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Club Holds General Meeting

by Rob Urbani @efc_roburbani

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Everton shareholders have voted to reinstate Annual General Meetings from 2014.

The motion was carried by a show of hands as the Club held its first General Meeting in five years on Wednesday evening.

The meeting at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall was arranged following a request made by shareholders under the provisions of section 303 of the Companies Act 2006.

Club chairman and majority shareholder Bill Kenwright voted in favour of the motion, effectively confirming the result.

The vote brought an end to a two hour meeting attended by approximately 300 shareholders and proxy holders.

The formal business of the meeting dealt with three key points raised by shareholders:

1. Obtaining from the Chairman and Board of Directors an explanation for their September 2008 decision to amend the Articles of Association such that Annual General Meetings need no longer be held and their reasons for not calling any General Meeting in the five years since.

2. Obtaining from the Board of Directors their appraisal of the financial performance of Everton Football Club Company Ltd over the past five years since the 128th and last AGM was held, specifically to answer questions from Shareholders concerning the financial performance of Everton Football Club Company Ltd over the past five years and to hear the Board of Directors future plans for the club.

3. To pass a resolution, on receipt of the answers given by the board to the aforementioned questions, to require that the Directors of Everton Football Club Company Ltd amend the Articles of Association to ensure that the longstanding tradition of holding formal Annual General Meetings is permanently reinstated.

Each point was addressed by the chairman and CEO Robert Elstone, who provided a 60 minute in-depth presentation of the Club's finances, its operational and commercial activities and its plans for the future.

The presentation included clarification of other operating costs, explaining that Everton is the only Premier League club to disclose details of these costs, that they are projected to be £21.8m in 13/14 - down from £22.5m in 2008/09 and confirming the costs are significantly lower than a host of other Premier League clubs, including Manchester City, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.

He also confirmed no payments have been made to any directors in the last five years, with the chairman later confirming he has never sought remuneration in his 14 years at the helm of the Club.

The issue of the rental of Finch Farm was also addressed, underlining the fact the change of ownership to the council represents an annual 33% rental saving for the Club and, over the duration of the lease, a saving to Everton of £16.6m.

Having addressed those points, he went on to focus on the Club's spending, reiterating 85p in every pound is invested in the playing side of the business at Finch Farm to develop the first team squad, the facilities and the Academy.

Addressing the question of the Club's commercial performance, Elstone explained that Everton are one of only two clubs - the other being Manchester United - to outsource its retail operation. When these figures are added to the accounts, the Club's commercial operation ranks 7th in the Premier League over the last decade.

In response to an accusation that the Club regularly sells assets in order to bring down the debt, he illustrated this wasn't the case as the debt has remained consistent - stressing that all available revenue generated is invested as much as possible on the playing side of the business whilst the debt is being properly managed.

The Club's revenue has consistently ranked 7th or 8th in the Premier League in the last five years and, in 2011/12, was the 23rd highest turnover of any club in the world.

Whilst turnover has remained consistent in term's of its ranking amongst Premier League clubs, the CEO was keen to point out there has been no major growth in matchday revenues over the last five years because the Club has been keen to ensure it remains as affordable as possible for fans.

He talked about the importance of junior pricing to bring more young fans into Goodison and reflected on a 192% increase in junior school Season Ticket holders because of pricing in recent seasons.

He conceded that, whilst the Club has performed consistently over the last five years, continuing to remain at a break even point presents ongoing challenges as the Club strives to balance sound financial management with continuing to develop an ever-improving playing squad.

He said: "Like any football club, there are losses, but not every football club can demonstrate that its debt is being managed, whilst maintaining consistent investment in youth and continuing to enhance the playing squad.

"We have a simple singular objective - to be a regular contender in European football. We have to be outperforming our rivals in all apsects of player recruitment, preparation, coaching and trading. In that respect, the future is very positive."

He confirmed the new TV deal means that, from next season, every league place will be worth £1.2m and every TV appearance £750k.

After analysing the options for new stadia, he confirmed the Club had received a lottery grant of £500,000 for a new community development adjacent to Goodison which will be match-funded up to £1m.

With the CEO having completed his presentation, the chairman moved on to the question and answer element of the evening.

He dealt with questions on the possibility of sharing a stadium with Liverpool, confirming that it remains an option but that the Club are in talks with the City Council over an alternative new site for a stadium for Everton.

He confirmed Roberto Martinez would not be under pressure to field weakened sides in cup competitions because of the increased TV revenue.

The Chairman was quizzed on the possiblity of issuing a new batch of shares for the Club and confirmed he is planning discussions on the subject.

He was also asked about following a continental model for fan ownership. The CEO confirmed that it was an appealing option, but no Club in English football had made such a solution work on a signficant scale.

Elstone also confirmed in response to a later question that the Club would be funding involvement in the Under-19s NextGen European tournament.

The meeting concluded with the chairman of the shareholders association calling a motion for the reintroduction of Annual General Meetings. The chairman requested a show of hands and the motion was passed, with the chairman voting in favour and, as a result, ensuring AGMs will be reinstalled from 2014.

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