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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Feedback from last week’s blog has generated two main follow-up questions; firstly, one that relates to an over-used business-speak word ‘strategy’ – specifically, do we have one? And secondly, where is Everton’s billionaire?
At the risk of getting defensive, it seems according to some, Everton is a Club ‘bumbling along’ going nowhere. Unsurprisingly, we have a different view. Everton has a very clear three-tiered strategy designed to support its objective of regular European football:
1. Firstly, to prosper in this League, as I said around ‘Kirkby time’, you need either a big, modern stadium that you fill every week or a billionaire who can make up that revenue gap (or maybe both). On the former, as we all know, for the first time arguably since 1892, we had a stadium solution we could fund at Kirkby, but on the decision of a Government minister, we were denied. Within a matter of weeks, we were back up and running, talking to a much more positive City Council, to land owners, developers and potential partners. And we’ve not stopped talking since. We’re talking positively about a handful of good, potential sites but in this day and age, it’s not easy. All prospective partners are facing challenging times. Within a year of the Kirkby rejection, we’d developed a scheme to improve Goodison – a self-funding, cash generating project with a new shop, hospitality, office and museum. We expect to start work soon as we wade through some complex legal matters.
As for the search for a new investor, there has been a stream of potential investors, or rather in truth, intermediaries and agents inquiring about the Club
– all too often, agents who know a man, who know a man, who brings his plan and who’s ready to buy Everton. I’ve held meetings. The Chairman’s held
many meetings. We’ve had meetings together. And, whilst quite clearly, they haven’t delivered what we’re looking for, it’s not because we’ve been imposing
unreasonable conditions, no one has come up with any money. The Club is for sale and that sale does not depend on the Chairman remaining in charge.
2. Secondly, we have to out-perform our rivals, developing, buying and selling players. Our track record is good; a Chairman who realised a fantastic sum on Joleon Lescott, and others, a Manager who signed Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta, and others and an Academy that developed Jack Rodwell with more to come. Whilst to date we haven’t succeeded on our first objective, we have done better than most on this one.
3. Thirdly, we have to grow our fanbase and build loyalty. Quite simply, we strive to find more Evertonians, loyal Evertonians who will fill Goodison Park on a regular basis. To do this, we’re improving our data and knowledge of our fans; we’re developing initiatives to provide a real sense of ownership to our fans; we’re looking at making matchdays as exciting as they can be; and, we are making sure we’re easy to buy from and deal with – becoming every bit as good as any modern, consumer business. All of these areas are being worked on, developed and improved. In a nutshell, the above represents our three-line strategy, a plan of attack which has worked, is working and will continue to see us competing for European qualification places.
The Six Million Dollar Question?
The question everyone wants the answer to, including the Board, is why hasn’t Everton found a new investor? And that’s a tough one to answer. I do know when I look at the values on other clubs that it isn’t Everton shareholders asking for too much money. Football club valuations are imprecise and often subjective but investors are not rejecting Everton because it’s too pricey. As I said earlier, I do know also it’s not the notion that our Chairman wants to stay in charge. Likewise, I also know it’s not because potential investors don’t know that Everton is for sale. The Club has met, and meets, and has appointed proven advisors who work on our behalf across a wide-ranging, worldwide network of contacts.
I also know that anyone buying any football club needs to accept that a big part of the return will be the profile and excitement of owning a football club. And the investment required, which only really starts on day one, is certainly not small-change. If the new owner is after a sensible, rational, cast-iron business investment then football probably won’t fit the bill. If he wants guaranteed dividends, then he’s also in the wrong place. As I’ve said before, the current Board hasn’t taken a solitary penny and certainly, their original investment wasn’t particularly ‘rational’ nor motivated by future financial gain.
If however, on a more positive note, the investor wants to buy something uniquely exciting and secure a place at the best sporting table in the world then he might be in. In our case, if he wants to be in at a Club with unique history, with a large and loyal fanbase, with real spirit and passion then he should come here. More than a century ago, a handful of great clubs were formed and Everton was one of them. It is this heritage that will provide the bedrock of any investment.
Why hasn’t it happened here when it’s happened elsewhere? As I’ve said, I’m not sure but perhaps two points to consider and a word of caution. Firstly, some recent sales have been ‘forced’ with much less certainty that the sale results in the club moving into the right hands. Whilst it’s clearly important that any investor coming into the game needs deep pockets and their eyes wide open, it’s also the case that a seller with an interest in the long-term future of their club will want to be equally challenging of the next custodians. Secondly, we can debate where has new ownership really catapulted a club forward?
Indisputably, at Chelsea and Manchester City, but the impact of new owners is mixed to say the least.
Of course, what we all want is someone to buy the Club a Premiership winning squad and build us a new stadium. And whilst not one new investor in the Premier League has done both, it is not stopping us looking.
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