Everton News

The case for a media probe

09/07/2011 |   Comments () :  Add your Comments
There is considerable interest in a very good letter put together by fans calling themselves The People's Group on Facebook. Their aim is to highlight the failings of the Everton Board of Directors through the national media with the hope of getting answers. The letter has been sent to various media outlets and is a direct request for some proper investigative journalism to dig into the current Everton hierarchy and their failure to push Everton forward in this era when the Premier League is awash with money. A transcript of the letter is provided here: more...

Dear Sir/Madam;

We are writing to you on behalf of many Everton fans who are growing restless, frustrated and angry at the current goings on with the board of Everton Football Club. We started a campaign on Twitter, to start making journalists aware of the unrest at our club. Every year, David Moyes — who is doing an excellent job of keeping Everton in the top half of the table under the constraints — has to wheel and deal and settle for second-best in terms of transfer targets. However, the overall picture is a lot more concerning for Evertonians, and we want the media to start investigating and reporting in more depth what is going on at the club. We the fans need a voice and a lead to put pressure on this board with the aim of getting them to start being open and honest, and ultimately to let someone else have a chance of running the club.

This letter will outline many concerns and issues we have with the Board and the reason we are asking the media to get involved is because the club simply does not speak to its fans. AGMs were cancelled, shareholders' meetings are few and far between and any questions that do manage to get asked of the Board are brushed aside and are not answered. In the meantime, we have to put up with a Chairman and a Board who are clearly out of depth in running a major football club.

With all due respect to other clubs in the Premier League and acknowledging that no-one has a divine right to be top of the league, we feel we are being left behind in the modern game. 20 years ago, when the Premier League was formed, and Sky was set to begin a new era of top-flight football, only one team had won more top-flight titles than Everton. We had average attendances to rival anyone in the league, and had just come off the back of an 8-year period of 2 league titles, 4 FA cup finals, a European trophy plus countless other awards and triumphs.

Since then the club has stagnated at best and we have watched other teams outspend, outshine and outthink Everton Football Club.

More importantly than this, we have missed out on a lot of opportunities to progress, and particularly in the last 8 years under the stewardship of Bill Kenwright. Bill is a self proclaimed Evertonian, and this seems to cloud people’s judgement on the job he is doing. Not just the fans, but the media too, who see Bill as a people’s man, when really he is just a showman. His profession says it all, actor!

We are going to highlight some concerns and issues we have, to alert you to the gross mismanagement that is going on. We will do this in as close to a chronological order as we can.

The biggest mistake, and possibly the most unforgiveable issue with Kenwright, dates back to 2003, and the Kings Dock Project. We had a magnificent chance to build a state-of-the-art stadium on the banks of the Mersey and in a prime location on Liverpool’s waterfront. See link below:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/3009397/Evertons-stadium-fit-for-a-king.html

Note the phrase ‘we will not let this chance pass us by’...

All Everton had to do was find £30m. £30m that would have set Everton up to a potential lifetime of guaranteed income and progress. Here lies the issue: Bill Kenwright told the fans that this £30m was 'ring-fenced'. However, when the time came for Everton to prove they had their share of the money, it simply was not there. This is the link which shows quotes how Everton found getting that money problematical, and so the dream of this stadium ended:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/e/everton/2940481.stm

How can finding £30m be problematic if it is ring-fenced? He has always refused to answer these questions. Imagine where Everton could be now, with a 55,000-seater stadium, which would also have hosted concerts, banquets, conferences etc, for the measly sum of £30m. The dream died and no questions were asked. Kenwright said he would learn from the experience.

This led to the high-profile power struggle with Paul Gregg which dragged the club's name through the mud. Gregg, a multimillionaire and a friend of Kenwright for over 30 years, agreed to help his friend buy out Peter Johnson in 1999. But he fell out with Kenwright and sought help, and he found it in the shape of Robert Earl, Planet Hollywood founder. Robert Earl bought out Gregg’s shares, but note the following article which claims Earl had no interest in providing funds for Moyes, or any interest in the search for a new stadium. This is a promise that has actually come true for once from a board member! So, what is his role then? What is the point on him being on the Everton Board? He is still there now, and the only time we have ever heard of him is when he got Sylvester Stallone to attend a match in 2007; not one penny invested.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/e/everton/6072510.stm

Moving on, and we look at some more facts about that era, which include some famous quotes from our Chairman:

In June 2004, Kenwright said he would not entertain the idea of selling Wayne Rooney — even if we received a bid for £50m. See article below:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/e/everton/3822981.stm

Rooney was sold 2 months later in a deal worth £20m rising to £27m. Why make statements like this only to back down 2 months later? If Rooney wanted to go, that doesn’t matter; it was a cheap deal and it broke Everton fans' hearts.

Kenwright apparently ‘desperately’ sought investment in 2004; the infamous Fortress Sports Fund was set up to be our magical saviour and it all looked rosy — see link below:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/e/everton/3643618.stm

We were told the money would be in Everton’s bank by Christmas 2004. However, this deal fell through and no explanation was ever offered. Why? Why did another deal fall through? In 1 year we lost Kings Dock, we had a public fallout at Board level, we sold Rooney, and an investment opportunity fell through. No questions where ever answered... Just ignored until forgotten.

Around this time in 2004, Everton appointed a Chief Executive, Trevor Birch, whose objective it was to find investment or ways of getting investment into the club. Six weeks later, he resigned, with no official explanation, but rumours of a rift with the Board after having seen the state of the finances; he told Kenwright to sell the club, plus other alternatives where dismissed. Again, it was brushed under the carpet and another embarrassing episode forgotten.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/e/everton/3901225.stm

A quiet couple of years, mainly due to the miracle that Moyes performed in getting Everton to a 4th-place finish in 2005. Even at this time, when we had one chance to try and push on, we played a Champions League qualifier having signed one new player, Simon Davies. We kicked off without a recognised left back and eventually lost to Villarreal over two legs. We went on to finish 11th and the chance of progress was lost. This season was followed by the start of the farce that was the Kirkby project. This materialised from 2007 and was the first evidence of public fan unrest with the Board, with the KEIOC group (Keep Everton in our City) opposed to the Kirkby move, set up to provide opposition to the move and to prove the plans where doomed from the start.

Everton claimed it was the ‘Deal of the Century’, and had to come up with £78m to fund their bit towards a project involving Tescos. However, a lot of fans were unhappy with this potential move as it would have pushed Everton outside the city boundaries. So, Everton decided to put the matter to a vote. Out of the fans that voted, 41% said No to the move, with a lot sitting on the fence. This was surely too large a number of fans to ignore? But the People’s Club again ignored a large proportion of their people and pressed ahead with the move. The move fell through anyway, as KEIOC predicted, and it therefore added to the failure of the Kings Dock project. People might say at least they tried, but both projects increased debt due to borrowing for legal fees, architects etc and both projects ultimately failed. Another bit of proof, if needed, that the business acumen of this Board is not up to the task of running a big Premier League club.

Since then there are numerous other promises or statements which have failed to materialise. This list gives just a snippet of some of the things from the start that have been said that have either failed to materialise, or that Kenwright has gone back on:

“I’ve not got the big money, but I promise to find investment” – Bill Kenwright January 2000 after acquiring EFC. Still waiting 11 years on

“The NTL deal is secured”Bill Kenwright, September 2000. The deal fell through

” I wouldn’t sell Rooney for £50m” – Bill Kenwright, June 2004. In August he was sold for a deal worth £27m

“The Fortress money will be in the bank in the morning” – Bill Kenwright speaking at the EGM (remember them?), September 2004. The deal collapsed and was never explained

“Kirkby will be a world class arena, effectively free and with the best transport links in the UK” – Bill Kenwright speaking at the AGM, November 2006

“If we don’t leave Goodison soon the place will lose its safety certificate” – Bill Kenwright, December 2007

“David will have cash to spend this summer” – Bill Kenwright, May 2009. We spent nothing until the sale of Lescott.

“Joleon is not for sale” – Bill Kenwright, August 2009

‘’David will have cash to spend this summer’’ – Bill Kenwright, May 2010

As you can see, these are not just over-dramatic headlines we are making up. It is there in black and white to see. And if you conduct some more research you will probably find some more hidden gems. However, the biggest concern for Evertonians is the lack of investment or the lack of takeover, and indeed, what is it exactly that the club want, and how much do they want for the club? That is, if the club is for sale in the first place!

For example, on 26 August 2010, this piece in the media was released

http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/everton-fc/everton-fc-news/2010/08/26/show-me-the-money-demands-bill-kenwright-but-potential-buyers-are-just-time-wasters-everton-fc-latest-92534-27140365/

Kenwright says that there are people out there who have looked at buying the club but then never show up with the money. So, every potential investor who ever has an interest in Everton gets to the final stages but never come up with the money? Really? If that is so then why? Why are people not showing up with the money? Who are these people he claims where interested? From saying there are no buyers out there, to saying 4 or 5 buyers came close but they ALL disappeared without a trace? They all just suddenly disappeared conveniently? Was it due to the amount they were asking, or were they even there to begin with? No names were mentioned — why not? Surely there is nothing wrong with telling us who they were. He had no problem naming the Fortress Sports Fund after all. It all doesn’t add up. We are treated as fools and there is never any honesty.

The last time we heard from Kenwright was in April this year when he again told us there were three interested parties. See link below:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1315718/Everton-supremo-Bill-Kenwright-reveals-hes-talks-parties-possible-sale.html

So where have they gone? Co-incidentally this was the same time the club where advertising season tickets, so maybe it was to lead us into a false sense of security that something is happening? Or again, have they disappeared into the sunset without coming up with the money? It all needs exploring, because surely there is something not right that so many people are interested but then are never heard of again. As said, are we asking too much? Is the club for sale?

Jack Hayward, former owner of Wolves, sacrificed everything for the love of his club. Like Kenwright, a lifelong club fan, he realised he could not take his beloved Wolves any further and so for the sake of the future of the club, sold the club for £10, on the proviso that whoever took the club on, injected £30m into the club. Hayward invested millions into Wolves but wanted no return. A superb gift from a football man. Wolves are now ready to build a new stand to increase capacity to 30,000 plus. They are in a position of not having to sell, have a £0 net debt, and have a wealthy owner in Steve Morgan. Now nobody is expecting Kenwright to do that — not at all... But it does make you think, doesn’t it? If Kenwright is such a Big Blue, as he proclaims, surely after 11 years, a solution would have been forthcoming by now? Food for thought...

There are so many issues and concerns that never get answered and it all boils down to the fact we have no communication with the Board whatsoever. Evertonians have more pride than just marching up and down streets and protesting, but it’s getting to a point now where frustrations are ready to boil over. All these issues are facts, and to say we are the People's Club at the moment feels a little bit two-faced.

We would like this to get some attention from the media, some reports and investigations into the goings-on of the once great Everton Football Club. With all due respect to the Boltons, Wigans, Stokes etc of this world, we are a big club: 9 times Champions of England, founder members of the Football League, massive tradition and massive support. We have a fine manager in place, and a nucleus of a decent squad, but it cannot go any further under this regime. The reason we have had good finishes is down to Moyes — not down to the investment in the club. The media have helped with the likes of Liverpool’s situation, Man United’s situation etc... but nothing ever gets said. It is time for answers and it is time for change.

Everton is run by a Board with a complete lack of vision. For example, we have no assets anymore as we have sold everything off. The new training ground we have, Finch Farm, has been sold and we lease it back. We also lease the club shops that we have, which as an FYI is the only place Everton fans can purchase merchandise due to a deal with Kitbag. No high street stores are allowed to sell Everton merchandise. Even the club shop in the corner of the Gwladys Street End is permanently shut now — even on matchdays! How is this the People's Club, or the best for the fans? As the club motto states ‘nothing but the best is good enough’. Does the Board really abide by our motto? I don’t think so. Evidence also suggests not.

Last summer we had the Dan Gosling affair:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/jul/07/dan-gosling-everton-free-agent

He shot to fame with the Blues for scoring a last-minute winner against Liverpool in an FA Cup game. He was waiting for a contract to be offered in writing, but it never came and so his agent looked elsewhere. This angered the club who said they had a gentleman’s agreement. But who has a gentleman’s agreement in modern football? If you want the kid, you get him signed up! Simple.

Gosling went for free and cost us around £4m, his estimated value. It also cost Plymouth some precious money from future sales revenue. The player and particularly his agent are clearly not blameless here, but it should never have got to this situation, and it was another epic failure from the Goodison hierarchy.

The latest debacle is a project behind the Park End stand at Goodison Park. Last year, Everton announced in conjunction with one of its partners, Kitbag, that it was to open up a multi-story complex which would house corporate hospitality, a museum, a café and a restaurant and that it would be of minimal cost to the club. See link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-10876811

Great, a lot of fans thought, a step in the right direction. But yet again, the development has stalled and could even have collapsed, and the club has offered three different excuses as to why this has happened. KEIOC talk about this shambles in this piece on their website:

http://www.keioc.net/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=344&cntnt01returnid=15

At the time of writing this, half the wall around the Park End has been knocked down when work started, but has since just been left there. The errors keep mounting up and it’s only a matter of time before it will catch up with them. There are also continuous rumors from ‘in the know’ people who claim the involvement of Sir Philip Green is increasingly influential. This is rumour of course, but it is something that needs investigating; there is no smoke without fire.

The revenue streams are not good enough for a club our size either. A kit deal with Le Coq Sportif and a bright pink away kit highlights how they consider fans' feelings. How many men going the game would buy a Le Coq Sportif bright pink kit? I cannot remember seeing one, put it that way.

We are never involved in prestigious pre-season tournaments, also a chance to raise the profile in different countries — why not? We have the most famous and favorite player in Australian history playing for us in Tim Cahill. Do we have club shops in Australia, or links to improve communication with the fans over there? Not a chance. How about America through Tim Howard and Landon Donovan’s excursions with the blues? Not a chance. The forward thinking is just not there.

The ambition of the hierarchy just does not match ours. We are losing a young generation of football fans as it is 16 years without a trophy now, the longest period in the club's history. We are over 3,000 season tickets down on sales this time last year. The die-hards will continue to go, every club has them, but a lot of the general public are giving up. Some people are refusing to go now as they will not go and spend their money on a club that is not showing ambition. We have no transfer budget every summer, it’s constantly sell-to-buy. We have to sit back and watch club after club overtake us (at least financially) and now enough is enough.

As my dear old dad says, it’s us he feels for — the younger lads. He has seen us win titles and cups and even watched a World Cup game staged at the then wonderful Goodison Park. It really is heartbreaking to hear of all the triumphs and great sides, from the Holy Trinity to Kendall’s marvels, who I can just about remember, but our younger fans won’t.

There are some fans groups that have been set up with the aim of questioning the Board. KEIOC (Keep Everton in our City) http://www.keioc.net/, were originally set up with the aim of opposing the Kirkby move. It now runs much deeper than that. Its members have reached over 3,000 now, and some great research and insight into the workings of our club have been conducted by the site's founders, and can easily be tracked for views and opinions. A piece by one if its members can be seen here in the Liverpool Echo in February:

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2011/02/17/everton-fc-in-focus-supporters-organisations-give-their-views-on-the-way-forward-for-the-blues-100252-28185371/

Another group has been set up called Evertonians for Change; they have their own website and a facebook page http://www.facebook.com/EvertoniansforChange?v=info which keeps fans up-to-date with their goings on.

We know people support Kenwright too, but feel this is more a case of 'better the devil you know', with some of the failed takeovers that have happened in the Premier League. We are aware of the risks a takeover will bring. However we also believe that keeping this current Board is a bigger risk than what any takeover may yield.

Being cheap and nasty with no future vision will catch up with us in the end. It may be when Moyes leaves, or it may be a poor season. Either way, you cannot continue to punch above your weight for too long, and rely on your manager to overperform, year-in, year-out. Kenwright insists that we need a billionaire, but all it takes is someone to come in with good business acumen and a vision with aims of increasing revenue, and to be open and honest with the fans, which this present Board clearly are not.

We look forward to you investigating and reporting on this, and feel that, if we have the media behind us running with this, we will be able to put some pressure on the Board to at least give us some answers... or ultimately stepping aside to let someone better equipped take over our club.

We do not like doing this, but we will do whatever it takes to oust this board. We are aware that certain media outlets are close to the club, or even ‘friendly’ with certain Board members, so we will be monitoring how this gets reported. However, we offer you the chance to be open and honest with us and approach this from a neutral perspective.

If you investigate properly, you should get a fascinating report out of this, with a growing bandwagon of fans backing this campaign who are now growing tired with the same thing, year-in and year-out. No future, no vision, no ambition, no money and no communication.
Over to you; we look forward to your response.

The People's Group

Original Source: The People's Group

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