So the watershed that was potentially the biggest in Everton’s recent history seems to have passed. The Board and the manager are to be congratulated for their steadfast refusal to sell a key asset in the team’s development. Evertonians the world over are walking a little taller today, proud of Martinez for saying:
“It seems like money can buy anything these days and clearly what we stand for at Everton is more important values – in football and in life – that they are more important than money.”
Now I’m the first to admit, there are many things in life more important than money, but from the context of an Everton fan we need to examine carefully what message is being put out here.
Charged by many fans with stagnation, fan groups calling for change and new leaders at the top of the club, the Board are actually challenging this thought process with a very bold claim, effectively the success of the club is not dependent upon an improvement in the club’s finances beyond the passive increase in broadcasting revenues.
This is a remarkable claim, and a remarkable strategy. Can we really do the unthinkable and become competitive without access to the wealth other clubs have access to? – Some with access to huge wealth and nothing to show in terms of success.
It’s a high risk strategy to compete in the most competitive environment possible without access to the same resources as your competitors. It will never happen in F1 for example, so why might it happen in football?
The cynic in me says this is a remarkable piece of spin – yes, we wanted to keep hold of Stones for pure football reasons of course, but perhaps also to make a move against the detractors and perhaps more importantly to set a narrative which suits the financial reality of the club and their major shareholders.
The romantic in me says, it’s unlikely but possible and it (success) would be all the more sweet for having achieved it in such a manner.
However the businessman inside me says it can’t be done and to try and do so threatens the future of one of football’s oldest and finest institutions.
It threatens our future in a number of ways – the worst being totally uncompetitive, having a bad season and falling out of the Premier League. Now I don’t believe that is likely but it could happen.
Much more likely is more of the same, meaning the income and capital disparities between Everton and our competitors will continue to grow, new competition will catch up and perhaps overtake us. The path to the top of English and European football is only going to get steeper and we’re already way behind.
So what is to be done?
The pressure on the Board to invest, find new investors or sell the club must be maintained, it really must. We need investment in our young, admittedly (and thankfully) improving squad. We certainly need investment in our stadium be it a new one (WHP?) or redevelopment of Goodison itself. Finally we need capital to build our commercial activities and perhaps more importantly to sell our brand and values around the world.
It’s a great time to be talking about investing in Everton, our stock should be riding high, great values, promising team, a committed and principled manager, a great history, and an even greater future.
For it to happen though we need that investment now, not just the hope of (in rugby terms) “striking against the head.”