Everton CEO Outlines Club's Ambition

Everton CEO, Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale, outlined the Club's long-term ambitions and provided updates on a number of key issues at Everton's General Meeting on Tuesday night. Here is the full speech given at the Philharmonic Hall. 

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.

This is my first General Meeting as Everton’s CEO and it is my great pleasure and honour to address you this evening.

I will be detailing the Club’s achievements in the past year, in particular, the progress made since I took over the role of CEO six months ago and will also present our priorities over the next year and beyond, and discuss how we will deliver our strategic objectives.

It is no exaggeration to say that Everton Football Club is currently transitioning through one of the most important phases in its history. We have in front of us some tremendous opportunities that could fundamentally change our Club’s position. The decisions and actions taken by the Board, and myself, over the coming years will have a significant impact on the Club’s long-term position and establish it for the next generation of Evertonians.

To capitalise on these opportunities, the Club must have all the necessary foundations in place. Therefore my first priority  as CEO was to re-establish stability at the Club, cement our foundations to ensure we are well positioned to deliver success.

As it stands today, we now have:

  • A committed Majority Shareholder who has invested heavily in the Club, and recently reinforced this commitment with an increased equity stake;
  • A strong Executive Board with significant knowledge, experience and a track record for delivery;
  • First team stability, with the appointment of Marcel and Marco into a fit-for-purpose football structure;
  • A new leadership team, positioned to deliver our strategic objectives;
  • Well-cultivated relationships with our key stakeholders including – in respect of our new stadium – Liverpool City Council and private funders;
  • And most importantly, a large and loyal fanbase that continues to demonstrate its unwavering support for our Club.

As a lifelong supporter myself who understands implicitly what it means to be an Evertonian, I can say with genuine optimism, our Club is now exceptionally well positioned to progress and work towards delivering the aspirations of our supporters, our Board and our shareholders.

A BREADTH OF CLUB FUNCTIONS

Premier League football clubs are complex organisations, with a wide range of business functions, unlike other companies, where the focus is often on one or two core competencies, such as retailing or banking. As CEO of Everton, I must unite many functions into one, cohesive team, pursuing one, shared vision.

We are, of course, a football Club first and foremost, however, we are also a retailer, selling merchandise across multiple channels - online, mobile and in-store - a commodity trader, investing in and increasing the value of a half-a-billion-pound player portfolio. We are a coaching organisation for professional athletes, and an academy for more than 300 youth players. And to support our players, we are a medical practitioner, an analytics firm and a travel agency.

We are a major events organiser, and an entertainment venue, selling a million tickets each season. We are a catering business, providing both high-end hospitality restaurants, and pies and a pint on our concourses. We are a facilities management company, an advertising sales agency, and a PR and media agency that, rightly, receives intense scrutiny from our supporters, the media, government and stakeholders.

We are the UK’s leading sports charity, and an education provider for 200 young people.

And, finally, we are a major capital projects developer, overseeing the delivery of a half-a-billion-pound property development on Bramley-Moore Dock – a project which comprises many workstreams, including funding, design, planning and procurement. 

My responsibility, as CEO, is to drive exceptional performance across all of these areas. I must ensure everyone at the Club is united in the pursuit of one, shared vision, build a team of highly-talented and experienced leaders, and ensure all staff understand how their role helps deliver our vision.

But, despite our varied portfolio of activities, Everton is a Football Club, and everything we work towards under my leadership will be directed at being the best football club possible.

OUR VISION

So, what is our vision? What do we want our Club to work towards over the next 10 years? Where do we want it to be when we hand it over to the next generation of Evertonians?

It is vital we are ambitious when we set out long-term targets, and our vision needs to reflect the high standards and aspirations of our supporters - aspirations and standards that are shared by our Board. 

Our motto is Nil Satis Nisi Optimum, and that is what we want: to be ‘the best’.

Therefore, I would like to share with you our vision - our ambition for where we want our Club to get to, over the next decade and beyond. That is, “Challenging at the top of the Premier League and competing at the highest level in European Competitions”.

Ultimately, this means challenging for domestic titles and trophies, not only to win cups but to win Premier League titles, too. It means competing regularly in the Champions League, and it means doing all of this in a world-class, world-renowned football stadium.

Now, as insightful, ardent football fans, you’ll appreciate this is an extremely challenging goal. And I want to emphasise it will take time, commitment and vigilant focus. It is very much a long-term goal for our Club, but it is vital we are ambitious and that we deliver levels of performance on and off the pitch that drive our Club forward to achieve our goals.

However, you will be aware that the financial gap between the established “Top 6” and the rest of the Premier League has grown to levels that were inconceivable 20 years ago.

The average revenue generated by those six teams in the 2016/17 season was £419m. Our revenue in that same season was £171m, meaning we have only 41p at our disposal to invest on-the-pitch for every £1 available to those six teams.

This gulf is accentuated, given that success in our League brings even greater financial rewards, including higher broadcast fees, access to commercial and sponsorship deals that dwarf those available to the rest of the League, and significant revenues from competing in the Champions League.

During the past 15 years, on only two occasions have teams other than the current “Top 6” finished in the top four places. Everton in 2005, and Leicester City in 2016 which means, despite the obstacles, it is achievable and we must continue to strive for it. But these two instances account for just 3% of all top-four finishes in a decade and a half so I openly acknowledge our vision is challenging and the barriers to entry are indeed daunting, but we are Everton and we must all be focussed and driven to meet that challenge.

As a result of the progress made on our foundations during the past six months, it is my belief that we are now well positioned to build a club that can compete with the best.

OUR STRATEGY

To achieve our vision, we have refined and adapted our strategy describing “what” we need to do, and “how” we’re going to do it. 

This long-term plan brings together all the functions of our Club into one cohesive team, pursuing one shared vision. Every person at Everton now understands how the work they do contributes to delivering our strategic objectives.

Our strategy is broken down into three, high-level strategic objectives covering Football, Business, and Fanbase and Community.

First, in football, we need to “outperform our competitors in all football-related disciplines”.

As I mentioned earlier, for each pound spent by the top six, we have 41p, therefore we need to spend more efficiently than they do.

  • We need to retain a world-class, first team leadership group, including Director of Football and Manager.
  • We need a long-term strategic approach to player investment.
  • And need to be better than the rest at developing young talent, and deliver best-in-class football support structures, including facilities, medical and analytics.

Secondly, we must “drive significant growth in revenue, manage costs effectively and provide best-in-class professional services across our Club”.

  • This includes driving further growth from our commercial portfolio and identifying new commercial opportunities.
  • It means ensuring best value for everything we purchase, and tightly controlling our costs so that every pound saved is available to be invested on the pitch.
  • It means attracting and retaining the best people,
  • Driving decision-making through rigorous insight,
  • Managing risk through good governance
  • And providing best-in-class facilities.

Our third objective focuses on our Fanbase and our Community. 

This is “to maintain our ethos as The People’s Club, doing the right thing by our supporters and community”.

We recognise that the way we achieve our successes is as important to our fans as what we achieve. This includes affordable pricing, building loyalty through making our supporters feel close to their Club, and being embedded within our local community - providing support for thousands of people across our city who live in challenging circumstances.

BOARD RESTRUCTURE

On appointment, my first priority was to quickly establish stability and structure across both the Business and Footballing sides of our Club, following what had been a prolonged period of unsettling and disruptive change. I developed a 90-day plan, which was immediately executed, to ensure we were set up for a successful 2018/19 season.

We started at the top, and reviewed how our Board operated, moving to a new “Executive” Board model. Under this new model Board members are clearly accountable for specific areas of the business. This change created new roles for Keith and Sasha. Keith is now our Board Sponsor for the new stadium and Sasha is our Chief Finance and Commercial Officer, providing leadership over our Financial affairs and having responsibility for growing our commercial revenue.

Jon remains on the Board, after passing on the role of Deputy Chairman to Keith, whilst Mr Kenwright remains as Chairman and continues to lead the Board. We benefit greatly from our Chairman’s vast experience of the football industry, and his long-standing dedication to our Club. I have day-to-day responsibility for running our Club, and to have such a committed and experienced Chairman working alongside myself, Marco and Marcel, has been invaluable. And I know that I speak for all of us when I say, Mr Chairman, we are truly grateful for your support.

FOOTBALL

Our First Strategic objective is “to outperform our competitors in all football-related disciplines”. For this we need the best leadership, player investment strategies, youth development and support structures.

As you will be aware, we introduced our first Director of Football in 2016. Since then, we have conducted a full review of this model, learning lessons from the last two seasons and identifying a structure that will ensure stability and success.

Our approach now is to have a Director of Football with a broader remit, responsible for the whole footballing strategy at the Club, rather than just player recruitment.

We were thrilled to appoint Marcel Brands this summer, and Marcel is now responsible, and accountable, for delivering the long-term, holistic, football strategy and principles, from Academy through to the first team.

We were also delighted to welcome Marco Silva to Everton this summer, and we are pleased with how he has, in such a short time, integrated into Finch Farm, with a clear focus on first-team coaching and development.

A full review of the support provided to the first team was undertaken by Marcel, Marco and myself on arrival, and changes were promptly made to improve our medical and recruitment teams. Additionally, specific requirements around equipment, scheduling, logistics, communications and security were immediately introduced.

Marcel’s first priority was to collaborate with Marco and focus on the summer transfer window, which I’m sure you agree was successful. The acquisitions of Richarlison, Digne, Bernard and Mina, and the loans of Zouma and Gomes, have accounted for 35% of our starting League appearances so far this season, and are proving valuable additions.

Marcel has now begun his work on delivering the Club’s long-term, permanent football strategy, working closely with the Academy Director and Head of Football Strategy.

It fills me with great pride this evening to announce to you the appointment of Marcel to the Everton Board. This appointment further cements the importance and permanence of the position of Director of Football within our structure. I do hope you will join with me in congratulating Marcel on his board appointment.

Everton has a rich tradition of producing high-quality, Academy players. When we talk about our overall football target of “outperforming our competitors in all football-related disciplines”, the Academy is one area that we can make a big impact.

Our Academy Director, Joel Waldron, has worked closely with Marcel and David Unsworth to produce a five-year Academy strategy and performance plan. We now have real clarity and direction at youth level on retention, our development pathway and a development programme, including technical, tactical, physical and psycho-social competencies.

This year, we have also invested £4.5m into the Academy facilities at USM Finch Farm, including new facilities for our players’ families to help drive retention.

We will continue to invest heavily into Finch Farm over the coming years, and are working towards a long-term masterplan for the site that will ensure our facilities compete with the best in the Premier League.

We also continue to increase our investment into the running of the Academy. This season, we are forecast to spend 80% more in this area than we did three years ago.

I would like to congratulate our youth teams on their performances so far this season. In particular, the Under-23 and Under-18 sides who are currently both top of their respective leagues. I am sure you will agree; the future certainly looks bright!

The Everton Ladies team has had a challenging season on the field, but off the field, we are preparing strong foundations. Our Ladies team has been integrated into the Footballing Structure at Finch Farm and enjoy some of the best facilities in the Women’s Super League. We will continue to build on the increased investment in our Ladies squad, and have been really pleased with the impact that our new manager, Willie Kirk, has made since joining us just a few weeks ago.

BUSINESS

Our second strategic objective is “to drive significant growth in revenue, manage costs effectively and provide best-in-class professional services across the Club”.

To do this, we need a high-calibre team of people. On appointment, I reviewed our structure which highlighted gaps in positions and experience. Therefore, I defined a new leadership model to enable us to deliver against our objectives.

I have already mentioned Joel. He is joined by David Harrison, our Director of Football Operations and Club Secretary. David’s role is critical in supporting the first team in areas of planning, logistics and transfers. He allows Marcel, Marco and the technical staff to focus on what matters most – first-team preparation, analysis and performance.

Grant Ingles is our Finance Director, responsible for leading our Finance team on a day-to-day-basis. He has more than 15 years’ experience in the Football sector.

Alan McTavish was promoted to Commercial Director, assuming responsibility for our commercial teams, including partners, sponsors and hospitality. His team has delivered significant commercial growth over recent years and are well placed to continue this into the future.

Richard Kenyon has taken on an expanded portfolio, responsible for the teams who interact most closely with our fans. As Director of Marketing, Communications and Community, he will drive our third strategic objective, Fanbase and Community.

This will “maintain our ethos as The People’s Club, doing the right thing by our supporters and community”.

In addition to quickly securing and filling these positions with top quality individuals, my review of our structure identified three further roles required at this level. People Director, Director of Risk and Governance, and Stadium Development Director.   

Kim Healey was appointed People Director. Kim has more than 15 years’ experience in the football industry and the creation of this position is recognition that to be truly successful, we need to attract and retain the best talent on and off the pitch.

Our Club has grown in terms of size and complexity over the last five years, therefore it is essential we are well-controlled and well-governed. Paul McNicholas was appointed Director of Risk and Governance and has more than 20 years’ experience in this discipline.

Given the importance of our new stadium ambitions, I created a dedicated Stadium Development Director position, with Colin Chong appointed to the role.

I am delighted with how the newly restructured leadership team has operated together over the last six months and would like to thank them for their collective efforts and achievements so far. Their work, as an executive team, has put us in the best position yet to deliver on each of the strategic objectives I have detailed this evening. 

I’m sure you will be aware that we have recently moved our head office to The Royal Liver Building. This has allowed us to bring teams, previously based in different locations, into one place, enabling us to work more collaboratively.

Having a world-class working environment will support us in attracting the best and most talented people and provides business continuity as we prepare for our move to Bramley-Moore Dock.

It also provides a platform to showcase the Club as a highly-professional operation, to potential commercial partners and other important stakeholders, and demonstrates our intent for the standards expected of our new stadium.

Everton now boasts a state-of-the-art working environment, in a world-renowned building, on a world-renowned waterfront for a world-renowned Club… on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey.

As CEO, our people are my priority..

We now have 1,600 permanent and casual staff and we continue to invest heavily in them. We are working hard towards achieving the PL Advanced Equality Standard, ensuring that everyone across the entire Everton family feels safe and welcome, irrespective of ethnicity, disability, religion or gender.

To deliver our ambitious strategy, we need a highly-driven and engaged workforce committed to our vision. I am delighted therefore to share with you our latest achievement in successfully securing a two-star Best Companies rating. This award is issued only to organisations that demonstrate “an outstanding commitment to workplace engagement”.

Sasha will be delivering a full Financial and Commercial review shortly, but before he does that, I would like to highlight a few achievements.

In the last four years, the Club has delivered a significant increase in commercial income, growing revenue by 91% between 2014 and 2018.

To build on this growth, we conducted a full review of our partnerships and sponsorships portfolio over the summer, identifying opportunities and categories for further growth. We were delighted to secure our partnership with the Italian company Fratelli Beretta and the foreign exchange company moneycorp, and future expansion in our commercial portfolio remains one of our key priorities for the next 12 months.

Sales of Hospitality were again strong for the 2018/19 season, with all places sold on a seasonal basis.

Our Club has developed significantly since our ownership change back in 2016. And I would personally like to thank Mr Moshiri and formally acknowledge his continued financial support, which includes £250m invested into our Club to date. This has given us opportunities that were previously not available, not only on the football side of the Club but also our business and operational platforms.

As I mentioned earlier this evening, Everton is a complex organisation, with a wide variety of business functions, each with their own unique risk profiles.

In conjunction with the current political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, increasing regulatory requirements, and ever-growing threats from fraud and cyber-crime, it is essential we are well-protected.

Our new Director of Risk and Governance has established a team dedicated to identifying and protecting our Club from these external risks. Additionally, we have expanded our in-house legal function, and have created internal capabilities for Data Protection and Internal Audit. In addition, a full review of our governance structures has been completed, resulting in the implementation of an enhanced governance structure, which significantly strengthens oversight, accountability and control.

It ensures our key risks are understood, appropriately managed and mitigated against by a robust control environment.

At this juncture, I would like to specifically address an issue, I am sure you are aware of, regarding breaches of Premier League Youth Development rules. In November 2018, we were sanctioned by the Premier League for several serious breaches dating back to 2016. This resulted in a fine, a two-year Academy transfer ban, and compensation payments to other clubs.

Upon being made aware of this breach, we took immediate and decisive action, and supported the Premier League with an in-depth, thorough and transparent investigation. As a Board, we have made it clear to the Premier League, our supporters and our staff that any breach of its rules will not be tolerated at Everton.

In respect of external risks, our Club is taking very seriously the uncertainties surrounding the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. As well as working closely with the PL and FA, we have identified a range of possible consequences and put in place strategies to minimise their impact. This is clearly an ongoing risk and we will continue to review and adapt our approach as the political situation changes over the months and years ahead.

As well as the investment in USM Finch Farm, and the move to the Royal Liver Building, we also made a significant capital investment into Goodison Park, providing 400 additional accessible seats. These three projects represent a capital investment of £12m in this current financial year, and again, have been made possible by the significant investment made by Mr Moshiri.


FANBASE AND COMMUNITY

Our fans, once again, demonstrated their commitment this season when we reached the 31,300 Season Tickets cap.

This included a 94% renewal rate from the previous season which is simply remarkable! The Club has also seen almost 10,000 registrations of interest for future Season Tickets by those unsuccessful in securing a place this season. This is significant, given that five years ago we had 23,300 Season Ticket Holders and an average renewal rate of 86%.

Coming from a family of Evertonians, I fully understand the competing demands fans have on their finances, and their time, and the role fans play as the 12th man. Therefore, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all fans for coming out in droves and showing your loyalty through the turnstiles. It is truly appreciated by everybody at our club but mostly by our players. Your positive support genuinely translates to our players on the pitch.

It was also fantastic to see a sold out Goodison Park on Saturday. The 37,900 attendance was the largest for a third round FA Cup tie at Goodison Park in 41 years.  Having Goodison Park full to bursting every week is an absolute credit to our supporters and to our teams at the Club, who work tirelessly to ensure we maintain affordable pricing. Our commitment to affordable pricing is long-standing and will continue.

Our most expensive adult Season Ticket is £565 in the Sir Philip Carter Park Stand,  less than £30 per game.

In real terms, when you allow for the impact of inflation, our adult Season Ticket prices are 16% cheaper than they were 10 years ago, saving our adult supporters approximately £100 a season.

But I am particularly proud of our pricing for our young and older fans. Under-11s pay just £95 a season, equivalent to £5 a match across the whole stadium. Under-18s pay £149, Under-21s and Seniors £299, and concessions are still available up to the age of 24.  

In a time when young people face really difficult financial challenges, including university tuition fees, saving for a deposit on a house, and with a youth unemployment rate of 11%, we are striving to make it as easy as possible for our young supporters to come to Goodison Park.

We remain committed to our young fans, and ensure our family values are reflected in our pricing policy. You will be delighted to hear, I am sure, that one in four Season Ticket holders are under the age of 18.

We have continued to introduce innovative initiatives for our youngest supporters, to strengthen loyalty in their early years of following us. Initiatives have included the chance to play at Goodison, and to enjoy training days at USM Finch Farm, with more than 2,000 young fans having savoured these opportunities to create priceless, precious memories.

Such initiatives assist our supporter growth and retention strategy and are crafted through listening and collaborating with fans. Our Fans’ Forum and Fans’ Panel continue to guide key decisions on things that matter most to our supporters. But let me assure you, under my stewardship, our Club will truly value listening and learning from our fans on all topics.

My teams and I will be focusing more and more of this, particularly around our stadium plans and legacy programme at Goodison Park.

We have also expanded our engagement globally, in line with our international strategy.

New social media accounts were launched in target territories, a five-fold increase in international YouTube subscribers, and plans to establish affiliate junior clubs across the world are now in motion. Our relaunched Membership platform has supported this international growth, whilst also adding much greater value to all fans who have joined.

Record Membership sales and an ever-growing Season Ticket waiting list are proof that this new focus has been well-received.

My role as CEO has required me taking to step down as Executive Chair of Everton in the Community and I have passed responsibility into the very capable hands of Richard Kenyon. Richard served as a trustee for five years, he knows the charity, he knows my approach to the charity and we continue to work together very closely. I am now Chair of the Board, where as well as providing leadership to the Trustees, I also ensure the Board fulfils its duties and continues to take the charity forward, in line with its strategic aims. I can assure you shareholders, like you, I am passionate about our Club’s commitment to our community. Everton in the Community is the heart and soul of Everton Football Club. Every time we say Everton in the Community we say Everton, therefore I can guarantee that everybody at Everton Football will continue to invest heavily In our social programmes.

As Chair, I reflect back on 2018 with a great deal of pride. It was the year when we officially handed over the keys to ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’, a property that will support young people at risk of homelessness for many years to come. It was also the year when Marco joined me in officially opening The Blue Base, the new community facility that will provide essential support to our elderly and isolated fans.

At the end of 2018, the charity was awarded a £489,000 contract by the Home Office to tackle serious gang culture, violence and protect young people in our City from exploitation.

At the prestigious Football Business Awards in November, our hard work and social impact was recognised. EitC was not only awarded Best Football Community Scheme but also Best Corporate Social Responsibility Scheme for Home Is Where The Heart Is. I am extremely proud of this achievement and the large number of other awards won during the year by our teams across our Club.

Moving forwards, the charity will continue to fundraise for The People’s Place, a new purpose-built mental health facility close to Goodison Park. Our focus remains on improving the lives of those in need, tackling the toughest social issues, most prevalent on the streets of Liverpool.

NEW STADIUM

We have made rapid progress against our three strategic objectives during the past six months. But I am also conscious that this is just the beginning.

Our fourth strategic objective, one that sits across all other areas of our business, is to deliver a new world-class stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. This is critical to achieve our vision of competing at the very top of the game.

As a fan, I am also aware of the long and complicated history in our attempts to deliver a new stadium, and I fully understand the frustrations of our supporters who deserve to be watching our Club in a stadium envied across the globe.

Upon becoming CEO, I conducted a full root-and-branch review of the project’s status, identifying the barriers that were hampering us and quickly changed the governance structure of the project. As I mentioned earlier, I created the new position of Stadium Development Director and appointed Colin Chong to the role. Colin has significant experience in stadium construction and managing major capital projects, as well as a strong knowledge of our Club. Keith Harris was also appointed board sponsor.

These leadership positions now sit within a clear, project governance structure, and have been bolstered with the creation of a wider team at the Club and a best-in-class group of external advisors.

As I am sure you will hear from colleagues later, we have several funding opportunities available, and are confident of securing the finance we need, supported by a robust business plan that will deliver significant, incremental revenues. Behind the scenes, our teams are working hard on the planning application, including design, procurement and public engagement.

We conducted the first stage public consultation last November, which will be followed by a second consultation in the spring, and we fully expect to submit a planning application in the second half of this year.

But this stadium isn’t just for Everton, it’s for the entire city region. It will kick-start a one-billion-pound regeneration of North Liverpool, create 15,000 jobs, attract 1.5m additional tourists and help accelerate the £5.5bn development of the Liverpool Waters scheme. It will also provide the opportunity to create a lasting legacy at Goodison Park.

Our ambition is to build new community facilities at Goodison Park, sitting alongside Everton Free School, The People’s Hub, The Blue Base and The People’s Place. Our commitment has never been stronger, we will never neglect our spiritual home.

In 1892, land was levelled, and three stands erected on the Mere Green field, just north of Stanley Park. 126 years later, that hallowed piece of land is still the home of Everton Football Club. It has been the place where 10 generations of Evertonians have congregated to support our Club, and witness its finest moments.

During 2018, we have made considerable strides with our new stadium project and as we move into 2019 we have set ourselves up to deliver further, significant progress. This progress has brought us ever nearer to opening a new chapter in the history of Everton Football Club at Bramley-Moore Dock. A world-class arena for the next generation of Evertonians.

CONCLUSION

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your time this evening.

I hope you agree that we are starting 2019 from a position of real strength.

We have a committed Majority Shareholder, an experienced Board, world-class first team leadership, a fit-for purpose management team, collaborative stakeholder relationships and a large and loyal fanbase.

To build on this, we have set ourselves challenging ambitions, we have a plan in place to deliver on these long-term ambitions and we are already making great progress.

And finally, we have something that only this Football Club could have, a heart, soul, and an identity that is uniquely Everton.

Nil Satis Nisi Optimum

Thank you…

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