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Shareholders Association Executive Committee
Hang your Heads in Shame?

A response to Mickey Blue Eyes from Ian Macdonald

 

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. There are those that talk the talk and those who try and do something - school ground banter circa 60s and 70s.

This is a response to Michael "Mickey Blue Eyes" Durkins well-penned view of the Everton Shareholders Association Executive Committee, The Shareholders Association that Lost its Head, published on the Bluekipper website.

As you all know by now, the Everton Shareholders Association AGM is to be held on 1 June 2004 and apparently the existing ESA Executive Committee are just as bad as the last lot in this somewhat responsible position.

Michaels piece was brought to my attention by a lot of Blues and I was asked for my views on the subject was I mad or hurt?  I replied after reading the piece that I was neither hurt nor hopping mad at the tone of the accusations as I know Michael very well, and respect him for his endeavours during our quest for that magical (now mythical) site called the Kings Waterfront project.

Michael was a general in guiding Evertonians to the true picture of our bid he was professional and articulate at every level of this quantum leap project for Everton.  For my pennys worth on this particular subject, I think we will never have had a better opportunity for location, price and spec of new a stadium for Everton.  I believe it will follow us like an albatross around our necks until we look another gift-horse in the mouth.  Thing is, why did it take over 18 moths to shatter the dream?  It should have taken no more than three months to quantify our position.  We either had the money or we didnt.  God, how much is the real estate worth now down that neck of the woods?  It will seem sad, when we are driven to a shared stadium, that there will then be three owners not the two on offer at the Dock... but I digress.

I cannot reply as eloquently, or skilfully, as Michael can write.  Its a fact of life I am not as intelligent as Michael with verse or academic reason but I am an Evertonian with an opinion and very close to what happens to us and how we feel.

This is my own personal account of the present ESA Executive Committee.

If I cast you back to the Echos infamous Night of the Long Knives, the meeting was about frustration and the need to change the status quo of the Peoples Club.  In a nutshell, it seemed that the watchdog of the Club (that was the original calling of the ESA in the 1930s) had in fact become hush puppies.  Many of the wider membership of the ESA had no feedback from meetings, questions asked etc.  It seemed a cosy relationship had developed, rightly or wrongly, with the powers that be at Goodison.  "Dont rock the boat" seemed to be the motto of the watchdog.  That night, I was asked to go on the Executive Committee at first, the Wheeltappers and Shunters club came to mind... "A committee," I thought, hmm, well Im an elected member of the Independent Blues, so why not?  If I can help I will.

I was subsequently elected but my thoughts that night were of my Dads burial arrangements that day not change at Everton or getting even with the past hierarchy.  So, yes, I suppose I went with the flow of change that night.  My Dad would have wanted me to speak up for fellow Blues that cannot be heard, so maybe fate dealt me a hand that night.

I also knew that night, and for months afterwards, that the Club was royally pissed off with the wholesale changes of the ESA.  I was told so.

Our cards were marked and any dialogue would be short and terse.  So be it; I, like thousands of others, are in this for the long haul and my Dad always said, "Be true to yourself, son, and let others who would hurt you fall by the wayside in time, as time finds people out."  At the first Executive Committee meeting, it was a strange feeling, speaking through the Chairman almost like royal protocol but I kept along with the mechanics of such shareholders meetings, fumbling along like a virgin on his first night.

All I wanted to do was give ideas to be championed by the Club and questions properly answered by the hierarchy not ignored or fobbed off, as many non-shareholder fans have been in the past.  I am primarily an Independent Blue in a Shareholder's position where our voice can be heard.

But it was all fantasy in my mind; the new regime was not flavour of the month never mind the full tenure so any thoughts that we may have had to make inroads into giving the Club a more professional approach to a whole spectrum of ideas to help /aide and explore fell at the drawbridge and moat.  We were shunned except for a few very late letters or return calls.

But still we carried on every six weeks, meeting at Goodison.

The infamous list of names Michael Durkin has set in stone in his article as the Executive Committee came from near and far to try and resolve this Clubs problems.  We all knew that Everton could be / should be better run but how can you have an input if you  stonewalled?  In hindsight, we should have resigned en masse, citing the reasons why we could not continue, instead of losing friends along the way.

Many a time, I went to a committee meeting and I thought: I cant really make it for pressure of work or family... but then I would realise that members would be travelling from Leicester, Luton, Yorkshire, North Wales and even Ireland; so how could I not come when only 10 miles down the road!  For those who came and those since departed, I have the highest admiration all their travel expenses were covered by themselves.  Driven by a hope that they could, if allowed, change Everton for the better by giving expert help (in some cases) free of charge and without personal gain.  This part of the story did get me a bit mad when reading Michael's  self-righteous article.  Many meetings lasted nearly four hours, while past Committee members would say theirs would last only 20 minutes, with no proper minutes given out to the wider Association.  I may be too hard on past ESA Committees but can only gather information from what I experienced or heard myself over the years.  God, I think Ive just morphed into Mickey Blue Eyes junior, criticising others and polarising people!

After a few months with crumbs of bread thrown from the table of Mr Dunford and Sir Philip, a meeting was permitted to discus matters.  I never wanted to go to such meetings, as John Sinnott, our Chairman, was more articulate than I could ever hope to be.  I thought they might defrost the Club into listening to the ESA main agenda items, but me being there was not a good idea, as the CEO did not like me.

The new ESA Executive Committee danced with and courted the hierarchy to prove that were no demons hell bent on destroying their regime but it was never going to become a marriage.

Just after Christmas 2003, a heaven-sent (for the hierarchy) clash of protocols within the Committee occurred.  Mike Owen and Steve Allinson had gone on a mission to the newspapers to draw attention to the idea of bringing in badly needed new investment into the Club via a share issue.  It was front page news in the Echo and it seemed to embarrass the hierarchy why?  Well, you must come to your own conclusions...

John Sinnott and a couple of others on the Executive Committee were not happy that an article high on the Committees agenda was taken outside to the media without prior approval.  John wanted to resign at the next Committee meeting, such was his stance on the matter.  I sat there very sad and dismayed that this group could not continue as one anymore.

Fact was I could see every point of view: Mike Owens frustration at not being heard enough about the matter (when he worked in the media) and seeing the Clubs desperate need for a capital injection without heavy charges; and Johns thinking of conflict of interest with Steve Allinson, who was selling shares to fans at a below market price to encourage broader ownership amongst the fans.

I thought at the time, it was a mountain being made out of a mole hill and would drift away... but not to John Sinnott or Rob Evans, who resigned on the strength of their arguments.  These two people are great Evertonians and I too thought about jettisoning myself from the Committee as I did not want to take sides how could I?  I considered these people as my friends not just concerned Evertonians.

So I kind of sat on the fence with splinters hurting me from time to time as I spoke to the main players in this fall out.  We did meander along a bit to conclude our tenure, making a final agenda of what we tried to accomplish, and holding a vote for change in the Articles of Association which are so dated and like a keep-net in water when it comes to interpretation.

Well, you may ask, what did you lot do then for the ten months or so?  All I can show you is what I was involved in, which was briefly as follows:

  • Championing a change in midweek football league fixtures so that no-one travels more than a hundred miles.  The Premier League and the Club have been lobbied to carry out more common sense fixtures.  At the beginning of last season, no less than five Premiership league teams fans had to make a 400-mile plus round-trip journeys in one midweek fixture list its dangerous to tired drivers and workers who have to think about their workplace responsibilities next day.
     
  • The David France Collection.  Making Blues aware around the world, so they knew it exists and its value.  No club has such a historically defined documented collection.  No club
     
  • Setting up a ticketing party to help the fans and Club find the ideal marriage with allocations.  No derby tickets were sold away at Anfield as part of a corporate dinner package as a result of this.
     
  • Minutes of every meeting sent to all ESA members via e.mail or Royal Mail.  Costly in time and effort for the secretary Nick Williams.
     
  • Documented correspondence between the Club and the ESA.
     
  • Transparent detail to the ESAs accounts, showing where monies have gone each meeting.  I thank Mark Edwards for his time and recording the new members or those parting.
     
  • Website space: Asking for space on the Club's website for the minutes and forum results to be shown - it was declined in the format we wanted.
     
  • Asking for space in the Matchday programme for ESA comments and notifications; we were told we could have half a page if we paid!
     
  • Aiming for pre-season tours to have greater notification and hopefully in a condensed area in Europe ideally so that families and fans in general can arrange holidays better and secure better deals for travel expenses.  Up to now we are playing at the San Siro of Hillsborough, at a time our profile could be sky high with Everton and Englands best hope Wayne Rooney.  I hope the ESA can push for opposition worthy of the brand name we want to re-invent.
     
  • A very successful annual dinner which was set around the 125 year celebration; the Club have not had their own.  The board and hierarchy were invited but declined due to the ShareGate affair, two own goals occurred on a memorable night by the Club:
    • One was snubbing every SA member, not just the accused;
    • the other was the refusal of accepting a plaque that documented the list of Everton's first achievements.

Everton were a trail-blazing Club that set the standard for others to follow.  The plaque has since been accepted and Im happy about that, as Keith Wilson and myself put in many hours to get it right.  However, our names on the recent programme notes at the home game against Bolton where omitted, I know Im perceived as a bad apple at the Club but poor Keith just tries his best for the club.  Another sad act.  I hope they place the plaque in the main reception area of the Goodison Road stabd where visiting journalists etc. can see that we are not just another club although recent history may suggest this.  Blueblood, the ex players Foundation received a sizeable donation as a result of the 125 year celebration night.

  • A visit to Bellefield to see the players train and talk to the manager. This was promised for years but never allowed.  Shareholders brought young family memebers to see where our heroes honed their talents for the weekend matches.  Pity it was on a freezing October day, with no hot refreshments, and surprising that the manager, players and staff knew nothing about the visit.  May I suggest the next visit is conducted more professionally by our top admin?  And during the pre-season when its warmer and more children can attend without missing school?
     
  • Making a concerted effort to bring on board new SA members, a trickle has happened but hopefully more will come when more shares are made available and fans know that the ESA will be listened to now, hopefully.
     
  • A review of the ESA constitution whereby everybody understands where we are with joining, voting, electing etc.  I would have wished this had been installed before the upcoming AGM but apparently any new constitution has to be voted at an EGM or AGM.  See Im learning all the time.
     
  • Challenging the status of the shareholders regarding ticketing preference, which no lags behind the new A and J clubs.  It erodes the stature of the Shareholders within the Club even more 1,500 for a share in the Club as opposed to 25 for membership in the A or J clubs.  At a fans forum for the A&J clubs, both the manager and the Board attended but, despite invitation (even before ShareGate), none of the hierarchy ever came to our forum meetings.  It just endorsed to me that the feudal system of the Club never gave the new ESA Executive Committee a chance from the off, but we still continued to meet, ostracised by the Club who are doing so well off the field they had no need to meet troublemakers.  How sad our Club has become to treat fellow Blues like pariahs.  This is the 21st century not medieval times, although I could think of a few Id like to put in the stocks!  Only joking, as I know how touchy the hierarchy can be...
     
  • Directors box tickets: Made available to all SA members on a lottery basis instead of just the Executive Committee memebers.  Sadly, these two tickets that were always near the front row of the Directors Box were relegated to the back row near the press box.  How petty a deed that was, eh?  Summed up the childish behaviour by some who represented this club at a very high level.  We never stood a chance with this lot from the off, so Michael Durkin should think again about his stones and arrows aimed at fellow Blues mate.  On a nicer note, with this new lot the Blueblood organisation received a donation of 640 from donations for the tickets received for the Directors Box.  Many a young and old fan had a day to remember in this exclusive area an experience that never would have happened under the previous ESA regimes.
     
  • Exploration of a Fans Trust for the Club.  Tom Cannon's sterling original work was carried on in a manner I think he would have approved of.  It seems bizarre to me that such a topic would infuriate the Club even more.  ShareGate was a result of this wider implementation to the media, as already covered.  A letter from the Club Chairman said that any share initiative would be put on the back burner for now.  So the Club were awash with money then?  Yes, Im a divvy, still going on about our finances, but we tried to show the importance of a share issue to our financially ailing Club.  Fan Trusts have done remarkably well in the lower leagues in fact, they have been club savers on many occasions.  We organised a Fans Trust forum whereby such eminent people as Sean Hamill (Celtic supporter and Chairman of the Government initiative fan shares schemes) came to discuss the mechanics and past experiences.  Joe Beardwood, a football financial consultant came, a fellow Blue who knows exactly where we are in todays financial world.  It was hard to stomach when being told that Southampton was a bigger club financially than Everton now, based on turnover a message conveyed so easily by Joe.  And you wonder why we cant compete in the transfer market?  I would highly recommend Joe Beardwood to any new committee after next Tuesday's AGM.

Sometimes you have to beat your own drum in public so that, when others throw slings and shots, people can see the side of both stories to make your own judgement.  Michael Durkin is without doubt a good Evertonian and wants whats best for the club and its loyal fans.  Ill still have a drink with Michael anytime because thats the way it is, its the long haul; all about opinions just do me a favour, Michael: take my place on the committee and do your best for everyone concerned.  Im tired of people falling out and polarising fans.  I just want whats best, like everyone else.  Maybe Im misguided but I think we may have a chance with the new changes in the wind, to move on together.

Thats what I want for Evertonians now to be together as a powerful force with a plan and a vision to follow.  If Paul Gregg wants to be our Fergus McCann, then so be it its got to be better than it is now.

At the AGM next Tuesday night, I dont want our new CEO Trevor Birch sitting there thinking have I just come into the local bag wash theres so much backbiting, with the worst offenders waiting to pounce on fellow Blues who are trying to help the Club get on a better footing, with no personal gain except wanting a result of their efforts getting us a better team on the field to watch.  Isnt that what we all want?

Sure, I still endorse calling for an EGM of the Club's shareholders as the only to change at the Club to date has been Trevor Birch coming in.  The Club has eight weeks from then to get their act together before the new season starts.  If the Club clearly shows that it is listening to the fans who want to see change, has a plan and a vision, then we can aim high together.  Too many times in the past we have accepted tidbits of deeds to back off from applying pressure on our Club, to force a more professional approach at the top level. 

The sands of time are running out for our Clubs Premiership status we got away with avoiding relegation last season yet again.  How many wake-up calls do we need before the trap door gets us?  After the Manchester City humiliation, the hurting fans have become angry fans.  By the following Wednesday, those fans gathered at the Blue House meeting were educated to the real state of our Club.  The fans called for this meeting not Ian Macdonald.  In hindsight, a better venue should have been picked.  However, the saddest thing is that the Club should have held a clear-the-air meeting with the fans but I guess they were too frightened. 

This is Everton: never should keeping our Premiership status be deemed as a success.  We demand / hope for better than this.  I urge Michael Durkin to take up the gauntlet and use his obvious skills to help the fans and club be positive again.  He needs to get away from being the Tiger  in the wings waiting to pounce we need action now, not words.

Im sorry to have had to respond to Michael's article but I know he is so wrong or ill informed by regarding his stance on the existing Executive Committee.  Is it any wonder that fans feel trepidation when putting their heads above the parapet?  I suppose Michael could dock our pay for our tenure... but we dont get paid for our efforts.

Come on, Michael, have a pint with us - and give us input not criticism!

Let Tuesday be a real new dawn not the same old infighting.  No wonder we are the way we are when fans are at each others throats.  Lets be the watchdogs and guide dogs of the Club, finding a path together to climb back to where we aspire.  This Club's  Shareholders Association is the oldest in the league lets not be just a historical fact yet again for Everton.  Let us be part of the future of Everton.

Ian Macdonald .
Everton Shareholder
Everton Independent Supporters Association
Everton Shareholders Associations Executive Committee Member

Please note: This is a personal view provided by Ian Macdonad and does not convey or imply any endorsement from the other members of the ESA Executive Committee, in part or as a group.  Also, because we publish an article or contribution, it does not necessarily mean that we at ToffeeWeb agree with the views of the author Publication policy



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