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COLM'S CORNER, #95


Season ticket price rises have Colm all a-tither...

 

 Smokescreen!

 

Fig

Those who know will always tell you that everything is in the timing.  A home fixture, against fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers on a hot sunny day with Goodison Park close to capacity well, as good a time as any to inform the plebs that they're going to have to cough up even more from next season if they want entry to Goodison's hallowed surroundings.  Sounds ideal anyway.  That's taking for granted that the eleven sent out there will do a job for David Moyes, and the Club.  Some chance of that this sorry season, eh?

With one flexing of neck muscle, young Jon Stead left us feeling well pissed off on a day when we were hoping to confirm our Premiership status for yet another season.  Pissed off with inept performances being far too frequent this season and pissed off even further with the manner in which, cloak and dagger as ever, Everton FC have managed to treat their ever loyal fanbase like shite with details of the season ticket pricing for next season.  No incentive to buy your season ticket early and no reductions.  Why, thanks lads!  That's the way to treat your customer!

I've read the open letter to the Board, a heartfelt plea from a Blue heavily involved in his local Everton supporters club.  It's easy for us all to scream aloud when we're garbage but aside his obvious outpouring of emotions the one thing to stand out, like a sore thumb, was his little dig at the Club for the freebies that are handed out on match day.  Now, we all know that this is part and parcel of life with any football club the haves and the have-nots.  The haves who care more about being seen in the right circles, enjoying the trappings and generally not giving a fuck about what goes on out there on the pitch and the have-nots, people who live and breathe Everton Football Club twenty four hours of every day; those who spend whatever it takes to follow our beloved team.

What saddens me most is that the vast majority of people who love this football club of ours fall very much into the category marked "have-not", yet it is forever they who are asked to stump up most of the cash, each and every time.  They'll never be thanked for it, nor do they ask to be thanked.  What do they want?  Simple.  They or should I say "we" we want a decent football team, one to make us proud, one to honour the fine name, and traditions, of Everton Football Club.  You'd wonder is it too much to ask for?  As ever, the wrong type of customer receives the pampered treatment and the plebs outside on the terraces pay for it.  T'was ever thus.

There is no denying that season ticket prices at Everton need increasing, in order to bring more money into the Club (to help chip away at some of that Bear Sterns interest?).  There is no denying that most fans already accept the inevitability of a price increase.  But, when all is said and done, there is just one thing those fans want and that's an improved team providing more entertainment.  David Moyes cannot fulfil those wishes with two hands tied behind his back financially.  Most fans aren't interested in the fine detail surrounding our financial plight; they just want a decent side out there playing in Everton Royal Blue.  Continually squeezing more and more from the most loyal of fan bases cannot forever be the key to improving the financial standing of Everton FC.

Here's a quick poser for you, as you rationalise the price increase and surmise that increased ticket revenue will automatically lead to David Moyes gaining more than 5.5M to spend on players and automatically returning Everton to greatness on the pitch.  What club currently lies a place beneath Everton in the attendance league?  Why it's Arsenal the newly crowned league champions!  With one home fixture remaining, we've averaged an attendance of 38,762.  Arsenal, awash with superstars and unbeaten free flowing football, have averaged an attendance of 38,059.

Now, that might not reveal an awful lot but, in my opinion, it confirms that one of the two clubs maximises every possible income stream (in particular the corporate sector) while the other club makes do with a tent behind the Park End.  If anyone needs to be fleeced in order to increase revenue, it is the corporate client first, fan second.  Taking the fans for granted, emotionally blackmailing them is a dangerous tactic.  There is only so much shite that the fans will put up with.  Catch 22 scenario if we remain shite on the pitch then who on earth would want to consider entertaining corporate clients at Goodison?

Last month I read a very interesting article in the Echo, from Tranmere's Lorraine Rogers.  She wrote:

"It's the time of year when clubs are starting to announce ticket prices for next season.  Inflation - even in football - is in single figures but I've heard of some clubs that are planning 20 or 30 per cent increases.  How can they justify such massive increases when they can't guarantee a significant improvement in the level or quality of the football or the facilities?"

Sound familiar?  She added:

"Are clubs using significant increases in season ticket prices to achieve the same result as a rights issue, but without having to give up any control?  It seems that way - the owners have the benefit of using the supporters' cash without having to dilute their own shareholding."

Bingo!  There we have our answer!  Everton FC's long-overdue price increase is nothing more than a smokescreen for the current malfunctioning Board to retain their tight grip on control of the Club.  Why else would Phil Carter tell those who've proposed a rights issue, bringing in badly needed funds, that the Board are not at this moment in time interested in taking up this option ("on the back burner" folks!).

It really is the classic example of a business in trouble, not knowing how to get out of this sorry mess and coming to the conclusion that the only measure buying some time to sort it all out is to hammer, once again, those who are most loyal.  We cannot continue operating in this fashion.  We are facing shit creek without the paddle and no amount of spin or silence from within Goodison can alter the fact .

The Bullens Stand remains a priority for urgent redevelopment.  The sale of young Rooney becomes increasingly likely to happen out of necessity in order to appease the Bank.  David Moyes, increasingly frustrated with the lack of financial assistance from those on the Board, might walk.  To be replaced by whom?

Fleecing the fans even further will not eradicate our financial troubles.  We need investment from deeper pockets than those loyal fans.  As the season finally draws to a sorry close, we can observe what we have at Everton right now:

  • A frustrated manager with a squad in dire need of surgery.
  • A decrease in incoming revenue due to the poor season we've had.
  • A team hovering too close to the relegation trapdoor.
  • No "official" sponsor yet named for next season.  Again.

Where's the sign, if anywhere, that things ARE improving at Everton Football Club?  For a Club that prides itself on tradition, it amazes me to see just how shoddy things are at Goodison Park.  We're presently dying a slow lingering death by a thousands cutbacks.  Arsenal, not so many seasons back, were on a par with us.  Nowadays, we're not even playing the same game!  Instead we're looking on enviously at clubs like Charlton Athletic (a fine model of how a club can regenerate within their means and INCLUDING the fanbase) and Southampton.

Summer is coming; things are about to get a lot warmer down Goodison Road as our frightening financial reality just might escape the confines of the Boardroom and hit home with each and every last one of us fans who, despite the state we're in, still dreams of seeing Everton buying a 5-million player this summer.  It simply is not going to happen.

We are, at present, fucked financially.  Bill Kenwright famously said that you don't need 5 million pounds to buy a 5-million pound player.  Well Bill now's as good a time as any to back up that statement if you're hoping to extract further cash from the ever loyal fanbase.  In the meantime, tick follows tock and Bear Sterns are surely hovering with intent!

Colm Kavanagh
26 April 2004