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A Land Of Dreams

Robert Elstone, 7th August 2013 - 17:52

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Robert Elstone

Robert Elstone

Posts: 39

Robert is Everton's Chief Executive.

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A Land Of Dreams

It’s been a long time since I last ‘blogged’ and, as the understatement of the year, the void since my last piece of written work has certainly ‘seen some action’.

In football, arguably like no other industry, the unexpected often does happen, things move on often at break neck speed and all of it unfolds in the glare of public scrutiny.

I often reflect on the comments of a former colleague who joined us from one of the world’s biggest consulting firms. Three months into the job he remarked he had no idea things could move so fast; he had no idea business could be so diverse. In my early career as an accountant, I craved less routine. I’ve certainly achieved that goal.

USA

I’m writing the first part of this from a very privileged seat on a flight from Los Angeles to Miami about to embark on the final leg of an excellent preseason tour to the States. Despite having attractive offers to go elsewhere, it didn’t take us long to sign up to a very healthy commercial deal, three, world-famous cities and a tournament with Ronaldo, Pirlo and John Stones.

And, besides not getting the ‘bounce of the ball’ at The Dodgers’ Stadium – maybe things are more predictable than I thought (said as diplomatically as I can), it’s been a great success. Of course, I’m privileged to be in this seat in a less literal sense. It’s been a pleasure to be around a squad of players that represents our Club so well, that works so hard, that is responding so well to our new manager. There is such a positive feeling in the Everton dressing room.

And perhaps the real highlight of preseason for me, and I’m sure for many of the fans out here, is we get so much closer to that ‘dressing room’ environment. There’s an informality around preseason that means fans can get so much closer to players – open training and fans’ ‘meet and greets’ seem to work better and are more relaxed away from the pressures and rigour of the Premier League.  It’s been terrific to see the way fans and players have mingled not just at the many scheduled events but more casually around the hotels, in the cities and at the stadia.

To a lesser extent, for me and my colleagues, the same has applied. We have had more time, in less formal settings to meet and chat to fans. Something we always try to do but for many reasons it feels a lot easier out here. I hosted the first ‘fans’ night’ in San Francisco where it seemed every continent was represented in the room. It’s a pleasure to meet Evertonians from all corners of the world.  It certainly makes me realise I have a great job and our great fans deserve all our efforts to deliver success.

Summing it up, a common message we heard many times was ‘can we come again?’ And, adding in the fact that Roberto has been pleased with what he and the team have taken from the trip, I guess we start looking to book ourselves in for 2014 as soon as we can.

New Starters

Talking of Roberto, undoubtedly the biggest event ‘between blogs’ has been the appointment of a new manager, a very rare experience for the current Everton board. As I said earlier, the unexpected tends to happen in football and in this case, it did. I guess the mark of a good Club is how it responds to these challenges. So far, the signs are very positive. We’re confident we have the right man for our Club and all I can say, watching Roberto in action, if games are won on preparation, meticulous focus on details, tactics and a knowledge of the game, we’re in good shape. The five hour flight to Miami has seen him glued to his iPad watching games and looking at, to this untrained eye, what I can only compare to a ‘souped-up’ version of FIFA 13.

Roberto hasn’t been the only new appointment. He’s brought with him many of his staff from Wigan Athletic and again, the trip has been a great opportunity for them and the players to really get to know one another in diverse, testing and stimulating environments. More generally, the important relationships between our Communications and Marketing teams and the first team squad get cemented on trips like this - special thanks also to Christine, our Supporters’ Liaison Officer and Carena, our great fundraiser who’ve both been with us working really hard managing events, helping fans and raising money.

Back home, we’ve also seen the return to Goodison of Alan Myers as Director of Communications. A familiar face, with a wealth of experience, and a committed Evertonian, we’re looking forward to working with him as he builds on the extensive dialogue we already have with our fans. As I’ve noted above, in my opinion, the most effective way to do this is face-to-face. I’ve repeatedly said, come and tell us when we ought to be better, you have an idea, or you’d like to offer some praise. It’s how we will make progress. That invitation always stands.

Crest

Alan’s first job is an important one; it’s allowing you to choose the next Everton crest. Changing something as significant as our crest was always going to provoke considerable debate. Not for one minute, when it’s tattooed in all its forms on the arms and backs of our fans did we expect the new crest to be universally liked or accepted. Knowing that, it was even more important for us to be sensitive, to understand our history, to listen, but also, to be brave enough to take the lead on something so passionately viewed.

Our old crest was at the end of a long line of previous crests. Our forefathers have been bold enough to change nine times and they did just that on a reasonably regular basis. Of course, I haven’t been able to ask them but I can only assume they did so seeking to maintain a modern and relevant representation of the Club. It was time to do the same again. The outgoing crest was badly reproduced, bits were missed off, colours were poorly reproduced and, in some media, it just couldn’t be read. Compared to other modern crests, particularly in its web or broadcast form, it had started to look tired. Modern badges, logos and crest are streamlined and sharp; they’re simple. Clarity is vital.

I am repeatedly told by other clubs that Everton embraces feedback from its fans as much as, if not more than any other Club. You will know that I attend fan meetings, supporters’ clubs and the Fans’ Forum and when I go into those meetings, very little, other than commercially sensitive information, is ‘off limits’. We face up to almost all questions. I also take on board feedback outside of those structured sessions. But, in this instance, we didn’t do enough and Alan will put that right. My final word on the crest for now is we were brave enough to take on something that needed doing. We could have opted for an easy life but we chose to do what we believed was the right thing for the Club. Your say on the new one is coming soon.

The Annual General Meeting

Alan’s role is at the very heart of the Club. An informed fan base that is listened to is so important to us and one key group of supporters are our shareholders. Dialogue with our shareholders has always been important to us and whilst like many similar businesses we elected not to hold Annual General Meetings, we did wish to continue to communicate with regular Shareholder Association meetings and the shareholder forums.

Of course, there are well discussed reasons why the latter fell away but I’m pleased, as many shareholders will confirm that the recent General Meeting at the Philharmonic went well. On the whole dialogue was positive and in good spirit. And in the end, the Club reflected on its traditions and responsibilities and has agreed to reinstate the Annual Meeting. That initiative will be picked up early next month.

Homeward Bound

Wrapping up, it’s been my good fortune to be out here representing the Club; a real privilege. I’m certainly proud of how my colleagues have represented the Club; it’s been hard work. I know we are now all ready for home and looking forward to a bright season ahead.

Football can deliver the unexpected - I wished I’d have known how cold it is in San Francisco and how big the thunderstorms are in Miami, but it can also be predictable too – who’d want to be a referee!..

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ant hunterLove you Bobby.... and your tan! xxx

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