Well an interesting evening at the Everton AGM. What did we learn from all of that?
Before getting into the business of the evening, can I just say it was sad not to see Bill present – I wish him well and a speedy recovery back to full health.
The positives first – our excellent EiTC goes from strength to strength and we should all be proud of our association with an organisation that is making real change in the lives of the most needy. Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to all involved.
On the pitch: An excellent presentation from our manager, clearly in footballing terms we are going places from the first team down all the way through to the youngest. I expressed my doubts at the end of last season about Martinez, but I can tell you, the man has a plan, a plan to develop the club, not just the first team. If we are progressing in the junior ranks like we are with the first team then the playing future looks very rosy – providing we can remain competitive financially with our peers.
This is where the story looks less promising – I get the reasons why we have Kitbag (low risk, requires no capital, produces a steady stream of income) – it’s a relationship born out of a lack of working capital and a lack of expertise within the club, nor the resources to provide that expertise. I genuinely think we are squeezing the asset as hard as we can given the resources available to us (financial and people). The problem of course, is that not much will change until we have investment or new owners.
The comments on the stadium situation, and specifically WHP are not surprising. We have a council, without the resources to back their ambitions, that wants to use the football club as a means of redevelopment in the North of the city. We have a football club currently without the resources and possibly the ambition, that wants to use the council as a means of their own redevelopment – ie a new stadium with significant financial contributions from the council and other parties.
What did surprise me this evening was that the blame game (for seemingly inevitable failure of WHP) has started and started so publicly. Initially I thought there’s no stepping back from either positions now – the Council nor the club will step down – however on sleeping on it, I can see both sides of the argument.
The club should be arguing that the development of WHP with a stadium and additional local resources (low cost housing/retail perhaps) changes what is currently a financial liability for the council into an income producing asset which will foster further development in an area of Liverpool desperate for such. As a private company (they should argue) their role in the transformation should be recognised with contributions from the council/other agencies.
The council meanwhile asks the club for plans, budgets and funding proposals. Given without significant new investment the club can not provide such, the council appear less than willing to extend much goodwill in the interests of getting a deal done.
The problem lies in our inability to fund any development without the investment from new owners or a significant re-capitalisation. I’ll spare the repetition of points made over many months on the subject.
On financial performance of the club, then again we are hamstrung by our lack of capital and the requirement to borrow at fairly punitive rates. Again only capital, and the right people brought into the business can move matters from where they are.
I wasn’t expecting anything new on the search for investors. Whatever activity is taking place is being done in private, as it should, and we’ll only know about it when there’s a conclusion.
Finally a comment on the questions put forward this evening, and the response.
Personally I thought many of the questions were unnecessary, and detracted from the real issues holding back the club, investment, commercial performance and a solution to the stadium issues.
Having said that I think the handling of the questions was poor, it showed a lack of judgement, and was tactically inept. Here was an opportunity to build some bridges, answer the concerns once and for all and develop some positive dialogue – the club missed a trick on this.
All in all a disappointing evening for shareholders and the board equally, an ugly, scrappy event that did little to satisfy the club or shareholders. Everton’s bright lights are currently on the pitch and appear to be shining brighter every week – I only hope the deficiencies witnessed tonight upstairs do not restrict our progress.
The requirement for new investment and new ownership intensifies after last night, it must, otherwise our footballing potential will be lost due to business incompetence.