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The Decline and Fall of Everton FC?

By Graham Atherton :  11/10/2008 :  Comments (50) :
NB this was a comment in response to comments in another thread and introduced the information available in the fan survey's carried out annually by the Premier League. There are links to these survey's below and if you follow them back to the PL website you can access the rest ? they make interesting reading and show up differences in the community we think we know as Everton FC and what that community actually is.

Moderators asked me to repost my article as a new thread so here it is. Article follows:

I have been an Evertonian since I watched us lose to West Brom in the FA Cup Final in 1968 on a black & white TV set.

I was one of only two Evertonians in school classes full of Liverpool supporters throughout the 70s - supporters of a team that won and won and won again at the highest level so I know more than a little of the pain that being an Everton supporter brings on a Monday morning.

I wanted that to change back then, and I do now. The whole football world has changed since then and it is an unarguable fact that those with the most money win the most matches.

I 'care' for the club as much as anyone ? my weekend is ruined along with everyone else here when we lose. I make no apologies when I say I want Everton FC to be winners.

Why do we lose? Why do Manchester United win and why are they one of the "richest clubs in the world"? They drew up a business plan and stuck to it. I remember the glee in the 70s & 80s when they lost and it was partly because they were derided for being "business oriented" ? indeed they still are. They took risks ? calculated risks ? and they paid off.

So, let's take the good parts of the Man Utd business model and the good parts of being a community club and try to put them together in Everton Football Club ? that is what the current regime are trying to do.

Yes, the physical move isn't what anyone wants but in our situation we have no right to expect to be able to afford that massive stadium ? and this is a way we can. If our financial situation changes then that imperative changes too.

Despite the current unease in world financial markets, we still live in a capitalist world and risk is a fully engrained part of that. Five years of success followed by oblivion is rather over the top for me but nonetheless possible, just as 5 years of success followed by a further 50 years of success is possible.

What is "oblivion" for a football club? Teams with histories as big as ours play their games these days in the far reaches of the lower leagues supported by a few thousand ? is that not oblivion in footballing terms?

We take pride in our history... but that history is studded with times when our forefathers took risks ? not the least being the original ground move across the park.

Cursory glances at club demographics show Everton have one of the most reliable cores of support indicated by the reasons given for season ticket sales, one of the least local support (average 46 miles away) and the poorest stadium sightlines by a long way. And close to the highest lapsed season ticket rate in the country ? that speak volumes.

Taking a look at the latest figures for 2007-08 we are clearly and most worryingly the lowest club in the league for new supporters.

The overall message is that the club is slowly dying already ? it has lots of loyalty from existing fans (though they are tending not to renew season tickets) but few new fans coming in. if we stay where we are and worry about risk too much we are already doomed to oblivion.

If we give it our best shot and come up short at least we go down as a football team doing what football teams should and not as a club without enough faith in its own supporters to take another risk.

Reader Comments

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David Kiely
1   Posted 11/10/2008 at 21:23:33

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Graham -

surely your statement that Everton have "one of the least local support (average 46 miles away)" is a misreading of the data you provide? As stated in the report (p.19) it means that we are under the average for the Premiership itself (47 miles). Also, you need to factor into that set of statistics that clubs with more local support are historically unsuccessful and, dare I say it, unfashionable - factors that would inevitably have an impact on levels of out of town support.

In short, we’re not doing too badly in that set of data. The biggest concern, as you imply, is our ageing fanbase.

On the subject of community and local links, though I haven’t got the data to hand to back this statement up (I think it was in the Steers Davies Gleave report for the Kirkby transport plan) Everton’s season ticket holders - that’s, what, 25,000? - were overwhelmingly from within a 20 mile radius of the ground.

If you’re going to measure community by geographic location I think it’s still fair to claim we have a club supported by locals. And by the sound of the data in that report you supplied concerning how people came to support the club (large numbers of blues being brought into the fold by parents) probably many long-distance blues have an indirect link with the area too.

Dennis Stevens
2   Posted 11/10/2008 at 21:52:28

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Whatever course of action is taken is a risk - there is no "safe" option; however, to follow a course of action with no clear benefits for the club is reckless.
John Andrews
3   Posted 11/10/2008 at 22:43:40

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You are absolutely correct in your assertion that we have no right to expect that massive stadium. However what we were promised is not what we are going to get ! We were going to get a "State of the art" stadium which has turned out to be mid range.
It is also well documented that there are definite transport problems.
Finally how can you expect folks to renew their season tickets when you consider the dross being served up currently ?
Derek Turnbull
4   Posted 11/10/2008 at 22:40:15

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We aren?t doing enough to attract new fans. As you sad we are attracting the least new fans.

We live in an area (North West, not just Liverpool the city) where we are competing for fans with Man U and Liverpool.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown of why fans support Liverpool over us.

Family tradition, success and media exposure will obviously consume the majority percentage, but these are factors that we currently cannot do anything about. However, does this account for 100 percent?

Are there any other reasons that we can do something about? Is there a 10 percent share (random percentage guess) that we can be fighting for? Everton should be doing their research on why fans don't support Everton, then looking to solve it
Christine Foster
5   Posted 11/10/2008 at 23:04:36

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On first look at the detail it appears as if Graham's comments regarding the statistics are true, but the decimation of the housing stock, especially in the areas of main, core traditional base within the city, would always show that the fan base would be spread further these days.

A good analogy would be a tree with its roots in Walton, the branches have spread to many parts of the country, but it's still one tree. The danger is if you damage the roots or transplant the tree, branches die and rarely is the tree the same.

Such are the traditional roots within Liverpool and now a community that has spread families all over the North West and further. One therefore could say that actually the loyalty of the Evertton fans is so great that they have not let distance diminish tradition.

I haven?t got the actually figures for the level of housing stock that has been reduced in the last 30 years compared to now but look around the place, look at the empty spaces that used to have thousands of people.

The roots are strong, the branches firm, families still hold tradition tightly to them for comfort and pride.

Christine Foster
6   Posted 11/10/2008 at 23:21:30

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Oh, and no, I wasn't a speech writer for Tony Blair, lol

Sorry if I plucked a few heart strings :-)

But I do agree that the club is not doing enough to attract new supporters, our image is not one of a well run marketing machine, not a sharp sales strategy and the absence of any obvious plan.
That's real. That's what needs addressing.
Derek Thomas
7   Posted 12/10/2008 at 04:04:54

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Yes, we have a lot of local support. But the census figures tell us this local population is falling.

Right on our own doorstep there is a much more successful rival...and down the road is the ?biggest club in the world?.

We don?t do enough on the field to generate the off field publicity that is required to woo the floating voter, be they local, national or international.

This WON?T be solved by moving 2 doors down the street, our next door neighbour will still be next door, just on the other side of us, so what's the point in moving and going through all the hassle and expense, especially now!

The label on the ?Brand? says Real Madrid, but the substance, the product they are ? branding ? is Football.... SUCCESSFUL FOOTBALL.

Get the team right and all else will follow.

You don?t think so?? well the same terraces and park border us as border the RS, the difference is they have a decent team.

Not quite the same as putting up some stone cladding, 3 china ducks and a muriel on some mid-range concrete monstrosity in Tesco?s carpark.
Tom Hughes
8   Posted 12/10/2008 at 06:58:27

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I believe there are far more pertinent Everton specific stats to consider before arriving at your pro-kirkby conclusions.

The average travel distance can be heavily skewed by a small percentage of long-distance blues (ie if just 1% travelled from say London, that is 50 times further than Mr Blue from Old Swan). The best reflection would be gained from a mean/median type approach. Even then we scored one of the lowest distances of the bigger clubs. However, a decent indicator could be found by considering a few simple stats..... Firstly, according to the club over 1/3rd of our season ticket holders have a Wirral address. None of these can live over 40 miles away. The Wirral?s population is only 1/4 of Merseyside?s overall population, therefore I think we can safely assume that at least half of our season ticket holders come from The Liverpool side of the river..... again none of these travel over 40 miles to the match. With the small remainder spread far and wide giving the result over a relatively small sample. It would be interesting to see how many of these long distance blues presently travel by train into Lime St. It was also interesting to see that only 1% of fans nationally use any kind of park and ride, and that in built up cities train and bus useage has increased, yet we are proposing going to a site with far less public transport capacity?!

Man Utd were certainly more business-like in the 70?s etc, but that had far more to do with them cashing in on their already larger fanbase which had grown following the busby babe and European cup winning eras. They could have had the best business plan in the world (do you really think Edwards was that switched on?) but it wouldn?t have mattered one jot if they hadn?t employed Ferguson to achieve the success on the pitch...... so much so that in 1993 they considered the maximum required seated capacity for old trafford to be mid 40?s. All that said, they never once considered relocating out of town despite having the biggest out of town support in the country. Therefore I don?t believe there is any analogy to be made regarding their achievements and our proposals for Kirkby.
Nick Flack
9   Posted 12/10/2008 at 09:19:26

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I went into Liverpool over the summer to buy my kid the new shirt. There are more actual Liverpool FC stores, than general stores that sold our kit. In JJB, one of our major sponors, there was an equal if not larger portion of the shop dedicated to Chelsea shirts compared to ours.

I stand by a theory that most new RS fans follow them out of a sense of identity, they want to feel part of the tribe, it?s got fuck all to do with the football, they just want to sing songs and be smarmy little shits as they don?t have enough honest knowledge of the game to contribute otherwise. I should say that a number of my RS mates also go along with my theory and are equally as pissed off with the bandwagon hoppers as I am.

As for how do we get new fans? Cheaper tickets would be a start off. Sooner or later my lad will pick his team, unless I get him to a game he?s open to allsorts of swaying via brightly coloured shirts and shiny trophies. Problem is, I can?t afford to take him!
Mike Oates
10   Posted 12/10/2008 at 09:43:38

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I have lived on the south coast since I left Liverpool area back in 1988 - 20 years just. The are basically only 2 teams: Southampton and Portsmouth. In my 20 years here the "neutral kids" have chosen either one of the above due to their relative successes (basically just being in the Premier League). Originally all went Southampton way in the late 80?s and early 90?s and now Portsmouth jerseys, etc swamp the area ever since the late 90s to today.

In saying that, the biggest choice all the neutrals have made by far at least 50-60% of the total kids is Man Utd, followed recently big time by Chelsea. The youger kids follow success, TV exposure, big celebrities (Rooney, Ronaldo, Lampard) ? this is the determining factor. Initially, parental guidance might just push them to the local teams but then peer pressure at schools etc push them towards successful clubs.

"History is bunk" as Henry Ford said ? the new fans aren?t bothered about what happened in 50s, 60s, 70s etc ? it's what?s happening today. We pay far far too much emphasis on what we deserve because of our history.

We will stay a good "also ran" until we win trophies ? that?s exactly the medicine we need.
Brian Waring
11   Posted 12/10/2008 at 10:41:02

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Graham, you say, "Let's take the good parts of the Man Utd business model, and the good parts of being a community club, and try to put them togethor in Everton FC - this is what the current regime are trying to do." One question: how do you come to the conclusion that this is what the current regime are trying to do? Last time I looked, the current regime couldn?t run a piss-up in a brewery.
Dave Wilson
12   Posted 12/10/2008 at 10:18:46

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I can't quite understand how anyone can claim that building a new stadium in Kirkby is the answer to our problems, it just doesn't make any sense. Success on the field has always been the ONLY way for a club to improve attendances.

When Everton and Liverpool were dominating English football, other clubs suffered; in 85, Spurs were playing in front of an average 20,000, Arsenal an average 23,000 ? I don't remember anyone suggesting either of them were dying. Even the ever dependable Man Utd fans were so fed up that by the their lack of success, by the time the nineties arrived, they were playing to average 35,000 gates. Both Arsenal and Manchester Utd then entered sustained periods of success and of course attendances rose significantly.

I agree with Graham when he says all clubs need to take risk, but they need to be calculated risk. Arsenal built a 60,000 stadium because they had 25,000 strong waiting list for season tickets. Man Utd extended Old Trafford gradually, always knowing the sales of season ticket were in the bag; even Newcastle felt they could go ahead, once KK had lit the blue touch paper, by getting them two promotions, thus rendering the old St James?s some way short of the adequate. All the above "risks" were taken after/during a period of sustained success, when demand for a seat was greater than the number of available seats.

We haven't enjoyed any success for some time now... And to suggest a move to Kirkby in the current climate is to "take a risk" is like claiming you?d be tempting providence if you were to jump out of a plane without a parachute.

Phil Roberts
13   Posted 12/10/2008 at 13:29:15

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I really don't think that attracting new fans is the problem, it's getting the fans we already have to go to the match. If, by some miracle, we were to win the FA Cup this season, you would have probably over a million people lining the streets of the city, so the fan base is already there. We need to find out why these people don't go to Goodison.

I would imagine the main reasons to be financial and the lack of success and these are the problems that need addressing. Personally, I think you need to get it right on the pitch first and the rest will follow. It's no good opening a 5-star restaurant (or in DK's case, a 2-star) and serving bacon sarnies as nobody will come!! So let's put the ground move on hold and back the manager (whoever he may be) with whatever cash is available (£78M?) to try and get a side worth watching and there will be plenty more "Tescos" waiting in the wings.

ps: Miracles can come true!!!

Iain McWilliam
14   Posted 12/10/2008 at 14:11:29

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?Why do Manchester United win and why are they one of the "richest clubs in the world"? They drew up a business plan and stuck to it?

United were a couple of months from going bust if I remember correctly in the early 90s after their daliance with Michael Knighton. Martin Edwards (before he decided to hang around women's toilets) was left with egg on his face and very little money in the coffers because Fergie had already wasted it all for little return.

A business plan is all very well but you still need a manager who wins matches in a semi-attractive way (to attract new fans) and spends his money wisely. It's not rocket science and you don't need a new stadium to do it.

Success on the field breeds success off it (more sponsor demands, more gate receipts, more TV exposure). Utd were lucky to hit success at the right time when Sky was taking off. Everton, with our usual good timing, did the opposite.
Jay Woods
15   Posted 12/10/2008 at 17:00:22

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Man Utd were the first English club to win the European Cup, which has given them a decisive fanbase edge over every other English club ever since. Not even Liverpool’s 4 pre-Istanbul wins could usurp Utd’s primacy in fanbase. It’s like Pepsi trying to overhaul Coca Cola; the latter got there first.

It is an enormous fanbase, first and foremost after European Cup wins, that has propelled United and Liverpool to where they are today. For us to be on a par with them absent vast financial input from a billionaire, we would have to win half a dozen Champions League finals. In other words, mission impossible, without the rich benefactor.
Jim Hourigan
16   Posted 12/10/2008 at 17:56:21

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Phil Roberts, let me answer your question about why some people (supporters) don?t turn up to Goodison regularly from my own family's perspective. I?m a season ticket holder with 2 young adult children. They have been brought up the right way as blues and will come to matches as long as:

1. They get a seat in the Park Stand and not some awful obstructed view of one goal or the other in another stand;
2. We arrive early enough so they can avoid being forced to walk through dog shit or horse dung as the crowds increase;
3. They can get back to my car and not have to catch the bus or taxi back to Lime Street and go back to their respective places;
4. I pay ? they are students!!
5. We don?t need to eat before the match;
6. My lad is over 6? 2" tall and he doesn?t fit in the seats in the Gwladys St or Bullens Rd, so if they are the only seats available he won?t come.

They are blues and are used to a lack of success but for them its the ground and the crap facilities etc on offer. They are the supporters of tomorrow and I fear they may become lapsed blues because of such a negative experience of Goodison. Not very scientific on such a thread but the facts from one household.

Brian Waring
17   Posted 12/10/2008 at 18:32:02

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Jim, apart from obstructed views, you would still have to walk through dog and horse shite if we moved to Kirkby. Getting back to your car in Kirkby would be worse than it is at Goodison. They are students, who, if the stadium got the go ahead, would be paying through the nose, because someone would have to pay for the build costs. Will they make the seats bigger just for your lad? Doubt it. If you go to most new stadia now, you are just crammed in. Looking at the Kirkby proposal, mid-level stadium, diabolical traffic infrastructure, you would imagine that they would have a negative vibe about that, I know I would. Also Jim, I?m not saying you are implying that Kirkby is the answer, I was just making a few points.
Jim Hourigan
18   Posted 12/10/2008 at 18:44:03

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Brian, you're right, I?m not advocating Kirkby, I?m advocating a move from Goodison ? and to some degree I think you miss my point: the ?Goodison Experience? only works on us oldies because we have our history and memories... for the younger generation it's a relic in a crap part of the city, surrounded by crap and it's only my love of Everton passed on to them that keeps them coming. Without that, they would be part of the generation taken in by the Sky hype. Sorry it's unpalatable but, unless we face up to the changing views and expectations of our future, we will wither on the vine.
Brian Waring
19   Posted 12/10/2008 at 19:03:00

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The other thing you need Jim, to keep the younger generation coming to support us, is success on the pitch. And in my opinion, I can’t see any on the horizon.
Rich Jones
20   Posted 12/10/2008 at 20:11:37

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I think this is as good as the presentation from destination Kirkby if not probably better:

Nick Armitage
21   Posted 12/10/2008 at 20:30:31

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Phil Roberts

"We need to find out why these people don’t go to Goodison"

This isn’t rocket science.

Perhaps is it because it is an overpriced shithole with facilities worse than an Albanian campsite. It could be because the seats have less legroom than a Ryanair jet and the toilets smell worse. Maybe it is due to the fact that the team isn’t fit to lace the boots of the teams we are supposedly competing with. I am sure that most people who shell out thirty odd quid to go to the game aren’t to happy when they get to their seat and there is a fucking big post obstructing half the play.

I could go on...........
Mike Oates
22   Posted 12/10/2008 at 20:37:49

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Jim Hourigan ? I totally agree with your views. As I mentioned in the earlier comments I moved to South Coast 20 years ago, but I still manage to get to Goodison 4 times a year and have managed to see them regularly down here at Pompey, Southampton (some years ago), Chelsea, West Ham, and Charlton normally with friends and colleagues down here who support the appropriate Southern teams.

On the last 3-4 occasions, I have brought a couple up to Goodison but never again - it's like walking down an area still in the 1960s, the whole area needs knocking down and rejuvenating. The ground is like a bloody morgue, Blackburn games last and this season, West Ham, Reading and Chelsea Cup last season.

Even though the Pompey ground isn't any better, the atmsophere there is electric as was West Ham?s last season. I used to go to Goodison regularly from the late 60s to late 80?s when the stadium was considered No 2 to Wembley and the place had an excellent atmosphere ? even when we had Everton teams who were hopeless. We completely lost are way from the mid-80s, had a totally inappropriate business strategy, just as someone above mentioned... that was the time we needed to push on - we went backwards and are still paying for it.
Ed Fitzgerald
23   Posted 12/10/2008 at 22:27:25

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The key issue to filling Goodison is the quality of entertainment that is served up on the pitch.

Jim, Mike, I take your point(s) about needing a new (or better) ground but the key ingredient to keep on attracting support is actually what happens on the pitch. Unless a ground share comes off (unlikely), we have a little chance of getting a new ground in the near future at Kirkby or otherwise. The on-going financial situation is not likely to improve for a good number of years and IMHO to consider a move under the current financial conditions would be suicide on the Leeds Utd scale.

The Globe Theatre in London has packed out audiences who sit in cramped conditions or stand up in the pissing down rain to watch the plays of Shakespeare because what is on offer is considered good quality entertainment. The fact is we are drab to watch and with the exception of a few interludes (bits of last season and some of 95-96) our football has been sterile and often relied upon muscle and grit as opposed to guile and skill.

Building a new ground will not guarantee us a better standard of football. I am afraid in terms of improving facilities it is a time to hunker down and make do with what we have until fortune or finance provide us with some viable alternatives. Man Utd and Arsenal of course have greater resources ? they also have a more progressive footballing philosophy and, since the appointment of their current managers, have always provided their fans with attractive, attacking football ? even when they have not been winning trophies. On a personal basis, I don?t like Ferguson but his teams have always been attack-minded and good to watch.

If Moyes cannot evolve his approach to i.e. adopt a passing 4-4-2 formation with genuine width rather than the turgid 4-5-1, I fear we will lose more home support. This won?t happen because the leg room is cramped and the food is of a poor quality but because the experience you are really paying for is not very entertaining. If we wish to attract new supporters we need to evoke a different response from the armchair football families who must collectively groan when they find out Everton are on the box.

Bob Parrington
24   Posted 13/10/2008 at 00:41:30

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Graham - good posting... even if I don?t agree with it all. The best part of it is that it has brought some great responses that demonstrate how interested EFC supporters are in the club. I reckon Christine Foster is on the mark!

Just a few comments from my perspective: Money attracts money. Success attracts "bums on seats". With further success (and entertaining games, I accept) translates to a bigger "fanbase".

A new venue does not mean more bums on seats, just more seats available with better facilities. Risk is necessary. Managing that risk wisely is essential. A move to Kirkby is a large risk.

We will have new owners sooner or later (I think the former and this is slowing progress in some areas of the EFC business ? due diligence by purchasers etc). It will be interesting to see if they go ahead with Kirkby or decide to fight on in the city for supremacy over LFC.

David Edwards
25   Posted 13/10/2008 at 00:34:08

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One of the more thoughtful articles on Toffeeweb of late. I was initially drawn in by Graham?s opening salvo, which included him seeing the West Brom Cup Final on a B&W TV. As a little lad from Chester who?d picked his team at that point, I remember absolutely crying my eyes out all that evening on our stairs after Astle scored that goal ? who says 40 years of loyalty isn?t forged from dispair as well as success!

However, it is Mike's and Jim?s succinct points (as well as others with similar points) which are at the hub of this debate. We have an ageing ground that only holds memories for us ageing fans (who are beyond redemption now!), but is basically not up to it anymore. Yet I remain unconvinced that Kirkby is the answer either (particularly when the stadium quality was downgraded in the plans).
  • Do we have history? ? of course, tonnes of it!
  • Do we have success on the pitch? - no, bugger all (well if 5th is success, then perhaps a morsel)!
  • Do we project a decent marketing image, locally, nationally or internationally? ? no!
  • Do we attract a lot of newer fans not tied to family tradition? ? no?
  • Do we have a billionaire to wave his magic wand over us (a la Chelsea)? ? not yet!
The bottom line is we are the poor neighbours not only in our city, but in our region, and we hardly even rate a mention on the national media (look at TalkSport ? if it wasn?t for Porky Parry?s inane drivel, we wouldn?t get a name check - check out the recent West Ham/Spurs phone-in obsession from our London-based media!)

On saying all that... there is only one way to overcome all this, and it?s SUCCESS! Pure and simple. Even then, it?ll take year upon year of consecutive success to even get close to overhaul the start that the RS and Manure now have on us (the sort of dynasty we might have forged in the 80s, but let slip for many reasons ? not least our business strategy/vision).

To get that level of success, it won?t come without some Man City-type financial re-birth, so if that?s what we want, we can?t rely on just Blue Bill and Our Davey getting ?lucky? on a couple of signings every year and a team playing above their abilities for a decade.

What I fear is that, in my heart of hearts, we might be a middling team that never win another thing in the rest of my life or even my son?s!). An ageing, but loyal fanbase who treat success as a game won on a Saturday afternoon, rather than any aspirations to reach our past glories. Ask a Blackpool, Preston or Bury fan why they keep turning up, and besides the ?local? argument ? don?t they ultimately have lowered expectations and take every game as a social occasion to discuss later that evening over a few pints. Perhaps that?s where ?true? football actually resides these days ? well away from the corporate gloss and bandwagon jumpers (look at the Wembley crowd FFS)!

When people talk of taking risks, the ?Leeds? experience obviously comes up (perhaps the West Ham or Spurs experience might supercede it in the next few years!?!). Yet to some extent, if we don?t embrace some ?carpe diem? approach, which sadly must be financial, then success will not follow, ? and if it doesn?t, then I see in 100 years some sad social history student doing a thesis on a quaint little team called Everton, sadly expired, in the same way that we would look on Corinthians these days.

I don?t know what the answer is... but I fear for our club in the current money-orientated climate ? and as I?d rather we go out with a bang rather than wimper ? if Money = Success = Full Houses = Better Players = World Class Ground, then Mr Lou Cipher (step forward, Mr De Niro), the club is yours! I?ll sign my soul away now (let?s face it, the club have had it since 1968, so it?ll be no loss!)
Christine Foster
26   Posted 13/10/2008 at 11:25:14

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There is a depressing resignation of the fact that unless we get pots of money from a billionaire we are doomed. Moyes had it half right... only half right ? he attempted to construct a team that would punch above its weight consistently. Which he did, but you can?t ask such players to guarantee that every week. For goodness sake even the best and most expensive players have a loss of form, except of course in their team there are ten other equally gifted players on the subs bench!

The crowds want to believe that the team can win. We KNOW we can?t afford the best but I remember Leeds United of old, no stars as such but a great team. But in this day and age you have to be able to match the skill with effort. Thats what we have done up to now. Until we lost the plot. Somehow the "team" looks like a bunch of misfits who have never played together.

This is a reality check. If we don?t actually get a new owner with more money than sense, what is the future for the club and its supporters? How do we reconcile ourselves to the fact that we have to wait until the house of cards that is the Premier League falls?

Chasing the money may be the only way we survive but it may also be the reason we don?t. That's the problem ? dammed if you do and dammed if you don't.

Survival to me is staying in the Premier League, not sure how to measure success anymore. Trophies? Top 6? Beating the RS home and away? Watching a team that plays great football and gives 110% even when they lose? And when that happens you can see the disappointment and hurt they feel too.

Success is being proud to be blue, what is it to you?
Dave Wilson
27   Posted 13/10/2008 at 11:50:34

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You ask
"How do we reconcile ourselves to the fact that we have to wait until the house of cards that is the Premier League falls? "

Well we carry on, that's what we do, there is no other option. We didn't just lose our wealth in the current financial crisis, we?ve been skint 15 years. But we?re still standing.

Only one team can win the league, no matter how many billionaires climb on board the Premier League bandwagon.

Success for me would be to compete with the big boys, instead of handing them the initiative before a ball is kicked ? we don't need a billionaire to do that, just a tad more courage.

We are not damned if we chase the money, just as we are not damned if we don't. We can only ever be damned if we throw the towel in.
Richard Harris
28   Posted 13/10/2008 at 13:34:41

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At least there is the consolation that I’ll get to see free flowing passing and tactical skill on Saturday. A shame that it will be Wenger’s Arsenal and not Moyes’s Everton that deliver on that promise. However he’s still learning is our Davie and he has great potential for the future..... :0)
Graham Atherton
29   Posted 13/10/2008 at 12:51:33

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This is the first time I have glanced back at this thread after cut & pasting it on Saturday - some very good points raised and some agreement too if I am not too much mistaken. We are all not as far apart as some think!

My main point about the 46-mile travelling distance for the average fan is to illustrate how widely spaced we have become. Tom states that this figure could be skewed by relatively few supporters living far away. If we use his example of a fan living in London that comes to the match then there must also be three others living 10 miles away in order to meet the average - in other words for every fan living 10 miles away there is another living 90 miles away.
If half the fanbase lives up to 20 miles away then the other half must live at least 100 miles away - on average - to come up with the average figure?

I can?t see that with that average the skewing can be so severe. Tom is suggesting we have large numbers of fans living 200 miles away. If we know we have 25,000 living within 20 miles then there must be 8000 living at least 200 miles away - is that really likely?

In reality there is more likely to be a smooth distribution with its peak somewhere further out than we would have formerly predicted ? I am guessing around the 20-30 mile mark.

If we have 25,000 season ticket holders living within 20 miles, surely 4 miles isn?t a big move? If, as Christine, says the population surrounding Goodison has been dispersed then again 4 miles isn?t such a big deal?

The point about the Kirkby option is that it is (as far as we know) ongoing and affordable. I have few reasons to want this location in particular but for me is it relatively low risk, low cost and a very large improvement in what is already proving to be a stadium that we now have some evidence other than anecdotal is a liability for attracting new fans and presumably commercial ?fans?.

For the most part, we agree on winning and success. I don?t agree it is hopeless to keep trying to improve ? make what steps we can when we can. Waiting for ?something? to happen isn?t an option. Success for the ?big? teams isn?t set in stone now that there are more extremely well funded teams pushing for those CL places ? THEY may well have over-reached if they fail to qualify but having said that money attracts money so don?t hold your breath!

I think the time when we could hope to challenge for top 4 while funded the way we are is passing. Kenwright acknowledged this, so did Moyes. Kirkby or any other likely stadium won?t restore our status any time soon but we have to show ambition to attract a new owner (and new fans) ? paper reports seemed to confirm that at the weekend.
Ed Fitzgerald
30   Posted 13/10/2008 at 14:57:40

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Don?t get too cosy with this report, its findings for Evertonians are about as statistically significant as having a hands-up exercise in the Red Brick to see whether we should boil BK in oil or anoint him in oil! ? In fact that would probably have more validity.

Only 34,000 people in total responded to the whole survey and how many Blues actually responded? ? 1,549. Even the report admits that carrying out an on-line survey will mitigate a more up-market response.

To arrive at the conclusions you have done is in my opinion a mixture of guesswork and bias. The very fans you are writing off are the least likely to have access to the internet and therefore contribute. The report?s findings about individual clubs are about as reliable as our defence is at the moment.
Joe Rourke
31   Posted 13/10/2008 at 15:56:59

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Your points have been very interesting but your maths leave a lot to be desired!

For an average distance travelled of 46 miles between two fans - one which lives within twenty miles - the second must be travelling 72 miles ( 26+46 or 92-20).

Other stats about fans which might interest you are available informally inside the premier league fantasy football. It has totals for all clubs, has a 1.6 world wide sample million sample. Maybe someone would like to comment on whats easily available there?
Derek Turnbul
32   Posted 13/10/2008 at 15:57:26

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Some interseting comments here. Some though are resorting to the success = new fans angle. I don’t see the point of saying that, of course it does, and I’m even Everton know that too! but getting it is a different matter.

So come on more progressive ideas please!
Tom Hughes
33   Posted 13/10/2008 at 18:03:28

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Everton do have quite a substantial support in London, that?s why I chose it. ESCLA is possibly the biggest supporters club outside of Liverpool. Tens of thousands of scousers moved to the big smoke and its environs including BK himself. As I said the more accurate stats are thoses of season ticket membership. Moving just 4 miles or 5.4 miles depenending on your source is a far less simple logistical task when you are considering moving tens of thousands of people to public transport blind spots in small windows...... all in the city with the lowest car ownership of any in the UK! Like I say chosse your stats carefully. Indeed check out the conflicting survey results in their formative years comparing LFC?s and Man Utd's support if you get a chance.
John Roach
34   Posted 13/10/2008 at 18:49:25

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As a fan who also remembers (crying) at the 1968 final, I can only add the future is bleak for "new young blues". In the 60s we used to be able to afford to go to the game using our pocket money, and having enough for programmes etc... even during the 70s football was relatively inexpensive. My lad (who is 13) could not afford to go on his own nowadays, and although he has been to 80% of home games last season, with me, there comes a point where you have to say enough is enough. Value for money it isn't.

Can I also state that, yes it would be nice to win a trophy, but getting in to the Champions League is unfortunately where the glory is, and on this season's performances up to now, we have more chance of appearing in the Johnstone's Paint trophy than anywhere else.

Michael Brien
35   Posted 14/10/2008 at 12:04:22

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Some interesting comments and definitely some food for thought there Graham. I agree with some of your comments, but not all of them I have to say. The Man Utd business model ? as has ben pointed out wasn?t without flaws, 2 I can think of are Michael Knighton!! However I think their redevelopment of Old Trafford has some good lessons.

The Old Trafford we see now is the result of approximately 15 years development. You could probably call it a stadium that has evolved over the years. Perhaps from the very outset they had a long term plan for the redevelopment of Old Trafford ?

With regard to Goodison, yes options for redevelopment have been looked at. These all seem to be a redevelopment over 5 years. But why not have a more long term view? I agree that Goodison has been left behind ? but that is largely due to the fact that over the last 30 years we have done very little to upgrade the stadium. I know that these are both smaller scale examples ? but look at how Birmingham City and West Brom have redeveloped their stadiums. They are virtually unrecognisable from say 15 years ago.

You mentioned the Man Utd model, but there are also others e.g. Arsenal. They have a club shop at their stadium I believe but there is also one away from the stadium that supporters can visit during the week. I think it is in Finsbury Park.

Everton used to have a very good shop in the City Centre. I remember when I came over for a few days in October 2005 for the Chelsea game. My family and I as well as having a good look around my home city (I now live in Branston near Lincoln) and seeing places such as the Beatles Museum and going on the Ferry, we visited the club shop. As I recall we spent quite a long time in there (presence and quite a bit of money!!). It was a lot easier than the crush there often is at the Club Shop on match days.

I was quite shocked when the club decided to give up the shop in the City Centre. I am sure that there were probably savings in terms of business rates and other running costs. However, in the long term I think that it was a quite appalling decision. The shop gave Everton a presence in the City Centre. in this year of 2008 ? with the European City of Culture ? there have been record numbers of people visiting the city of Liverpool. The shop in the City Centre could have been a great attraction. A great opportunity has been lost.

Success on the pitch of course is vital ? but surprisingly it is not the be all and end all. Look at Newcastle ? no major trophies since 1969 ? yet if they have a decent season they get good crowds. In Germany one of the best supported teams are Schalke 04, they have attendances of 55,000 - 60,000 ? but they last won the German title in 1958 ? before the days of the Bundesliga.

You call your article "The decline and fall of Everton FC"... I think that is rather extreme ? you mentioned the Man Utd business plan. Well, in 1974 they were relegated ? only 6 years after being European Champions!! All clubs have good periods in their history and their bad ones. It?s not so long ago that Man City were in the 3rd tier of English football and playing derby games in that season against Macclesfield!!! Chelsea also had some poor seasons in the late 1980s.

Was it not Oscar Wilde who said, "Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated"? We may be in a down time ? but we can get back and I believe that we will do.

Denis Byrne
36   Posted 14/10/2008 at 14:52:40

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Less than 40 years ago, we were referred to as ?the Mersey Millionnaires?, and were viewed with envy by every other clubs and our stadium recognised as the best in the country outside Wembley (sic). We were classed in the elite ?top four? with Spurs and Man Utd less than 30 years ago. Something desperate has happened to initiate a decline of a magnificent institution, and I?m too tired and weary to go into this detail (there are far better historians than me who will write of this in the near future).

Yet, we still have a world wide fan base that thrives despite the lack of success ? look at the number and range of EFC supporters clubs across the world, and look at the number of children and young people, and women, who attend the games ? I know I?m probably blinkered, but we always seem to have a better representation than other clubs here. It never ceases to amaze me.

There is clearly something about this EFC ?product? that the current and recent administrations have abjectly failed to capitilise on, and that's the failure. The so-called ?guardians? have proved inept and unworthy, and their shame is indeed great ? well, except they don?t give a shit so maybe not! It all reads very gloomy doesn?t it.

It's only when I look at my kids and the other kids passionately rooted to some incoherent ?thing? (tradititon, heritage, old glory, just WHAT is it, cos its certianly not ?success??) that makes them follow this football club and hold it so dearly and offers us tired oldies a touch of hope that maybe things will be ok ? despite the desperation running through this thread.

Michael Brien
37   Posted 14/10/2008 at 15:26:13

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Denis - Keep the Faith !!!!
David Holroyd
38   Posted 14/10/2008 at 16:56:30

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We need to play some proper football, with passing and width to keep people comming through the gates. We need to identify which players we need, and buy them in July and not to leave it 'til end of August. These are all things we should be doing, but we fail on all of the above. We need to keep our eyes on the ball because, if we keep messing up, things are going to get worse.
Rich Jones
39   Posted 14/10/2008 at 19:10:12

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My god!! Just read the article about Harris selling the club and Kenwright being clear he doesn?t want people doing strange things with the club. "You dont get stranger than moving the club out of the city when you're a two-club city, Bill". I fuckin despair... I really do.
Dave Wilson
40   Posted 14/10/2008 at 19:20:44

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I?m assuming Man City, who were on the way to winning the title, to add to other trophies they had won, would make up your "elite four"?

As I read your post ? agreeing with nearly all of it ? I realised you were inadvertently providing a perfect illustration of the cyclical nature of the game.

I thought it worth pointing out that the other three "elite" have all spent time in the lower divisions since those halcyon days, they all no doubt believed their world had come to an end. But they recovered... we will too. Any club is a managerial appointment away from glory or disaster

One minute, the late great Joe Mercer is leading you to glory, the next Malcolm Allison is getting you relegated trying to complicate a simple game. One minute, Matt Busby is creating the biggest club in the world; the next, Tommy Docherty is trying to repair the irreparable.

Today. the guy upstairs is at least as important as the manager. A good chairman with vision, drive and ambition can turn a club's fortunes around in a heartbeat.

Cheer up, Dennis mate, they may well be laughing while we?re on the ropes, but didn't we laugh when they were on the canvas?

Bob Parrington
41   Posted 15/10/2008 at 00:50:05

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Nice one, Dave! How true this is.

Footnote: I walked into the local chippy here in Adelaide last night. The owner (born in Aus) is a big Hawthorn fan in the Aussie Rules Football. Hawthorn won the grand final last week so I said "well done". His reply was, "I only wish my Premier League team was not going so bad." "Mine too," I said. Guess which team he supports? You?re right ? Everton! You just never know, do you! Great fish & chips and a loyal Evertonian. I hope the success of Hawthorn this year rubs off on the Blues through him!

The point of this - Our support is far and wide.

Peter Clarke
42   Posted 15/10/2008 at 02:51:19

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People can post all kinds of facts etc, ragarding the blues but here are a few of my own.

I am from the Great Homer St area of Liverpool, from a family of eight, of which five of us are blue. We were winning nothing when I grew up but it was the blues for me. I am not a better person than my brother or sister who are red. We all get along fine and I certainly do not hate Liverpool. I simply love Everton too much to think about the other lot.

I have only ever had one season ticket in my life but that did not stop me being an ever present for many seasons as well as numerous away matches. I live overseas now but I know as a fact that of the ten or so of us who went to every game, only one or two will have season tickets but they will very rarely miss a game and that includes one of them who lives down south.

Nothing special about these facts but to me they were typical examples. In the early eighties, we were all sick of the football being dished out at Goodison, although my view is that, right now, most of the players we have are no better than back then but they are a lot fitter.

A lot of us and most likely a lot of you older lads reading this will have at some time called for Howard Kendall to go and luckily for us all, he did not. I am not happy with the football being served up right now and that has to come down to the manager but at the same time he is very young, has done well in the climate of the Premier League and will learn more about the finer arts of the game with a long term plan what the club needs.

The only thing that worries me is BK's push for Kirkby. If he is intent on leaving then why push the matter? I do not believe that the stadium they intend to build there will be good enough to warrant such a big and historical change. Goodison can be can be modified over a period of time whilst we assess the success on the pitch.

As far as attracting support, well let's get our better players visiting all of the schools around Liverpool and beyond and get some shirts and stuff dished out and also put a few tickets around to get the kids interested in the blues again.

Michael Brien
43   Posted 15/10/2008 at 07:20:05

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Dave, Bob and Peter, I agree with your comments. Yes, I can remember Howard Kendall taking a lot of criticism. I think there was a rumour in late 1983/Jan 1984 that Mike England, who at the time was manager of Wales, was being lined up to take over from him. As you rightly say, Peter, luckily for us he didn?t go and we all know what happened next!!

Bob, one of my best mates here in Lincoln is a big AFL fan ? in fact he has written a book about the sport ? his team is Port Adelaide Power. They won the title (or do you call it the Grand Final?) in 2004 I think but in the season just finished they were well out of the running. Every team has their ups and downs in virtually every sport.

Dave, I had forgotten the contrast in fortunes for Man City under Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. In fact I think Allison was a popular choice when he came back to take over as manager in 1979 and only succeded in making a total mess of things. I used to work as a match day steward at Lincoln City and I remember Man City coming to Sincil Bank for a league game ? I think it was in 1998-99 season. We sometimes forget that some of the so called "big name/super rich" have had bad times that have been far worse than anything Evertonians have had to put up with.

And some of you younger Evertonians out there ? you never had to endure Bernie Wright or Rod Belfit as strikers!!!

Denis Byrne
44   Posted 15/10/2008 at 14:42:43

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Micheal, Dave, thanks for the encouragement, and its only the notion of history repeating itself that keeps me sane some match days! But I can’t help feeling horribly desperate when my 9 year old son asks after another limp defeat - ’ Dad, will I ever see Everton win the premier league or the FA cup in my lifetime?’ -and I feel soiled with the unconvincing response - ’YIS! no danger, and it will taste all the sweeter because of the pain you’re feeling now kiddo’ . If its a cyclical game, lets pray to all the gods thats its not the same experience of Huddersfield, Sunderland, Leeds etc etc.
And thanks to all the contributors in this thread, well worth putting on again and a tremendous discussion. I remember now why I liked TW so much ...
Off to the Emirates on Satrurday with the kids for more pain ... bring it on!!!
Michael Brien
45   Posted 15/10/2008 at 18:20:22

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Denis - back in 1981 when Gordon Lee was the manager and I think we lost 6 or 7 games on the trot after being beaten by Man City in the FA Cup - League Titles, cups etc seemed the preserve of the other lot across the Park. But we came good not so many years later. The days of Dixie Dean were before my late Father?s time ? but if I remember my history the 1928 Champions were relegated 2 years later!!! Perhaps the roller coaster ride thing is part of an Evertonian?s DNA!!

We will be back at the top ? maybe sooner than some of us think ? but we will. As the great Bruce Springsteen would say ? Come On Up For the Rising!! Hope you have a great day down there on Saturday and that the Blues give you and yours a lot to cheer about.

Dave Wilson
46   Posted 16/10/2008 at 06:43:37

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We need look no further than this Saturday's opponents to see what can be achieved.

Arsenal were going nowhere, yes they had players like Wright and Bergkamp, but they were struggling to make top half. Then they made the most inspirational signing, probably in the club's history. The day the footballing genius that is Wenger walked into Highbury, Arsenal guarenteed themselves a place at footballs top table.

Within a season, the boring Arsenal tag was blown away, sexy football and trophies became the norm, Highbury was packed to the rafters again, it was soon apparent that they could sell out twice for most games.

Enjoy your time at the Emirates, Denis. It will show your kids just what is achievable.
Remember that, round about the time Rioch was in charge at Highbury, we we very much neck and neck with Arsenal in just about every way. It only takes one stroke of luck, one inspirational appointment for the wheel wheel turn again.

Michael Brien
47   Posted 16/10/2008 at 07:38:04

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Dave - very true about Wenger. The impact that the bloke has had on that club can?t be underestimated. He has transformed them from the boring Arsenal to a team that plays some very attractive football. They certainly provide a model of what can be acheived as although they have bought when thay have had to, many of their best players have joined as young players ? they have extended their scouting network quite dramatically. It?s not just British players who go through their academy.

Perhaps the area of youth development is something that Everton could look to invest in. I am sure I read somewhere that at the AGM in Jan/Feb this year Moyes was saying that he was keen to build up our scouting network.

As you say situations can change in football and that tag of boring Arsenal has been confined to the past. Who knows what the future holds for Everton. I doubt if many Arsenal fans back in the mid 1990s could have predicted the transformation in the fortunes of their club.

Bob Parrington
48   Posted 17/10/2008 at 01:14:56

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Michael, Dave, Dennis I?ve been a Blues fan for 55 years (I?m a young 60 yr old) so you?ll understand I?ve witnessed the roller coaster ride, too. I even remember when LFC were in Div 2 and we didn?t even think about them. Highs and Lows are a fact of sporting life as many of the postings have mentioned.

Ultimately, there are some basic laws of success and I?d just like to reiterate some of them.

1. A good professional Board

2. A strong Manager with a good technical support crew<

3. Clearly identified Values and Principles

4. Sufficient money for sustainability, and very important,

5. Passion for the Cause

Nobody can convince me that Everton FC will not rise to the top again. It?s a case of putting the pieces of the jigsaw together and the right players will do their job on the field.
(By the way, it?s a bit like Merseyside here - Port Power and the Crows. I?ll forgive your mate in Lincoln for following the wrong team. Hey, we even have a suburb called Birkenhead!!)

David Cybulski
49   Posted 01/11/2008 at 18:30:06

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I live in cold, cold Canada and am currently performing my university thesis research concerning football communities of the English Premier League. I found it stunning that few of your statistics let alone survey questions were targeted towards fan bases outside of the UK. The role diasporic communities of Englishmen (and women) are of tremendous importance in the formation of football communities in a country such as this dominated by glorious hockey. I argue that it must be recognized that clubs should hold allegiances with not just local domestic communities but also in the burgeoning overseas markets. Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.
Graham Atherton
50   Posted 03/11/2008 at 19:24:07

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Hi David
We do have a close community here that not too surprisingly are very hesitant when it comes to perceived weakening of their hold and influence over ’their’ team. Many rail against it and the forces that are bringing it about - the club, the premiership, Champions League and so on.
They may see in the not too distant future not being able to attend as many matches as they can now and some loss of the group indentity that has sustained them through many a long bitter decade of economic darkness on Merseyside.
There is a good deal of ’head in the sand’ attitude for some - ignoring that the sport has moved on and we are not competitive nor are we likely to be if we carry on as we are. If we stay as we are and ’dig in’ it will all pass as if a bad dream - at least we will be able to compete with the ’rest’ once the premier clubs have left to set up their own league - a very depressing thought for myself.
Global fans are now extremely important as it is only they who can provide the extra funding for us to compete, assuming we are run as a business. Football is a worldwide business and the Premiership is up there with the very best of global businesses. We either take the premiership and all its shortcomings on and try to win or we continue our slow decline, already without the spending power of at least the top 8 clubs.

The good news is that there is still a huge population of fans ready to support Everton and buy season tickets. The very statistic that says we have one of the highest numbers of fans who used to own a season ticket also must mean we have a very high proportion of potential season ticket holders - people who have bought one in the past but given it up - the main moan being poor stadium.
The future is there for us here and overseas, we just need the courage to go and try to get it.

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