Power to the People
Amit Vithlani says that greater fan representation
is the way forward
5 May 2004
Whilst our rapidly deteriorating finish to the 2003-2004 season has been
difficult to bear, I have been greatly encouraged by the intensity and
passion expressed by many supporters on your excellent web site. Coupled
with original view points and practical suggestions which have flowed
in response to the current traumas which have engulfed our club, the current
circumstances boldly underline an asset which the club has continually
and dismally failed to maximise — its fans.
Our Board could do alot worse than to openly engage fans and invite us
to participate in the processes for making the club's crucial decisions
for the future, e.g. moving to a new stadium or planning for additional
equity investment in the club. I believe the fans are entitled to this
right for the following reasons:
1 - "Taxation without Representation":
I believe that the recent hike in season ticket prices will be one
of many steep rises we face in years ahead, as my guess is that the rises
have been built in to the club's business plan and might be required to
accomodate the amortisation profile of our securitised debt as opposed
to funding additional (Capital?) expenditure by the club. It is well known
that this securitised debt refinanced the mess left in the Johnson era
(and potentially compounded during the early years of the Kenwright era).
If season ticket price increases are indeed designed to meet the step
ups in our debt repayments, this is effectively taxation without representation
- we will be picking up the bill to clear up the mess without actually
having our say on the goings-on.
The fans would have no objection to season ticket price increases if
the additional revenues contributed to an increased transfer kitty for
Moyes, or an improved contract for Rooney or even funding an upgrade in
facilities. However, I believe this will not be the case and so the fans
will be asked to pay more to watch the same rubbish (or worse, if we lose
Moyes and/or Rooney) every season. Consequently, we are within our rights
to demand more "bang for our buck", and I would suggest greater
fan participation in the decision making process would be a start.
2 - "We can't do any worse than you"
Aside from the appointment of David Moyes, I cannot see one tangible
benefit that has arisen since Kenwright and Carter have taken charge.
We are a number of years down the road since Johnson departed and yet
the club is still saddled with the same problems - we still heavily indebted,
our facilities are poor and the team is mediocre. What's more, a failure
to provide Moyes with funding to strengthen the squad will undermine the
one good thing that Kenwright and Co have done, as I am fearful that Moyes
will get eventually lose patience with the club and move on. Incidentally,
those fans that have criticised Moyes have forgotten the 5 years of moronic
management that preceeded him - any tactical blunders he might have made
pale into comparison with those of Smith and Kendall III.
Conclusion ? "500,000 heads are better than one, two or a dozen"
Having put forward the arguments for why we should be given a bigger
say in the club's key decision making processes, I would throw open the
debate as to how this would be encapsulated. I for one would like to see
the board examine some of the findings in Toffeeweb's excellent series
on investing in Everton and respond to the possibilities of tapping into
our fan base to raise financing. This would be the first step in my favoured
approach - to have a fans' representative on the Board, which could be
legitimately achieved by giving the fans an equity stake in the club.
This is a fairly large step which could take time to implement, and so
in the interim I believe the board must come out and organise more frequent
fans' forums, particularly if my prediction of repeated season ticket
price hikes bears fruit. These forums must be used to introduce greater
transparency on increased financial burdens which will be imposed on the
fans going forward.
Finally, the forum could be used as a medium of engaging and encouraging
constructive debate with the fans and a means of collecting ideas and
solutions on the problems facing the club. From what I have read in fanzines
and websites, a great many Evertonians appear clued up on the clubs? problems
both on and off the pitch and some of the analysis and solutions put forward,
not least on Toffeeweb, have been cogent and incisive. This leads one
to draw a conclusion that our fanbase provides a fertile field of ideas
and solutions and a potentially powerful source of capital ? after all,
500,000 heads must be better than one, two or a dozen of the heads that
are responsible for the current mess the club is in!
There have been a lot of viewpoints posted on the web site (& forum)
in recent weeks about Everton's current dire position. Personally, I found
Colm Kavanagh's and Amit Vithlani's bang on the money. Even though I don't
agree with some of the other rantings about particular players and manager,
I can understand the level of frustration felt by all. The frustration
is obviously being fuelled by our abysmal performance this year but I
think there is more to it than that. I believe that supporters would tolerate
our current position better if they felt that there was a plan (that hopefully
included them) to improve the situation.
Basically, there seems to be no vision for the club. Here we are in the
21st century in the EPL and as far as I can see EFC is being run as if
it is still a 19th century amateur club. Questions that I think need to
be addressed by the board are:
What is our current financial position (ok we have a fair idea about
Where do we need to be (financially) to compete properly in EPL?
How will we grow revenue (so that Mr Moyes actually has some money to
Where is the business plan to get us there?
Maybe the board is working on this (I doubt it). If so shouldn't they
let the fans know?
The rise in season ticket prices is a good case in point - no proper
explanation about where the money is going. 90% of forum messages on the
subject were from fans who were not happy about how the rise was handled
but prepared to pay if the money was well spent.
A few months back Steve Allinson had an excellent series of articles
on Investment in Everton. It outlined EFC's bleak financial picture (sobering
but refreshing), lessons to be learnt from other clubs (eg Celtic), possible
ways forward (devmt at Goodison v new Stadium) and some ideas for raising
capital for devmt. If the board could show the same sort of openness &
vision and (as Amit said) include the fans in the solution THEN we may
have a way forward. The alternative, unless a Russian billionaire arrives,
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