With the longest league season in our history now firmly behind us, we are a matter of weeks away from the start of the 2020/21 season and our opening game against Spurs at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Before looking ahead, I would like to briefly reflect on last season – the most unusual of all seasons – and say a huge thank you to you - and every Evertonian - for the patience and commitment shown throughout this most challenging time.
For demonstrating passion for the Club by selling out every home and away allocation before the lockdown.
For understanding and respecting the Club’s requests not to attend Goodison Park during our period of playing games behind closed doors.
For record-breaking retention of Season Tickets, membership sales and sales of our 2020/21 home and away kits.
For the warm welcome you have given our new partners Cazoo and hummel, both of which are focussed on developing meaningful relationships with Evertonians as part of their exciting plans for the future.
For supporting the Blue Family campaign – and helping us to help local people in need - with such incredible generosity.
For continuing to show the class and loyalty that the football community has now come to expect from Evertonians.
For all of the above reasons – and many more – on behalf of our Club, I wish to say a huge thank you!
Such remarkable support and solidarity drives everyone at the Club. And it is this unity that will continue to fuel us as we begin our preparations for the new season.
Carlo and Marcel are working diligently to build on the strong, exciting base of young talent we have in our squad. And we are all determined to make significant progress in the new season.
Similarly, Willie Kirk is working hard with our women’s team to build on what was a strong 2019/20 campaign. We welcome new signings Poppy Pattinson, Ingrid Moe Wold, Nicoline Sorensen, Rikke Sevecke, Hayley Raso and Valerie Gauvin to our Everton ranks.
As you are aware, Carlo and the first-team will return to match action with pre-season friendly fixtures away to Blackpool this Saturday (22 August, kick-off 3pm) and at Blackburn Rovers a week on Tuesday (1 September, kick-off 6pm).
Both games will be played behind closed doors but will be streamed live for Season Ticket, Hospitality and Official Members through our website. More information can be found here.
While we are all excited to see our teams return to match action, I must respectfully remind you not to travel to these games, as there will be no access for fans and we continue to operate with the strictest of protocols in place to keep our players and staff safe.
David Unsworth's Under-23s will also play a friendly against Runcorn this weekend, while our Women’s team will begin their FA WSL campaign on 6 September away at Bristol City. I wish them all the best of luck in these fixtures and for the season ahead.
As you would expect, a major area of focus for the Club is ensuring we can welcome you back to Goodison Park as soon as it is safe to do so - and we are working closely with the Premier League to make this happen.
It is now certain that the opening fixtures of the 2020/21 Premier League season will be played behind closed doors. I would like to reassure all 2020/21 Season Ticket Members that a refund will be available for each fixture that is played behind closed doors.
Details of the refund process will be shared in the coming weeks. We will ensure that process is straightforward, just as it was for the 2019/20 refunds.
When it is safe to reintroduce supporters into the stadium, it is likely to be at a reduced capacity. Our ticketing team is working on what we believe is the most robust and fair allocation system and information on this will be shared as soon as it is possible to do so. Please be assured our aim is to get us all back together, safely, as soon as it is practicable.
If the Premier League and the wider football industry ever needed confirmation of the power and importance of its supporters, then playing in empty stadiums at the end of last season certainly reinforced and amplified the true value of your support and how crucial you are to our success. It underlined what makes football special and what makes our industry the powerhouse it is.
Experiencing behind closed doors games as CEO is something that I will never forget. Arriving at Goodison for the first time without fans in attendance to fulfil our fixture against Liverpool was extremely emotional for everybody – it was a truly jarring experience. Supporters like you are the glue that holds our Club together through the good and bad times and to say we have missed seeing that support is a massive understatement. This week I have spoken with members of the first-team squad and they have echoed my sentiments and are desperate to have you back at Goodison Park as soon as possible. I will continue to work with my teams to facilitate this - and we will keep you informed throughout every stage of the process. As football fans, we start the season off with such high hopes and expectations. This season will be like no other and - at some point during the campaign - we will be reunited again. It will be a historic moment we will talk about for decades to come - reflecting on the time we were unable to physically attend games. When we get to that day, as Evertonians I am confident we will be louder and prouder than we have ever been. And the Club will welcome you home in true Everton style.
It was surreal to sign-off the season without fans inside Goodison – and, of course, disappointing that we couldn’t give Leighton the send-off he deserved.
I can assure you we did everything we could to extend Leighton’s playing career with us - although we completely respect his decision and wish him well for his future. As our Chairman said in his tribute to one of the best left-backs ever to have graced Goodison and the Premier League, Leighton knows the love and respect that Evertonians feel towards him… and that’s what really matters to him. Marcel and I have been working behind-the-scenes with Leighton over the last few weeks and are excited about how we might be able to continue a relationship with him in future. We’re currently working through some of the final details, which we believe will be great for Leighton and for our football club. While we’re not in a position to confirm this yet, I assure you that you will be the first to know – as I know how much Leighton means to you and how interested you’ll be in any role we confirm with him.
I know you will also be keen to hear updates on our new stadium project. I can confirm this has been continuing in line with our project plan and our Stadium Development Director, Colin Chong, will be providing a thorough update next week. As I’m sure you would expect, some aspects of this project – mainly relating to third parties – slowed down temporarily due to the impact of Covid-19, but we don’t expect this to have a material impact on our long-term plans.
Finally, I would like to congratulate our 2019/20 Fan of the Year, Lewis Docherty. Eleven-year-old Lewis received more than 1,000 nominations from fellow Evertonians for his quite brilliant support of the Club.
Lewis has become a familiar face at Goodison Park on a matchday, working tirelessly to help fundraiser Speedo Mick collect thousands of pounds for charity around the ground.
The video of him receiving his award is a joy to watch and Lewis is quite simply an inspiration. Well done, Lewis!
So, we move forward into the new season physically apart for a little while longer. But we remain strong. We remain united. We remain one big Royal Blue Everton family.
Thank you once more for everything you have done to show your commitment, your support and your class over recent months.