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Everton FC ? Love and Despair, Part 4: The Future

By Michael Fields :  24/02/2011 :  Comments (11) :
I know he?s a supporter. I know he means well. But Everton fans are increasingly angry and frustrated. It comes across in conversations with fellow Blues. It is apparent in the various letters and propositions posted on a range of websites. Bill Kenwright must go... or must he?

Unfortunately, like other fans, I have no magic solution. Even if a rich benefactor could be found, we have seen this solution go wrong elsewhere. Would we want to be controlled by a rich Arab Royal Family, given the state of revolution in the Middle East? What of Americans such as the previous owners of Liverpool, dedicated to finding ways of profiting from the club? Could we trust an oil-rich Russian not to lead us into further debt?

The previous chairman, the hated Peter Johnson, was seen as a rogue and, at the time, a Supporters? Trust was set up to attempt to buy him out. As it happened, along came Bill Kenwright who purchased all available shares. He was seen by supporters as a benevolent, if a little hard up, uncle, who would do his best for the club.

Kenwright appointed Walter Smith as manager and, while he is still viewed with affection by Evertonians, this appointment was a mistake. It can be a positive move to bring in fine players at the end of their careers (viz. Phil Neville), but Gascoigne and Ginola?

Kenwright?s tenure has been characterised by decline, as Goodison Park has aged. His two plus points have been the replacement of Peter Johnson, and the appointment of David Moyes. Despite our manager?s faults, he has many strengths and, given the club?s lack of funds, without him Everton could have been relegated instead of frequently challenging for a Europa League place ? and once securing a Champions League place.

As I suggested earlier, it would seem that Bill Kenwright must go. Chairmen do not move on as frequently as managers, but they do go. He may hold most of the shares, and he may not wish to give up his hobby, but those in strong positions can be moved aside when there is considerable pressure, for example from the people of ?The People?s Club?. The metaphor may not be exact, but witness Hosni Mubarak...

The principal, and most likely in the short term, alternative is to find a rich buyer. Keith Harris, commissioned to seek investment, has suggested that potential buyers are out there. Where there used to be four clubs significantly richer than Everton, now it seems that there are perhaps eight or nine clubs who can spend freely to improve their squads. Can Everton now afford to buy any player good enough to join the first team, unless they first sell? As Everton fans, we worry that we may have to sell players such as Rodwell, Baines or Fellaini (or others) as they perceive a lack of ambition at the club.

Barry Horne wrote an article recently about the advantages of having a real fan in control of the club. Well, I have much time for Barry as a very fine ex-player for the club, but here he is wrong. If we can find a system whereby large numbers of fans have a share in the club, maintaining its strength and influencing its decisions, then fine. Otherwise, we are left in the position we have now which, as surely Barry Horne must recognise, is completely unsatisfactory. While his business is not local, Bill Kenwright is in a tradition of magnates who ran (or still run) clubs like Burnley (remember Bob Lord?), Blackpool, or Newcastle. Like it or not, the world has moved on.

It is a real worry that, even if a rich benefactor could be found, the club could suffer as a new owner ? interested only in profit ? did not always act in Everton?s best interests. However, we cannot compete with the richest clubs at present. If Everton Football Club is again to challenge for the top position in the top league, change is required. There may be risks involved as a new owner is found, but risks are essential if Everton is again to be considered as ?the best?. In any event, an extensive process of ?due diligence? would have to be completed, and I understand that FA and Uefa checks would also have to be met.

If Bill Kenwright and Keith Harris are actively seeking a buyer, and if options in the USA, Russia or the Middle East have either dried up or are unsuitable, what about India, Japan and China? These are massive and growing economies and there must be some very rich interested parties out there.

Beyond all of that, I believe that the best solution would be for the club to be run by its supporters. There are various models, but the one operated at Real Madrid appears to be excellent, and they seem to have little difficulty in attracting top players! At Real Madrid, a ?socio? is a member who pays an annual fee. The socios then gain discounts on season tickets and merchandise. They also may vote in elections for Club President ? and of course, they may stand in the elections. Many would like, I am sure, to see individuals such as Bill Kenwright stand in such elections at Everton. The personal fortune of the President would be irrelevant.

Unfortunately, I do not believe we are ready for such a development at Everton. However, various supporters? groups have come to the fore in recent times, and one of them could develop a model similar to that at Real Madrid. I am not associated with any of the groups mentioned here, but their existence shows the feeling which is abroad. I imagine that I will join one of the groups, but I need to be persuaded of which has the most rational plan, and which the best chance of making a difference.

The idea of Fan Shares has come up again. This seems to be a system whereby individual fans are enabled to buy shares or part-shares, perhaps helping in buying new players. If it could be organised, this might be of some benefit to the club.

The letter sent by the organisation ?Evertonians for Change? to the club recently included a great deal of sense. They believe we need much better channels of communication between the club and its fans. This seems to be undeniable ? even shareholders have not had an annual meeting for some time! Unfortunately, it was answered by Chief Executive Robert Elstone in a patronising way. The reply could be paraphrased as ?Yes, we are already doing all of the things you want and there is no need for us to change.? I am sure that this group will keep pressing.

A model described as ?Trust Everton? has been proposed by Tony l?Anson and Mike Owen and, from what I can see, their ideas are also well founded. Members would pay a subscription and would then own and secure assets for the benefit of the club. They would not buy players. The club is currently paying off a number of loans from different banks, at no doubt high interest rates. Trust Everton would loan funds to the club to pay off the debts and members would be paid a dividend.

Such fans? groups could develop, and perhaps merge, to the benefit of the club. Their development could, of course, continue even with a new owner in place. The desired and ideal outcome would be that Everton would truly become ?The People?s Club?, owned by its fans, where Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.

« Part 3: David Moyes and the Team

Reader Comments

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Stephen Kenny
1   Posted 24/02/2011 at 17:46:49

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The worst that a new chairman/owner could do has already been attempted by this one:
  • Mess the Kings Dock up to keep control?
  • Move us out of the city to a stadium thats not fit?
  • Regularly lie to us?
  • Sell our best players?
  • Hock all we possess?
  • Involve his shady friends?
  • Insult Evertonians who care about the club and its future?
If Everton FC was a person, I'd ring the police and accuse 'Uncle' Bill of attempted murder.
Tom Hughes
2   Posted 24/02/2011 at 22:09:17

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Pretty much spot on, Stephen; whether it's murder or involuntary manslaughter.... the outcome's just the same.
Ste Traverse
3   Posted 24/02/2011 at 22:54:02

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Kenwright didn't appoint Smith as manager, it was Johnson who did that in the summer of 1998.
Mike Fields
4   Posted 25/02/2011 at 07:37:18

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Yes Ste, you're correct about Johnson appointing Smith. My mistake.
Dave Lynch
5   Posted 25/02/2011 at 09:21:29

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I'm bored with these questions.
Ged Simpson
6   Posted 25/02/2011 at 10:12:00

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Good to see someone sit back and have a sense of perspective.

We can all rant after games but this kind of thing is important.

My view is that the ?Trust Everton? proposed by Tony l?Anson and Mike Owen is a great idea.

Tom Hughes
7   Posted 25/02/2011 at 10:44:44

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I agree totally, and I think it's upto all of us to help Tony and Mike sell the idea to all the Evertonians we know, and more. They are putting in a hell of a lot of hard work to try and make it as watertight and robust as possible. Talking to all the right people, and learning from their mistakes and successes.

It is a massive undertaking, but their efforts would be wasted without that initial leap of faith from all of us. Personally, I have heard Tony and Mike talk about their ideas and plans, and I have NO doubt that they know their eggs and that it can work, and believe it could be massive if properly backed by all of us!! So, keep on talking about it!!!

John Talbot
8   Posted 25/02/2011 at 16:33:13

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The future with or without BK or Tony and Mike's idea comes back to the same thing


Theres no getting away from it....

Without it we will, as every year, struggle to compete as this was supposed to be the season to kick on.

We have either stood still and been passed or just plain gone backwards.
Charlie Martin
9   Posted 25/02/2011 at 21:11:41

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Does anyone remember that among the many rumours of buyers that we've had to put up with over the last decade... was, wait for it... Gaddafi's son!

Sums it up really, so, my point is it's best not to over-analyse everything when its clear there's a shambles at the top.

Fortunately ? through the mire of comment ? more or less we all share a common view, that there is very much a business motive to Kenwright's occupancy (and it probably worth saying that if he wasn't a fan who would blame him?).

So time to offer some direct advice to BK:

Don't play the true blue card (because being a fan only makes the failings far worse) then either:

A) Admit you're out of your depth and sell it cheap to a rich guy (within 6 months); or

B) Be a skilled businessmen and find true investment at a good price from a rich guy (within 6 months).

Either way, sort it within 6 months because it's been a decade now and we're bored!

If you can't do A or B then consider the share issue and dilute your selfish stake. Big Brother (a million of us) is watching ? You Decide!

(ps: If BK hadn't tried to move us to Kirkby, I'd still be believing his hype, but that attempted move revealed everything to me ? no future interest for the club at all... just a cheap and cheerfull way to get a good price for his shares; True Blue, eh Bill?)
Tony McNulty
10   Posted 26/02/2011 at 13:28:54

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Charlie - Gaddafi's son would have been great. Think about it. We would have had: "Plan A, we go to Kirby. Plan B we go to Kirby. Plan C we go to Kirby"

Not a great difference at all really.
Eric Myles
11   Posted 27/02/2011 at 01:25:27

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I don't think BK holds most of the shares, his personal holdings are only around 25% and his mates support him with theirs.

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