'd rather have the wages spent on a player who plays for us.  If Walters monthly wage budget is at the limit then sentiment must go out of the window and get rid of the long term injured / injury prone or out of favour players.  This is a club in financial hardship we can't be a soft touch anymore, hard business decisions should be made for our ultimate benefit.  

We cant just give players away, Ian.  Walter thought that some of the players not needed now would have gone to pastures new, but it takes time to move on some players they only go when it suits them these days. 

Do we have sell on clauses for our recent departures such as Jevons, Doherty and Ball? 

I believe Rangers are insuring Ball for 13 million.  

Every transfer is different and it cannot be divulged each transfer package detail 

Abel Xavier; does he stand outside at night naked to get all these viruses?  Joking aside, is a bit of a hypocondriac or are other factors at play because he is a potentially top player? 

Rob Stiles, the new chartered physio, has been assessing training methods etc.  It is hoped the long term injured players and short term will benefit from his recommendations

Danny Cadammetari; What happens with footballers as regards to them being found guilty in a court of law for such serious offences?  Are clubs entitled to terminate their contracts?

Each club will act differently to players in trouble in the public eye remember Cantona?  Leeds will be faced with their own troubles soon.  What will be, will be with Danny... 

We do need to strengthen the squad though it is on the thin side, will funds be available to Walter if need be? 

Or is Walter happy to use the likes of McLeod, Clarke, and Hibbert more often than last season? 

At this moment in time there is not allot of money available but again a few sales and Walter can go forth and sign if he wants to! 

The new UEFA transfer rules: how do they work?  

They are quite long but in a nutshell there will be transfer windows mainly on the continent and set by each country's own association.  On the domestic front we will be not affected.  You can get more information on the UEFA website.  

Scouting in Ireland and general, how are we getting on? How is our Scandinavian scout Mr Nielson faring? 

May I suggest we arrange early for a pre-season with Celtic with all funds going to the Local Cancer unit in Merseyside out of respect to Alan Stubbs? 

These subjects will be looked into. 

Any possibility of a pre-season tour in Ireland? 

We have a large latent /active fan base there awaiting to be stirred.  With all the cheap fares now available across the Irish Sea it would be prudent 

Next pre-season Walter will not be using the Italian training camp; it will be up to Walter where we will tour. 

Screening of away games: with all the facilities in place now, when are we due our next screening?  Or does it not conform to the new TV deals?

No the screening does conform to the new TV rules but with TV showing highlights of matches so soon at 7pm it is thought that screening of interesting night games will be first.  I think it costs 1,500 per screening, so costs in relation to demand will be taken on board

Any other sources of income in the works?

John Munroe mentioned the Britannia Building society and its links with Everton and the bank cards.  Apparently it has over 15 million in funds from Evertonians from which the club receives 1%, 150,000.  John thinks this bank would like to be involved more with Everton.  Ipswich Town currently have 80 million with Britannia they were the first club to take on board this scheme.  

John also revealed that Britannia sponsored their Player of the Year do.  So maybe this link should be developed more. 

I would like to finally point out how good it is to see the new accommodation for our EDSA members at the lower Bullens Road in front of our own fans.  I think the EDSA members, in particular will be asking for the Brazilian dancing / lap dancer's on a more regular basis.  

Area seating has increased from 49 to 84 spaces in Bullens Road and more is promised  excellent news for these special Evertonians.  Each game there are 22 seats available on a rota system with 50 (and increasingly more) fans fighting for them.  EDSA offer 13 places to away fans and have the biggest away support in the Premiership.  Man Utd, after all their increasing in capacity over the years, only have 110 places available for the disabled.  

Not every subject was discussed fully.  Time was short for this particular meeting and Michael Dunford had to leave early when he received a letter by hand maybe Danny's going down! 

Yours sincerely 

Ian MacDonald
EISA

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