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The Decline and Fall of Everton FC

By Dave Roberts :  04/02/2011 :  Comments (26) :
While not attempting to deny that Kenwright deserves a lot of the criticism he gets on this site and elsewhere, two factors, however, have to be borne in mind.

Firstly, it is hardly his fault that he is not a billionaire. So criticising him because he is 'skint' is a little ludicrous.

Secondly, the predicament the club finds itself in now is a legacy of dismal fiscal management that transcends decades and not only the period of his own tenure. Let's not forget that Everton FC were perhaps the first beneficiary of a mega-rich sugar daddy in John Moores. The financial clout and relative success that was brought to the club at the time was totally wasted by a boardroom that lacked any vision, sense of investment and a will to prepare for the future.

Take the stadium for example. If a little purposeful and thoughtful development had been planned and financed over the years, improvements made stand by stand, season by season, then we would already have a perfectly acceptable and modernised site, perhaps the equal of Villa Park or Old Trafford (though perhaps smaller than the latter).

Instead, we had thoughtless 'modernisations' like the main stand which completely failed to meet the needs of a club and a board with vision and with progress in mind. The old Park End had to go, but its replacement was little more than a replica of a similar stand at Tranmere and could never hope to influence positively the direction of the club. Apart from new roofs some years ago, Bullens Road and the Gwladys Street are virtually as built from before WWII apart from screwing down some plastic seating.

Why is it also true that periods of success for the team inevitably end in collapse followed by a spell in the depths, even to the point of flirting with relegation from time to time? The reason is the same: a lack of vision and a failure to see the importance of ongoing investment, season by season. It was as if the board at any given time had a belief that Everton FC had a right to be successful and that it always would be without having the nous to appreciate that this is not the case.

Once John Moores's cash was no longer on offer, the whole edifice collapsed save for that brief period in the eighties when Howard Kendall stumbled across a team that gelled like no other while possessing no superstars, no 'world class' players and no significantly expensive signings.

Could we keep that going? No, we could not... and for precisely the same reason. Heysel did have a hand in that, but that is not the whole story. Even during that period, while Everton started to shrink, other clubs started to grow. From being one of the Big Five at the onset of the Premier League, we are now nowhere to be seen.

This persistent failure to build on success in a way that other clubs have been able to do is a constant thorn in the side of the club's history at least in my living memory which stretches back to the late fifties.

For all his faults, Bill Kenwright is carrying the can for that just as we are. If Boards in the past had possessed just a little vision, just a little more wisdom, then the poor state of the stadium would have been addressed a long time ago and without any expensive one-off rebuilds or redevelopments. The stadium would no longer be an impediment to investment and accordingly, the club's financial situation would not be so precipitous.

To illustrate my point about the lack of will to invest in the playing side of things, perhaps a little story will do that best. While it is true that Alan Ball did not want to leave Everton, he had become disillusioned with the club. He recognised that the 69-70 League Championship-winning side needed strengthening and he was disappointed at the club's response. The club believed that there were many years of success in that team and no significant investment was required. He became somewhat unpopular within the club for pursuing and verbalising his views (even to the pint of training alone at times) and this unpopularity ultimately led to his sale to Arsenal.

I have it on good authority that this story is true but, whether it is true or not, within the space of a couple of years we went from Alan Ball to Bernie the Bolt and once again we were down in the customary depths after an all-too-short period of success and beautiful football.

Don't blame Kenwright alone because the problem is fucking perennial. I've lived with it for 50 years.

Reader Comments

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Gavin Ramejkis
1   Posted 04/02/2011 at 12:24:50

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Dave, BK was on Johnson's board and since he took over, which has been more than a decade, he hasn't developed any sort of business plan for the club.

The Sky deal has risen exponentially as has the media potential of the EPL. The club is being ran as an old boy's club instead of a business. I'd love to see the league tables of off-field income with other clubs in comparison, our corporate offerings are abysmal. Do we rent out the stadium for non-footballing events such as meetings? Do we offer the stadium up for small concerts or as televising points for other bigger concerts that are sold out? Anyone ever wondered if there is a market for a venue selling much cheaper tickets for a televised concert that provides refreshments and a crowd atmosphere without the cost of the main venue?

BK deserves a great deal of flack for his atrocious running of the club, the buck does most certainly stop with him, any challenges such as the AGMs and EGMs were denied thanks to him and his board who closed rank.

I agree that Everton has never stepped up following an opportunity but repeating that shameful mistake ad nauseam doesn't make it right. Change the organ grinder and let's see if we can have a new tune, new ideas... and new hope.

Dave Roberts
2   Posted 04/02/2011 at 12:34:16

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The club do offer facilities for meetings and training courses etc as do most clubs and hotels. While there would be income from this it is really quite small. For a two-day course including lunch at Ewood Park a few years ago (for about 80 attendees) the cost was £2400. Hardly enough to swing around the fortunes of a football club even with a couple of those a week.

As for concerts. First show me the concert. Then show me the Echo Arena or the Philharmonic. Again, no fortunes in that I am afraid, even if concert organisers wanted to go to Walton... which I doubt.

I never suggested that BK doesn't deserve flack... in fact I suggested he does. All I am saying is that he doesn't deserve all of it. He is trying to manage with what was bequeathed to him by years of mismanagement, most of it long before his time.
Russ Quinlan
3   Posted 04/02/2011 at 15:23:56

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Still doesn't excuse his '24/7' lie and the Kings Dock Fiasco, or the Kirkby fiasco, etc, etc..........
Dave Wilson
4   Posted 04/02/2011 at 15:31:31

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I wrote a similar article myself, not long back, so I agree with a lot of what you say, but it's not Kenwright's inability to raise money that angers Evertonians ? it's his insistence on pretending that he can.

He knew he didn't have the funds to alter the slide, so he shoulda stepped aside years ago.
Dennis Stevens
5   Posted 04/02/2011 at 15:40:06

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I don't blame any of the current Board for the situation they inherited but I am appalled that they have made things much, much worse & seem to have no plan other than to wait for some mug to give them an unwarranted return on their "investment". It's incredible that people are trying to make any excuses for the current Board.
Mike Oates
6   Posted 04/02/2011 at 15:47:34

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Being an Evertonian since the late 50s, I can totally agree with what Dave Roberts has written. Time and time again our Board Management have failed to develop 5-year strategies, and in particular, a ground (be it Goodison or new) strategy.

The real difficulties I have now is that:?

(i) In the period 1970 - 2011 Liverpool FC have grown to become a real global football brand and completely overshadow Everton. They can command investors queing at their door and, even in times of complete despair (last 12 months) they still have the ability for someone to come in and stick £2-300m in their cupboards. Everton haven't got the brand image to do likewise, particularly in the shadow of Liverpool. One-city clubs like Blackburn, Sunderland, Newcastle have managed to attract investors, but any significant investor won't touch Everton whilst Liverpool are doing well. I know Man City got their billionaire but they already had their £250M new ground ? we haven't.

(ii) I do feel that Liverpool City itself has lost its glamour, uniqueness it had back in the 60s, 70s and has lost out big time to London and Manchester. After decades of fighting a loosing battle with various Governments, we have lost out big time in financial developments, particularly in the sporting/infrastructure areas, and we are ? for want of a better term ? "a working-class City" with little or no chance of Everton attracting local financial support either from increased revenues streams, corporate usage, council support.

I live in the South now and just had to fork out £48 for a poor seat at a game at Fulham I was asked to attend for someone's 60th Birthday. My mates in Liverpool complain about paying £30-35. Just think what a 40-50% rise in gate revenues could do...

Anyway, summing up, I don't see an easy way forward for Everton. I was hoping that Moyes could get us into the CL on a shoestring budget... but that's not going to happen. I also see our peer clubs ? Spurs, Aston VIlla ? overtake us, with also Sunderland, Newcastle, West Ham doing likewise with outside investement.

The only possible way we can compete in the future is something like this Portsmouth Pub Landlady winning her case in the European Courts and suddenly Sky loose 80% are their revenues and pull out from their £2bn support of the Premier League and clubs will start to loose out big time with investors. Will that happen ? who knows!?!

David Holroyd
7   Posted 04/02/2011 at 16:25:54

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Kenwright and Woods may not have money but Robert Earl has... why is he on the board? I believe in the 70s AND 80s there were more people on the board than is now. Have we frightened them off? Two or three times we have been one or two players from making a real push to get in the top four, with Liverpool, Spurs and now Man City, we are miles off.
Dave Charles
8   Posted 04/02/2011 at 16:24:50

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A great post Dave but as Kenwright is in charge at present, it's his shoulders that will take the blame, just as Johnson would have taken the flak for two relegations we escaped.

I like the Alan Ball bit. I to remember Henry Newton and also Mick Bernard being mentioned as 'suitable' replacements. I can also recall Dave Clements posing as an Everton player. Up till the 1985 title win, we can't really say we had a player to lace Bally's boots till Reid and Bracewell were in midfield.

Giving Colin Harvey the manager's post when he didn't want it was a decision that was doomed from the start. Liverpool spent big to get the title off us and we strengthened our team with Ian Wilson. A team that needed big signings to stay with them yet we went back to the bargain basement and watched George Graham's Arsenal take over and then we just got lower and lower.
Chris Jones
9   Posted 04/02/2011 at 17:03:13

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I think the only major point I'd disagree with Dave's article is on the lack of World Class players in the side we had in the mid 80s.

Neville Southall was World Class, he was probably the BEST in the world when he was at the top of his game. As much as THAT goal of Sharpy's at Anfield was memorable, the thing I remember most from that match was Nev beating Rush in two or three one-one-one situations.

As for BK, yes, I agree. He doesn't deserve ALL the blame (and, tbf, he's probably deserved some credit, just occasionally). His administration is only one of many that have resulted in long-term disappointment. But then, I can think of some worse owners we could have had. Ken Bates, Al Fayed anyone?!
Chris Robinson
10   Posted 04/02/2011 at 16:49:45

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If the ECJ does rule in favour of the Portsmouth Landlady, the effects could be far-reaching not just for football, but for all live televised sport from next season onwards.

I doubt however that it will cause BSkyB too many problems. It would be interesting to know excatly how much revenue they do get from their pub trade as compared to their home licences for live football. They will most likely abandon their dual-pricing for home/pub screening.

At the moment, individual clubs cannot show their games "live" on TV or the Internet, unless they are the BSkyB designated TV game. This is supposedly to protect the gate of the clubs concerned.

If BSkyB does suffer a drop in revenue, one effect may well be that clubs are allowed to market their games individually for live TV and/or the internet. This might in turn lead to a reduction in ticket prices to encourage people to go to the game, rather than sit at home and watch it on TV, with any revenue loss offset by worlwide sales of each and every game.

Watch this space... now where've I heard that before?

Leighton Cooper
11   Posted 04/02/2011 at 17:33:09

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Dave #8

Didn't Colin Harvey spend a British transfer record £2 million on Cottee and nearly a million each for Nevin and McCall to try and wrestle the Championship back off the RS?
Andy Riley
12   Posted 04/02/2011 at 17:39:10

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The failure to make the best of opportunity is long in Everton's history some is self inflicted but other things were outside of the club's control such as Heysel and the life ban for Tony Kay. The 1970 Championship Team should have lasted for years as should the 1985 one with just minor tweaking and improvements for the following five years.

Remember also that in the 1970's both Billy Bingham and Gordon Lee built teams that came close to being Champions but again a lack of further investment in quality squads meant a missed opportunity yet again. BK is not to blame for everything but the current problems have happened on his watch and he seems both powerless and uninterested to do anything about them.

Chris Halliday
13   Posted 04/02/2011 at 18:05:18

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Why can't we learn from mistakes of the past then and start a short to medium term strategy to redevelop the stands?

Unfortunately Bill has no plan B. Not everything is his fault, but he has a bloody good CV of failure during his short tenure.
John Talbot
14   Posted 04/02/2011 at 18:19:57

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Thing is Everton isn't for sale only up for investment. Would you invest in a company that loses money after a year of record turn over.

I think not.
Tom Owen
15   Posted 04/02/2011 at 18:27:51

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If we are talking history it was those scum bags across the park that really helped our 80s demise. After Heysel, Kendall left to taste European football. Harvey was a great coach but was not a manager.

Totally agree with posts saying it is Kenwright's fault. In business the collapse of a company means the buck stops with the chairman. If Kenwright cares about our great club he would sell up... but I personally believe Green holds the shares and is the one holding all the cards.

Leon Perrin
16   Posted 04/02/2011 at 18:19:44

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Dave Roberts ? I agree with it all,. I do think we got a bit grandiose during the 70s buying big and making a mess of it at the expense of home grown and lower league talent.

I recall our neighbours excelling in this area Rush, Keegan, Clemence, Neal, Thomson, Hughes etc etc etc. It's one of the reasons I won't have the financial excuse, in fact it's bollocks.

Mark Wayman
17   Posted 04/02/2011 at 18:35:49

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It seems widely known that Everton's board has a long history of mis-management. So I agree with that part.

Bill Kenwright is a life long Evertonian, he has been on the Everton board since 1994. He of all people should know what bad planning has done to the club throughout history. So I blame him for the current mess the club is in.
Howard Don
18   Posted 04/02/2011 at 19:14:31

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Great post, Dave, and spot on. I go back to early sixties and failure to build on success has been a long standing failing of the club.

However, I'm fairly sure I'm right in saying John Moores never put any money into the club apart from his shares purchase. What he did do was provide security for our expenditure and considerable business acumen alied to a ruthless determination to succeed.

Trevor Lynes
19   Posted 04/02/2011 at 19:38:40

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Mickey Bernard was never a replacement for Ball... he was a fullback.

I well remember how our board back in the 60s dismantled a great side and let Collins go who went on to become a huge star at Leeds Utd. We have NEVER invested or had any sort of continuity and that's where Shankley and Paisley scored big time.

We have throughout our history lacked consistency through poor management and quite possibly greed by board members... that's where Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal have all gained popularity around the world. They have always invested and created stability... we never have.

Title and cup wins have always been followed by demise as the team has usually been broken up shortly afterwards.

Dave Lynch
20   Posted 04/02/2011 at 19:57:08

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Stopped reading after the first paragraph. BK is totally to blame, he has the majority shareholding and has alienated the rest of the shareholders for his own egotistical benefit. He has lied time and time again and, when football clubs where being bought by all and sundry, he has hung onto us knowing he did not have the means to progress the club.

He has NOT sought a buyer and has tried to take us out of our city so he could sell at an inflated price to line his own pockets. I fucking despise the man for what he HASN'T done for Everton and I have only scratched the surface of that man's failings.

John Shaw
21   Posted 04/02/2011 at 20:27:10

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Dave (19) ? hear, hear.
Greg Anderson
22   Posted 04/02/2011 at 21:10:51

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Great article, Dave. Agree with almost all of it, especially the "big picture" historical perspective. Just a couple of points to add.

1. While we all know about the mysterious underachievement of the side in the 3 years after 69-70, we tend to forget that we lost effectively 5 key players in those years, not just Bally (also Labby, Wilson, Wright, West).

2. Harder to explain is the underachievement between 1966 FA Cup and 69-70, when that team was at the peak of its powers AND still had a few years of Alex Young. Anyone who has seen that amazing archival film of us completely dismantling the great Man U side in the year of their European Cup triumph can only wonder why we didn't win more (How did we finish only 5th that year?).

3. For those who tend to think of the mid-80s as an exception to the general rule of long-term misery and mediocrity, we should remember that for the better part of nearly 20 years, a stretch from 73-74 to 90-91, we finished outside the top 10 only THREE times, finishing in the top 5 no less than 7 times. I would guess only the RS had a better record over that time.

4. Our only period of true sustained crapness is from 91-92 until 01-02, when we somehow managed only one top 10 finish. We have of course finished outside top 10 only twice since.

Perhaps it all still adds up to a picture of long-term decline punctuated by occasional triumphs. Or perhaps we should look at the 90s as the exception to an otherwise pretty sustained period of competitive performance by a consistently good club, going back all the way to the year my birth (1962), however worrisome the future may look.

David Israel
23   Posted 04/02/2011 at 19:54:12

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Certainly our history over the past few decades (I follow the club since the sixties) hasn't been brilliant in terms of management but it's never been as bad as it is now, I'm afraid.

We had our barren periods, such as the gap between the 1970 and the 1985 titles, but there was always a spark, some motivation and ambition. We beat the British transfer record when signing Bob Latchford in 1974, for instance, we signed players like Martin Dobson, Bruce Rioch and Duncan McKenzie during that spell and, as pointed out here, both Billy Bingham and Gordon Lee came close - and had decent teams.

So, while our management record may not be one of consistency and foresight, the current crew are pretty dismal even by those supposedly low standards.
James McGrady
24   Posted 04/02/2011 at 23:05:24

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Mike @ 6. Actually a 61% of our revenue is from Broadcasting. We are 9th out of 20 in regards to this. Only 34% of Arsenal's revenue comes from Broadcasting and they earned £76 million of it compared to our £49 mill.

Wigan earned £37 mill which accounts for 81% of their revenue so there are other clubs who will be hit hard by it as well but don't think the Sky bubble bursting will help us, it will leave us further behind.

Tom Fearon
25   Posted 05/02/2011 at 05:39:16

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Chris (#6) I would say that, as James just said, the Sky monopoly in this country would actually harm Everton greatly. Lower ticket prices might be nice for us, but it would also mean less money into Everton, whereas some other clubs (Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea) could still charge full whack because they know they will get the seats filled anyway.

Also, the opportunity to sell our matches privately sounds great, but how much uptake for Everton matches do you think there will be, in comparison to those previously mentioned clubs? In reality, it would just widen the gap between the top teams (international brands) and the rest of the league.

If I'm not mistaken, the current system in Spain allows Barcelona and Real Madrid to sell their own TV rights, and they make a killing, but Everton wouldn't.

Also, the Premier League already sell the rights abroad collectively, so there would be issues with selling the rights anywhere, as all current contracts would have to be terminated, and some of that money is currently going to Everton, so there's another chunk we would miss.
James I'Anson
26   Posted 05/02/2011 at 10:08:21

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When Bill and his consortium arrived, he stated that they were only temporary custodians of the club until proper investment could be found.

He lied then and he's still lieing now. So yes, everything that has happened since, is his fault.

I do agree that he had no control about what went before (apart from when he was on the board).

Dave (2), you are using The Echo Arena to emphasise your point. The irony.

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