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Just tell it like it is

By Greg Murphy :  03/12/2009 :  Comments (29) :

What disappointed most about the Club’s recent annual financial announcement?

For me it wasn’t the figures themselves, desperate though they were (though on my plassy calculator I’d expected a few million worse).

Nor the fact that the “special relationship” twixt L4 4EL and Old Hall Street meant that the usual fall guy (i.e. David Prentice) so obviously had to relate the spin with his mitts handcuffed tightly behind his back (though did I detect a Prenticean senior staffer’s code of honour there, in putting himself forward to take one for the team, rather than let Greg O’Keefe, [the man who’s surely just been bequeathed the most poisoned chalice in footy scribing] just days into his stewardship of the Echo’s Everton pen, get slaughtered for having to toe the “commercial partnership party line”?).

No, it was just the transparent fact that the Club, clearly, still doesn’t credit Evertonians with the rudimentary intelligence to see through the varnish. I really hoped — and still vainly do — that the Elstone era, recognising that the un-networked days of yesteryear are long since gone, would do away with all that corporate puff.

In truth, I really don’t envy Everton’s PR set-up (that’s an equally toxic cup) because it not only needs to convince easily-fed saps like David Maddock (tick) but also has to satisfy the fans too (as far as that’s possible).

I can’t help thinking, though, certainly if the financial spin attendant in the latest announcement is anything to go by, that the likes of Maddock & Co. will always be deemed more important than the supporters.

Sure, try and talk-up the Club’s profile in the national media (you never know, a billionaire investor might be reading! ahem) but don’t treat the fans as mugs at the same time.

Good PR is surely as much about anticipating perception rather than attempting persuasion, isn’t it?

“Dear Everton Ltd... it really isn’t difficult, just tell it like it is”.

You never know, there may still be some residual sympathy out there.

But that gets eroded further, episode by episode, every time it becomes yet again starkly apparent that the Club is just assuming our docility.

So please, just tell it like it is — if not for our sake then at least your own.

For it must surely be less hassle than continually trying to polish the unpolishable — if you catch my euphemistic drift?

Reader Comments

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Michael Kenrick
Editorial Team
1   Posted 03/12/2009 at 13:40:29

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Oooo,,,, I was hoping for a lot more meat there, Greg. A perceptive dissection of the accounts...

Guess I’ve got to wade through all that crap myself now!
Dick Anderson
2   Posted 03/12/2009 at 14:42:34

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Why should the club have to release its financial records to the public?

What gives us the right to know all about the finances of the club?

If I go to a night club every weekend I don’t expect them to release a statement informing me of their debt.

I wouldn’t dream of asking a restaurant owner to release financial statements.

I understand that shareholders in the club should be kept informed but for the rest of the general public its a case of we have no right to demand financial information.

Personally I would be quite happy for the club to keep a closed book on finances with only owners and shareholders allowed to enquire.

I cant stand fans who demand to know every financial detail just because they go to a home game a couple of times a month.
Chris Briddon
3   Posted 03/12/2009 at 14:57:17

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Greg - as wordy and long-winded as your article is, it doesn’t actually say anything.

If you have a problem with the clubs accounts then say it and explain what it is, if not stop spouting meaningless drivel trying to be clever without actually saying anything at all.

There appears to be some vague claim that the figures released are questionable but I can’t see where this comes from, please enlighten me!
Greg Murphy
4   Posted 03/12/2009 at 14:55:16

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I agree with you to a large extent, Dick.

I can see both sides of the disclosure debate.

Though, ultimately, I do come down on the "fans as stakeholders" side of the balance (and current recognition of such by the Club - whether by reluctant legacy or conscious decision - at least indicates the minimum standards of EFC’s corporate social awareness).

But my point is that, having decided to release the figures to the media (and, by proxy, the fans) they may as well "just tell it like it is".

Fair enough, if the Club decides to cease disclosure in future then that’s a totally different debate.

But whilst it clearly still favours such publicity, I do wonder why the mindset still seems to prevail that they must spin it past themselves.
Dick Anderson
5   Posted 03/12/2009 at 15:05:39

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Fans are not stakeholders though Greg. Attending a couple of home games a month does not make them so.

Going to a restaurant, swimming pool or night club every week doesn’t make me entitled to view their accounts.

We have no right to financial accounts.

Everton FC is a lesuire/social activity for people to enjoy. We don’t own the club just because we frequent it.

Do you own the bus you ride on everyday or a porn web-site you subscribe to?

It's the same thing I’m afraid.
David McKee
6   Posted 03/12/2009 at 15:05:18

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Greg I agree with Chris What the hell are you on about. You have got yourself in a right tither about the accounts or something and are probably too polite to write down what it is you actually think has happened.
Dick Anderson
7   Posted 03/12/2009 at 15:10:16

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I’m a fan of Oasis but I wouldn’t ask Noel Gallager for his bank statement.
Greg Murphy
8   Posted 03/12/2009 at 15:03:21

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Chris, I don’t have a problem with the Club’s accounts per se. Figures are figures when all’s said and done.

It’s the presentation of them I was talking about.

Cliché though it may be, it’s still the case that "turnover is vanity, profit is sanity".

The opening lines of the Club’s press release tell us about "positive financial results".

We made an operating loss of £6.7m.

I just wonder why it is that the Club feels it can’t "just tell it..."

That’s all. No more, no less.

And not trying to be clever.
Greg Murphy
9   Posted 03/12/2009 at 15:12:24

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Dick - it’s up to the Club, ultimately, to decide whether it views its fans as stakeholders.

Some companies do regard customers as stakeholders, others don’t.

--

David - not in a tizz about the accounts. Just curious about the presentation.

Tony Waverleas
10   Posted 03/12/2009 at 16:15:51

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“Dear Everton Ltd... it really isn’t difficult, just tell it like it is”.

Have you actually read The Echo more than once in your entire lifetime?
Because if you had you should have realised that it isn’t nor ever has been like the Woodward & Bernstein era Washington Post you laughably think it ought to be.

From front page to last the rag is the worst form of lowest common denominator trash: huge photo, tabloidese style headline and the accompanying “story” consisting of a couple of barely literate lines. And, no, I’m not bitter or failed employee of the place just someone who can’t believe newsagents don’t stock it next to The Beano.

If you want more serious local reportage then try The Daily Post – though doubtless one of the grassy knoll brigade will be on here to assure me (as they did the other day) that their journalists are also on the Goodison payroll and only print what Bill tells them to.

Cue theme tune from The Twilight Zone…

Greg Murphy
11   Posted 03/12/2009 at 16:32:23

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Tony, whilst I don’t really want to get into a debate about the perceived journalistic reputation of the Echo (or indeed the Daily Post) - because that’s not the substantive point of my piece - I don’t think it’s exactly calling for a Watergate-style exposure to suggest that the title could be independent enough (even with its commercial relationship with the Club) not to have to run a fed headline such as "Cup runs ensure Everton FC bank another record year".

Maybe I’m too naive and I should take a dose of your realism.

The Echo, though, was as much a receiver of the Everton financial results statement as we were (however the fact that it had to run what was effectively the Club press release speaks volumes).

To be honest, I feel sorry for the likes of David Prentice in having had to put his name to such transparent puff. Especially considering the unfair battering he took on the thread below his results piece (link at bottom) when it’s clear how little say he has.

The point of my piece remains. I’m just curious as to why the Club feels the need to top-spin the results to the media and, in turn, the fans. We know we’re skint.

Ironically, I would have thought it might have served the Club better had it resisted placing all the "record year" rhetoric up top (by all means include it further on) and instead placed its headline emphasis on the obvious reasons why we probably won’t have any spends in January.

For example, I heard on the car radio last week (one of the franchise stations - can’t recall which) a quick-fire 20 second report, by some bird who sounded like she’d just sucked a helium balloon, relating to Everton’s financial announcement.

(I’m paraphrasing) "..meanwhile Everton have bounced back from the setback of having plans for a new stadium rejected by reporting a record turnover for the financial year - the Club say that last year’s FA Cup run helped boost the record income...now the weather"

And that was it!

No wonder that I overheard one fella in the ground on Sunday mouthing off: "Where’s all the money gone? We’ve just had a record year and we’re still skint. Somethin wrong there."

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/everton-fc/everton-fc-news/2009/12/01/cup-runs-ensure-everton-fc-bank-another-record-year-100252-25292455/
Stephen Kenny
12   Posted 03/12/2009 at 18:23:12

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Looking at the results we actually have a bit more money than we did before.

If I’m right amortisation is a loss in player value due to the time left on the registration/contract? I’m sure that there are those on here with the fianancial acumen to elaborate further, however I believe the results showed a positive year!
Karl Masters
13   Posted 03/12/2009 at 18:31:18

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Dick

We are not stakeholders financially, but we are emotionally.

You can frequent any nightclub, restaurant, swimming pool you like or attend any musical performance.

If watching football was about value for money, having a good time etc, we’d not be choosing to watch Everton, we’d all be in Old Trafford or The Emirates.

The Club can sell almost any old bit of tat, put out any disgusting replica top and many people will blindly buy it or watch matches however poor vthe play or results.

The relationship between a fan and his Club is a million miles away from your relationship with your Dry Cleaners or Petrol Station.

So stop saying we don’t have a right to know, unless of course you don’t really care what happens.
Kev Wainwright
14   Posted 03/12/2009 at 19:00:17

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Greg, it’s a good job you are here to put the masses right. Do you think perhaps you might come over as a little self righteous and more than a little condescending?
Andy Crooks
15   Posted 03/12/2009 at 18:58:14

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Good point, Karl. Dick Anderson, your comments are frankly quite demoralising. Are Everton a product which we can take or leave? Not to me...

Your comment about Oasis is utterly cretinous. Have you no concept of the emotional investment that makes one support a club through good and bad times? The fact that we are denied a right to know is a patronising, a fucking disgrace.

Kev Wainwright
16   Posted 03/12/2009 at 19:13:53

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Andy - my mates tennage daughter is really into Green Day and for the time being and makes a considerable emotional investment. It is the equal of my son into Everton. Cretinous? No just the fact that people value different things.
Greg Murphy
17   Posted 03/12/2009 at 20:30:45

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Possibly, Kev.

If so, then it certainly wasn’t/isn’t intentional.

Fully prepared, also, to concede that perhaps I could have back-referenced the piece to include the announcement in July (and the subsequent duplication of the rhetoric accompanying the formal announcement) and probably the absence of a little more detail has hampered the broader thrust of my message.

Ironically, though, my initial intention was not to supply a piece laden with that type of scrutiny.

*note to self*



Neil Adderley
18   Posted 03/12/2009 at 20:52:45

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Greg - as far as I can see, the only problem with your piece is that ’the clubs’ perception that ’(enough) supporters are mugs,’ is essentially correct.

(Apart from the inane replies to your article) it has been proved without doubt over the years and especially in regards to the ’ground move(s) debacle.

Just on that (and perhaps slightly ’off topic’), am I the only Evertonian waiting for a full and frank analysis from ’the club’ of exactly what went wrong over the last (lost) five years?

Mind you, I’m still waiting for the explanation concerning the Kings Dock fiasco......................................
Brian Denton
19   Posted 03/12/2009 at 21:08:08

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Greg, your sentences are far too long. Fewer subordinate clauses, please.

Yours

A Schoolmaster
Greg Murphy
20   Posted 03/12/2009 at 21:12:37

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It’s not the first time I’ve been told, Brian.

Noted.

Karl Masters
21   Posted 03/12/2009 at 22:16:46

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Greg.

An interesting read as ever, but really the title said it all.

Are you on a sponsored ’Word-athon’, mate?

Happen to agree with you by the way.
Greg Murphy
22   Posted 04/12/2009 at 07:30:18

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Haha, Cheers Karl - and Neil A.

And here’s me thinking it was actually a short piece - at only 399 words.

But possibly not my finest hour when all’s said and done.

Ah well, you win some...

Anyway, here’s to Everton’s record year!

So good they told us twice!

Summer:

http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11671_5435545,00.html

Winter:

http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11661_5736691,00.html

Jon Hughes
23   Posted 04/12/2009 at 10:14:32

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I like looking at the accounts if it tells me a bit about what is happening to the club. From a quick look, it seems we are paying way too much on salaries. While I understand that we want the best players and they cost a lot, it means that we have no spare cash for other things.

For me, I’d rather generate a few million profit each year and use this to have an annual transfer budget and redevelop Goodison. At the moment, it looks like we have to sell to buy and we are planning on letting our stadium collapse..

Still, at least we will win the competition for the most right backs at any Premier League team!

Ciarán McGlone
24   Posted 04/12/2009 at 11:28:02

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’If I go to a night club every weekend I don’t expect them to release a statement informing me of their debt.’
-------------------------

I’ve heard some wishy washy analogies in my time...but that’s out there..
Brian Waring
25   Posted 04/12/2009 at 18:08:15

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Well, you learn something new everyday, we have a PR dept!
Tony Waverleas
26   Posted 04/12/2009 at 19:26:00

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Greg, my tangible investment in the club begins and ends when I’ve handed over my season ticket money or paid the credit card bill for cup games, etc

Of course, like every other Blue I have a huge emotional investment in the lovely chaps - an investment that more often than not takes a heavier toll on my wellbeing than any financial one.

Sure, we’d all like to know what goes on at club apart from what we witness on the pitch but wanting to know & feeling entitled to know are two different things.

Forgive me if I’m wrong but isn’t what you’re really saying is that you’re pissed off The Echo hasn’t demanded a torch & pitchfork wielding mob descend on our boardroom in the wake of our latest set of figures?

And if the accounts are so dreadful then why not examine in them in detail & post your findings on here? After all, isn’t part of the reason for the growth of fanzine culture (and it’s come a long way from the days of stapled together pages flogged round pre-match pubs to websites like this) a dissatisfaction with the established media?
Greg Murphy
27   Posted 04/12/2009 at 22:48:44

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Hi Tony - apologies for the delay.

No my substantive point wasn’t about the Echo’s reporting of the Club’s (re-iterated) accounts. Nor was the point of my piece to post my own dissection of the Club’s accounts.

Probably the reason why you’ve reached the wrong conclusion about my general thrust is that the general structure of my original article was fundamentally flawed.

I accept now that it probably wasn’t clear from the outset that I was commenting only about the heavily-spun manner in which Club continues to relate its figures to the media (and, in turn, the fans) - but not about the actual accounts per se.

I actually couldn’t dissect the Club accounts to save my life. Sure, I can read a profit and loss statement; I can (eventually) find my way around a balance sheet (if I squint, screw my face up and poke a deep-in-concentration tongue out; and I’ve got a rudimentary grasp of matters like amortisation etc. But that’s as far as my accounting "skills" go.

But I do know a heavily spun PR statement that accompanies a set of financial results when I see one.

And trying to present our accounts, first and foremost, as a "record" year, when the actuality is that we’ve made a £6.7m operating loss, certainly represents a heavily spun media message.

That’s all I was curious about. Why the Club feels the need, year in year out, to continue with such cosmetic deflections?

Conversely, I’d be just as curious if the Club ever posted a set of accounts showing a multi million profit after tax but presented them to the media in a really flat and dull manner.

I’d wonder why they weren’t justifiably shouting such success from the rooftops.

So it’s just the accompanying message behind the results that I’m curious about; and the mindset behind each disclosure episode which seems to dictate that they must always be talked-up come what may.

I’m not saying that the Club should release a media statement saying "look, here’s our results - they’re really dire so be kind to us". But equally I don’t see why the Club feels the need to strain and provide a fanfare and drumroll to convince us and the media that they’re a really great set of figures. "No, honest they are."

Hence: "just tell it like it is". We know we’re skint.

The irony, though, is that in trying to pass an overview about the Club’s wider messaging I probably should have paid closer attention to the structure of my own original post and saved us all this truly painful thread.

That’ll learn me.

--

It was Dick Anderson who prompted the wider debate about the need for the Club to even disclose. As I’ve said up top, there’s no right or wrong answer about whether a company should view its customers as a stakeholder group.

I favour the approach that customers are indeed stakeholders. Dick doesn’t. You don’t. And I’d never dispute a company’s right to keep schtum as long as it wishes to. That’s its business - quite literally.

Although, again, I’d be curious as to why.

But then again I’ve proved in this thread what my curiousity leads to:

Crap articles on ToffeeWeb!
Dave Wilson
28   Posted 05/12/2009 at 06:38:21

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Greg, I suspect many people would have nodded their heads as they read your article.

If the thread did become painful, it was made so by people who either didn't get, or deliberately chose to miss the point you were making.

Crap Article? Not at all, they're the ones nobody can be arsed responding to.
Tony Waverleas
29   Posted 05/12/2009 at 16:23:10

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Greg, I did actually get your point – I’m just mystified why you think the club should do a Gerald Ratner.

It really is just PR at the end of the day. Probably pretty dire PR but boiled down to its constituent parts that’s all it is. And that’s news to whom precisely?

On topic, today’s press are reporting DM’s painfully honest assessment of our performances so far this season. Should he have said anything different? Or is he to be applauded for resisting the temptation to hide behind the good result in Greece?
And how many different interpretations have different journalists who all attended yesterday’s briefing put on the same set of words to come out of his mouth? So far, I’ve read that DM has given up on qualifying for Europe via our league position and also that DM will not rest until his misfiring squad is back amongst the top six. So, what’s it to be – we’re rubbish & we’ll be happy to avoid relegation or we’ll soon be breathing down the neck of the top 5? Like I say, same set of words, same press conference but presented differently.

Anyone who grew up in 70s/80s Liverpool when our delightful friends across the park where rampaging their way through all competitions will tell you that to survive in school or work Evertonians had to be spinmeisters par excellence. You couldn’t just throw your hand in (no matter how tempting it was at times) and say in the face of the Koppites’ soul-destroying haranguing, “Actually, you’re right: Everton are tragic & Liverpool are indeed magic”. Trust me, if it didn’t kill you it made you stronger.

Evertonians know shite when they see it, Greg; just don’t expect us to always admit it.

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