The Blue Union is causing splits and divides within the Everton fan-base, yet it is becoming increasingly obvious that they have no clear blueprint or strategy as to how they will achieve any sort of positive change at Everton Football Club.
Let’s not forget that it was The Blue Union, who started labelling those with a differing opinion “ostriches”, long before former Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson coined the phrase in an infamous post-match press conference earlier this year. That was at the time the latest in a series of disastrous public relations gaffes including accusations that representatives secretly taped an interview with Bill Kenwright and a clown led march that was significantly ignored by the matchgoing majority.
The Blue Union and their supporters seem to be peddling a lot of misinformation through their social media campaigns, confusing many Evertonians by presenting conjecture and opinions as fact. The infographics that they have been circulating are a good example of this. While some good points are made, the piece is little more than propaganda aimed at attracting followers by giving a distorted viewpoint of the truth.
What exactly though is their purpose? The Blue Union’s website states:
“Our plan is simple; that the board, who have delivered nothing but failure since March 2000 and who are bereft of any tangible ideas to address this problem, are relieved of the responsibility of identifying and selling the club to a new owner who can adequately illustrate the resources and the business acumen to take the club forward”
Nothing but failure? Have Everton as a club not significantly grown in every aspect both on and off the pitch since 2000? Relegation battles have been replaced by top-half and top-six finishes. The quality of the playing staff from the days of Walter Smith have improved dramatically.
The club now attracts some of the best young talent in the region, challenging for titles across all junior levels each season. Previously the youth sides had operated out of a portakabin in Netherton.
A world class training facility has been developed using a clever leaseback scheme which allows the club to write off most of the costs against their tax return. The club now makes money from merchandising whereas previously it was losing money hand over fist.
Everton in the Community regularly wins awards all around the world and has helped thousands of people. Everton’s standing as a club in the last ten years has grown both domestically and abroad as the club have embraced surges in support in the USA and Asia.
The club’s debts are lower and seem favourable compared to the vast majority of our rivals. Quality players are being purchased, young players tied down to lengthy contracts and there seems to be no need to sell any players to balance the books.
It is true that a trophy is long overdue, but how Everton can realistically achieve this when faced against clubs underwritten by billionaires and larger fan-bases is a question that is probably being asked by potential investors. Everton being left behind is not solely (if at all) the responsibility of the current major shareholders; the game has changed in so many ways since 1992 – the year when the boat was well and truly missed by the then custodians of the football club.
With regards to the board standing aside and handing over the sale of the club to somebody else, it is a very fair question to ask why they would actually do that? The club is stable at the moment; do we need instability? Where is the evidence that the current board are turning away wealthy benefactors right, left and centre? I’m sure the vast majority of Evertonians would love a change in ownership that benefitted the club. However, how exactly is The Blue Union’s banner waving, marching and meetings in public houses going to bring those individuals in?
It’s also a case of being careful what you wish for in terms of new owners. There are horror stories for all to see in the Premier League, Championship and Football League of owners who have come in, marginalized the fan-base, ripped up tradition and ultimately failed in the planned objectives.
What is clear to me about The Blue Union is there is a underpinning resentment and bordering on personal agenda against one individual in particular – the Chairman Bill Kenwright. There is no doubting that Bill Kenwright has made some high-profile mistakes as chairman of Everton, as have some of the employees that Kenwright appointed, but if we are to put this into context, we could say the same about just about any high-profile business figure from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, from Alan Sugar to Roman Abramovich. Mistakes happen to even the best businessmen, never mind the Theatre Impresario turned Football Chairman. I’d imagine you could count on one hand the successful executives and entrepreneurs without a single blemish on their CV.
The Blue Union’s latest line is to point out that Bill Kenwright has not ‘invested’ a ‘single penny’ into Everton, in the time he has been on the board. Yet this is not taking into account that this is the very man who – as well as remortgaging his house to purchase his shares in the club – has forgone a salary for well over a decade now. That alone must be worth around £3 million worth of employment alone, given up for free. How many other Premier League chairman, who do not own 100% of the shares in their club, have invested their own private wealth rather than just taking out loans and piling debt onto the club? How many do not take a salary or dividend each year? According to the information that is in the public domain, the answer is few if any.
A key point to consider with regards to Bill Kenwright is that he is not the owner of Everton Football Club. He may be the majority shareholder, but he only owns around a quarter of the shares in the club. It is entirely conceivable that a figure or group could purchase a majority shareholding in Everton without ever speaking to Bill Kenwright. Rather than moaning and complaining, would the Blue Union not be best advised to set up a fan ownership scheme to procure shares in the club so that they can actually have the say that they demand?
The stadium question is yet to be resolved, and the latest rumours are that Walton Hall Park may no longer be achievable as a site. Everton cannot gamble on the future of the club on a vanity project that does not make business sense. It would take years of filling a stadium to capacity for any sort of meaningful benefits to be realised; an enabling development and external funding are absolutely key for this to happen. The Everton board is being sensible in not putting a huge milestone around the club's neck. If The Blue Union have a business case that suggests otherwise – then show it! If criticism is to be levied at Everton, make it constructive criticism and suggest alternative plans.
It will be a terrible shame if the next couple of seasons see an escalation in the in-fighting between supporters. I implore Evertonians to get behind the club on and off the field and let’s have a great season watching our club rise up the league table. Spending our days trying to get to the bottom of the terms and conditions of the Kitbag deal, arguing over who owns Robert Earl’s shares, or doing comparisons of newspaper reported sponsorship figures will get nobody nowhere. It’s totally fruitless and largely irrelevant. COYB.