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A Marathon Not A Sprint

Robert Elstone, 7th October 2010 - 14:23

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Robert Elstone

Robert Elstone

Posts: 38

Robert is Everton's Chief Executive.

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It’s been a very long time since my last blog and my only, slightly lame excuse is the hurly-burly of day-to-day life inside a Premier League football club.  I often quote one of our senior managers who joined us two or three years ago from a top position in an international restaurant chain, who said how amazed he was by the diversity and pace of our day-to-day challenges.  There’s no routine, very little predictability and opportunities and issues land on our desks every day. Driven away from the world of accountancy by my dislike of routine, that variety is no bad thing, but it can be a challenge.  It does give me this excuse, but for those of you interested, I promise I’ll pick up my pen more often.

Marathon not a sprint

Talking of unpredictability, no one saw our start to the season coming.  I met umpteen Evertonians over the summer who told me about ‘bets for the top four,’ ‘bets to win the league’ and felt with more certainty than ever, ‘this was going to be our year’.  At the time, that confidence was well-founded and I’m sure we’d all agree, it wasn’t misguided nor could it have evaporated inside six or seven weeks.  Certainly the belief is as strong as ever at Finch Farm particularly in the knowledge that what we have built is founded on such solid and envied roots; there’s absolute confidence we’ll deliver another great season.  And stating what so many have said, especially those of us who’ve been to the games, our start doesn’t reflect our performances.  My own view is, probably Manchester United aside, that there isn’t a team we’ve played to date who I don’t feel confident we’ll finish above, in what is, the proverbial 38 game marathon.

The confidence we all felt, and still feel, was borne out of the genuine belief in our squad of players and whilst of course, it would have been nice in the summer to have been able to bring new, established talent into David’s first team, we couldn’t make that happen.  Of course, we were successful in securing new contracts for a significant part of our core squad - Cahill, Arteta, Baines, Rodwell and Colema that will provide the Manager with a firm base to move the Club forwards. Equally, I’m sure we’d all agree that we’ve seen exciting glimpses from Magaye and Jermaine Beckford and, of course, a penalty save by Jan Mucha at Brentford but we will have to give them the time it will take for them to settle in; time I guess that we’d hope would have been provided in part by a Carling Cup run – a campaign which came to a hugely disappointing end at Griffin Park, despite the fantastic and much-appreciated support provided by almost 2,000 passionate Evertonians. 

Fair Play

Our investment in long-term player contracts is substantial and economically we continue to fight our corner and commit to on-field success. However, it’s true that like almost all clubs we are feeling the squeeze from certain competitors and the recession.  An interesting ‘economic’ development over the next few seasons will be the introduction of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules which will prevent clubs from playing in UEFA competitions unless they can prove broadly, they ‘live within their means’. Essentially, clubs will only be able to spend on wages and transfers what they earn from ‘normal’, football business activities – ticket sales, retail, sponsorship and TV rights fees.  And by doing this, UEFA is shutting the door on the ‘original’ and still very common way to fund a football team, the support of a wealthy benefactor. 

The new rules will present a monumental challenge for Manchester City (and many others), whose recent financial results show they are a million miles off squaring this circle but they may, in the long run assist Everton.  Personally, I’m not a fan of red-tape, regulation and being told how to run our clubs - Premier League clubs have to comply will all sorts of tough rules anyway, but the UEFA rules will undoubtedly benefit clubs with big fan bases and modern stadia and whilst we continue to search for the latter, we do have the former.  Many clubs in England and Europe will look enviously at our fan base as the new rules bite. 

On the ‘flipside’, however, one of the downsides of ‘living within your means’ is ruling out the new billionaire investor who wants short-term success on the field, something the game has allowed for 130-odd years, but now something that will be much harder to deliver. I’m sure we all have our views on the introduction and impact of UEFA’s new rules.

What’s up next?

Next on the horizon off-the-field are a couple of vitally important planning decisions on our exciting new shop and hospitality development at Goodison and on the sale of our Bellefield training ground.  The former is a substantial project which will improve our off-the-field operation as soon as it opens.  It will also generate cash from day one with all of the costs of the development covered by our retail and catering partners; testimony, in my opinion, to the quality of our partners and the hard work that’s gone in to building a business relationship that works for both sides.

Both are important to me but I’m sure neither is on anybody else’s radar as all eyes focus on the first derby day of 2010/11.  Almost everyone I speak to asks for my opinion on Liverpool’s future and watching the trials and tribulations has certainly been interesting.  My opinions should remain private but as is so often the case, so much public opinion is formed with so little knowledge and so few hard facts - the wall-to-wall phone-ins lost my interest many months ago. Of course, in these circumstances, it can be dangerous to draw conclusions.

Of course, what’s dominated the debate has been the subject of ownership.  Quite rightly, football club ownership is an important and emotive subject. It’s a subject we’re very aware of here, not just in a legal sense but as much, in a ‘moral’ sense.  We can debate the merits of supporters’ trusts and fan-generated funds to take ownership stakes but what I’d argue is it’s substance that really matters.  And what I mean by that is the provision of the platforms and forums for you to speak, and for us to listen and respond. If we do that effectively, then that’s tangible ownership that can be every bit as powerful as a piece of paper.

As for my final comment, don’t listen to the misguided media pigeon-holing next Sunday as a relegation battle. It’s the marathon race we’ve entered, and befitting the best derby in the world, what it really is, is a key milestone in the battle for European football next season.

COYB.

Latest Blogs by Robert Elstone

Paul McLachlanWhilst waiting for the tube at Victoria to see the Fulham match, i bumped into Robert on the platform, he took time to speak to me about the team and how the results had not matched the performances, he showed me then that he doesn't hide away in the boardroom but he understands the fans and what is best for the club. With the current management at the club and the changing attitude to way clubs are run, our future has never looked so bright. I too would like to see DM given a decent war chest at the start of the season but a lot needs to change inside the club for that to happen, but it will COYB

Friday 8th October 15:52 Report Comment

Andrew ByrneMr Elstone - much is rightly admired about David Moyes and Blue Bill but I'm not sure people like your goodself get enough recognition at Everton. Not only are you able to provide a sensible and well-though out future for Everton Football club but you also possess the personal touch too. A couple of months ago my parents were outside Goodison showing my 2 children where they entered Goodison to get to their season ticket seats. My children are only 3 and a half and 2 but you made a massive impression on them when you very kindly invited them inside and showed them the Players Lounge, Ressing Rooms and Pitch - even though you were on your way to a business meeting. Not that he was going to have a choice in the matter but my son is now a staunch Blue at the tender age of 3 and a half. Thank you for once again proivng that Everton truly is the People's Club! COYB

Friday 8th October 10:31 Report Comment

John Beesleymr kenwright has really got the board all pulling in the same direction, onwards and upwards bill and the boys COYB

Friday 8th October 08:25 Report Comment

alexis leung Brian is absolutely right. We like Everton as it has always been. When we lost a game we yell a bit, and when we won we were happy for the following 6 days. Hoping the team winning is the only thing fans can do.

Friday 8th October 04:27 Report Comment

liam munrowe all no what everton are like we cud go on a run of 20 games or so now. as long as we dont leave it to late like last year we will be sound. IMWT

Thursday 7th October 20:27 Report Comment

Minik HansenI believe anything can happen with the team Moyes got. And we are the witnesses in the upcoming rounds!

Thursday 7th October 16:44 Report Comment

Brian KellyThese blogs from Erlstone dont half give me a lift! I totally agree with every word, and it just shows how passionate our board is about Everton as a club and not JUST a business to make money. I have spoke to loads of Blues, and i'm sure you will all agree that even though we know Moyes needs money, I would much rather have our board and chairman who are short of cash but live and breathe Everton F.C. Am sure it would be the easiest thing in the world for Kenwright to sell our club to Multi Millionaires who could suck the club dry, I just wish Bill had the money because i wouldnt want it any other way!

Thursday 7th October 15:59 Report Comment

CRAIG WEILDINGIt is where we finish that counts. Although i must admit i have lowered my expectations now given the start we had. Pre-season i predicted us to finish 4TH, Now i am saying 6TH or 7TH. Good blog from a very important person in our Club. COYB.

Thursday 7th October 14:39 Report Comment
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