The views in these blogs are those held by the individual blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton Football Club.
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A few Evertonians continue to bombard local and national media imploring them to ‘expose the inadequacies and errors of the Board and management of the Club'. Confident that the claims have no foundation; confident that from ‘top to bottom' everyone in the Club is working hard and pulling in the right direction; confident that despite the loudness of those shouting it's not a majority view, we have kept our counsel and got on with our jobs.
Despite the ‘kitchen sink' being thrown into the criticisms, claims beefed up by errors and speculation, the central issue is transfer activity and allied to that, where does all the money go? The latter is easy to answer. It goes to Finch Farm; as simple as that. It goes on youth development. It goes on scouting, medical and coaching. It goes on players. For the past decade, the Club has bought and invested all it has had available, and sometimes more, on the first team squad. And it's there to see. On the back of the programme for next month's Tottenham game will be an expensively assembled squad of players earning a wage bill that's hard to fund.
As for this summer, the squeeze on money is harder than ever. Something we've been saying for a long time. Despite that, there isn't a day that goes by without the Manager and Chairman discussing players coming and yes, players going. At the same time, there isn't a day that goes by without discussions of how we can sell more season tickets, do new sponsorship deals or get better terms, or loan more money from our bank. Everybody is ‘flat to the floor' looking for improvements, looking for money, looking for players.
Three areas of criticism hurt most because they're not true - a lack of strategy, no communication and poor commercial performance.
All of these have been addressed by me in the past, but for the record, I'll go again.
We have a singular objective and that's to win football matches at the highest level possible. We have a Chairman who as much as any Chairman in the Premier League pursues that objective. A Chairman who is at the heart of everything I described above and yet takes no remuneration in any shape or form from the Club. Our strategy to achieve this goal is on three levels - firstly, an ongoing and prioritised search for new investment and a new stadium and we are active on both of these challenging fronts; secondly to out-perform our rivals developing, and buying and selling players - a strategy supported by this Board's investment in Finch Farm and the high-quality individuals working alongside the Manager; and, thirdly - a focus on profitability and growth and I've outlined in the past how we are working on four complementary initiatives designed to serve our fans better, grow the fan base, and its loyalty, and ultimately fill Goodison.
We communicate with our fans every single day of every single week. Last night, senior managers attended our Fans Forum - a representative group of fans with a free agenda to raise and discuss whatever they want. I can reel off again, Supporters' Club visits, meetings with the shareholders' association, meetings with individual fans, an award winning website, and award winning Community scheme that talks to Evertonians in schools and in workplaces on a daily basis and much, much more. As for what's left? Should I or the Chairman meet fans whose top priority is to see him out of office and me out of a job? Likewise, should we answer those questions that appear on all the lists of those lobbying the press so strongly - how much is the Club up for sale for? Have we made an offer for player x? How much did we turn down for player y? We think not.
And commercial weakness? When I joined six years ago, we had a retail operation losing £500,000 per season and a main sponsor deal with Chang earning the Club around £1m per season. We had a relatively modest ‘family' of second-tier partners. Rolling forward to 2011/12, we are entering into year three of a ten year detail with Kitbag that has transformed a loss of £500,000 into £30m+ of profit over a ten year period, we will move into the eighth year of our Chang partnership valued at around £10m over the next three year term, and have secured lucrative deals on betting, travel partner, our credit card and others, without forgetting to mention last summer's £1m trip to Australia. And a small point of detail, almost every other Club records retail turnover in its income line. Everton doesn't, it records the guaranteed profit from Kitbag. Our £80m turnover would be higher if we mirrored the rest of the Premier League (likewise, our wage turnover ratio would be better).
As for the only other commercial area we control - matchdays - attendances have hovered between 36,000 and 37,000 which means all seats other than restricted views are sold. And we have managed to increase prices modestly but sensibly over recent years. Of course, we need to sell-out more regularly. Likewise we need to increase that average attendance. Our corporate numbers can also be improved. Something like 9% of our corporate capacity goes unsold and again, we need to work harder and better. We're acutely aware that 2,000 empty seats, 19 times a season equates to almost £1m - the value of only two live Sky games, but value we need to chase and secure.
Overall, marks out of ten? I'm not sure. I do know it's improved, it's improving, but it is always tasked to bring in more and bring it in quicker. What I also know is so much of that success is based on relationships. Chang wouldn't be with us for 10 years if we weren't delivering for them. Kitbag wouldn't offer us that deal if they didn't believe in the Club and the people at the Club. I hate to blow our trumpet but others do it for us. People like us; people rate us; people appreciate what we're doing. Hand on heart, I bump into more people saying keep up the good work than ‘there's the door'.
The lasting message? There's a lot of hard work behind the scenes, not being played out in public. The focus of all that hard work is the first team squad. And, whilst we are not blessed with a transfer ‘war chest' and we're acutely aware as custodians the long-term security of the Club is paramount, there is no lack of ambition nor endeavour anywhere in the Club.
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