COLUMNIST JOHN HOLMES
Roger Davis has recently been posting pretty inflammatory claims about the nature of several of the club's dealings. Some of these are rooted in fact, some conjecture, others silent sources and all accompanied by plenty of speculation. The ‘truth’ struck a chord though as it brought together many of the arguments that have fuelled the negativity Michael wrote about in his ‘Call it curiosity’ blog.
I used to be an active Toffeeweb user and columnist but haven’t posted anything substantive in over a year due to life getting in the way. However, as someone who was generous in indulging the current administration’s faults due to a belief they were taking the club in the right direction, and was actively encouraged and promoted by the editorial staff presumably to maintain this balance in what was Tony Marsh’s fertile period, I felt maybe a rebuke to Roger’s arguments was needed. So, here it is an alternative truth from a sunnier disposition.
At the core of most of the arguments regarding the club’s non-footballing status is money. The football at Everton is largely progressing nicely — slower than some would like, but things are, at worst, on the rails whilst not moving terribly quickly. This quiet movement though means the screaming inadequacy of the club’s finances cannot be shouted down on the pitch. This week’s debate has been; “just how much DID we spend this summer?” — the CEO and the manager seem in some dispute.
The broad technical details of the club’s financial position are largely undisputed: the club is technically (but not actually) insolvent and money is being spent before we have it in order to prop up the footballing side of the business and service its various debts. Transfer funds are primarily provided from sales — Bill Kenwright’s personal wealth long since stopped being sufficient to support this. Various third parties, overdrafts and loans have kept things moving.
On the plus side, these debts appear to be stably managed and the club is secure in the medium-term despite its poverty. The acknowledgement of these points and the impact they have on the club throws the focus on to the moral probity of those managing the situation and that’s where the alternative truth comes in.
I have no secret sources and no connections to the club or interested parties around the city. Nonetheless, the conspiracy-tinged vilification that Kenwright is subjected too is, I believe, a fundamental misreading of his character. Claims that he is using the club to make a quick buck, that his apparent standing by his man is a sham, that Kirkby is a profiteering exit strategy and that the club maliciously lies to its fan-base do not stand up in my eyes.
Kenwright is a hopeless romantic. Anyone who has listened to him being interviewed about his relationship with the club should understand that he wants the best for it and wants to see the glory days return. Separate that from the practical realities, rather than instantly questioning why he’s moving us to a cowshed, and arguing "if he loves us, he should let us go".
His romanticism has got him into a mess. When the club was steamrolling all opposition in its bid to be the first big name to crash in on the Premier League era, he saw himself as our White Knight. Unfortunately, he failed to spot that his personal wealth and business connections were supremely inadequate for the direction football was taking. Within a few years, he’s out of his depth and in need of an exit strategy for both his own and his beloved club’s good.
The club cannot compete without a new stadium, which he cannot afford... and he cannot find someone who can without a new stadium — Catch 22. Kirkby comes along; he can deliver this. It’s within budget, it’s acceptable enough, though not desirable, to a sufficient number of fans to avoid a revolt and, with the plans in place, buyers may start circling.
Delays abound, though, and suddenly the problem worsens. Now he has a potential stadium, potential buyers and a pretty successful footballing operation. But who’s going to sign the contracts and buy the club when the stadium is up in the air? Would you settle on the price for a house when the estate agent tells you that the roof is still subject to planning permission?
In my view, that is where Kenwright stands. No scheming, no profiteering, simply an Evertonian wading far out of his depth in a business that plays by its own rules. Unable to progress but increasingly struggling to maintain the status quo. Less "won’t get out" than "can’t get out" (... possibly even forbidden). Maybe the Kirkby decision will prove me wrong, but I suspect a lot will change in a short time when the answer finally comes through — especially if it’s Yes.
The rest follows from these arguments. Yes, the Lescott money was always a temptation for the board and manager who were aware they had no transfer funds to speak of. Unsurprisingly they didn’t announce this to the fans and instead put a ‘we don’t need your money’ face to the world. Dishonest? Yes. Pragmatic? Definitely.
I suspect Moyes knew he might have to lose his man but he certainly wasn’t going to bullied into accepting any less than his asking price by a bunch of big money upstarts with a myopic focus on our second-best defender when the world was their oyster (seriously — an unlimited transfer budget and you can’t look beyond someone who has never looked comfortable in an England shirt?).
If Moyes has brought anything to Everton, he’s given us back our dignity and this was a classic display of Evertonian pride from the Scot.
Claims that Kenwright didn’t choose Moyes and had people lined up to replace him are irrelevant and reassuring. Why should a theatre impresario choose a football club’s manager? He took the right advice and got to the right decision.
If Kenwright made enquiries regarding replacements for Moyes when things were at their lowest ebb then I’m glad. Moyes is no fool. He knew he was on the ropes and Kenwright quietly (and it was quiet — unlike the Ramos/Jol debacle at Spurs) making sure an orderly change could be made whilst still publicly supporting the manager is nothing less than I’d expect. In the end, again, he made the right decision and it's paid dividends.
The club itself seems to slowly be getting its ship in order. Elstone strikes me as a highly competent and shrewd CEO with an open, honest streak becoming of the fan’s desire for transparency. There will always be limits to this and I’m sure examples will be posted of his deceitful heresy to the Everton Way but I find him a breath of fresh air at the club.
Moyes remains a manager sought after by many and, whilst his defensive style will never be to some fans’ taste, this is not a sin in itself. For me, his qualities far outweigh his failings which he, unlike many, does seem to recognise and seek to address in time.
The official website, where so many stories that stoke the ire of the fanbase emerge (be it claims about incoming signings, money to spend, or deals of the century) is not a news source or the broadcaster of the Evertonian gospel. It’s a PR tool for the public equivalent of press releases — accept this and complaints against these ‘lies’ become somewhat weakened.
The club needs to show a positive face somewhere — God knows there’s enough places showing its negative side — let it have its PR machine.
Everton needs a buyer. Kenwright is lacking. Kirkby is a disappointment before it’s even built. Despite these things, I firmly believe there is nothing rotten at the core of Everton. Just a dreamer who thought he could rescue us and his own often self-acknowledged flaws. The rest is just PR and small-fry.
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1 Posted 12/09/2009 at 17:19:05
You can’t have a discussion about Kirkby without involving both of those money-men, nor can you talk of transparency when neither of Earl or Green’s roles have clearly been explained and the dissenting voices who dare question those roles are being strangled by the hierarchy’s decision to end AGMs/EGMs.
Roger’s point is that there has been misinformation on an unacceptable scale, most of it perpetrated by Keith Wyness and mostly out of necessity — how else could the travesty of Kirkby have ever got the green light from the fans? Kenwright’s image as the lovable luvvie who is just the Chairman and "what do I know about the logisticis of the stadium" doesn’t fool me. You don’t become a West End theatre impresario and millionaire by not knowing the ins and outs of your operation.
So... given all the bullshit — and there has been a LOT of bullshit — you can forgive fans for wondering just how much truth there is in Roger’s articles. I happen to believe there is more in there than we’d all like to admit.
2 Posted 12/09/2009 at 18:11:05
The one thing I would also mention though is a reply to the fact that you state "The club cannot compete without a new stadium, which he cannot afford... ......and it’s "Less "won’t get out" than "can’t get out""
Is it me or did he have the PERFECT opportunity to both "get out" and allow the club to move forward, when a certain Mr Gregg offered to underwrite the Kings Dock proposal? But he dug his heels in and blocked it. Apologies if that is incorrect (I’m not from the City), but from what I’ve been reading that is the general concencus.
3 Posted 12/09/2009 at 18:37:50
a) Pay top dollar
b) Might have to wait out a long time
c) Provide over the top wages to get their man
In most cases it may be easier just looking for someone else, somewhere else. So, even though we sold a key asset, we have definitely not been tagged a "selling club" yet.
The money in turn has been spent on financing a replacement, strengthening some key areas (wing and right back).
The problem with the player market is like with any other market - is of liquidity. Its not often that a buyer comes to pay over the top for a player that they really really want. When it does happen, the pragmatic thing to do is to sell. It all just happened a little too late in the season. But plenty of football yet to be played on the field
4 Posted 12/09/2009 at 20:08:41
Politics, behind the scenes manouveres, bungs, new grounds, new plans, selling of our best players, bringing in new blood, we cannot climb to the highest branches with what we have. We will always be there or thereabouts unless and until the playing field is made more level.
At least Platini has seen something of the light — games in the CL are becoming too predictable, there is too much sport being played, per se. Witness the endless 1-day games between us and the Aussies. Who gives a monkeys about the winners or losers, the players are making a mint and it's just another day at the office.
I really hope we win the Europa League, but something somewhere is bending and breaking in the wind, and our club may be one of the boughs that finally breaks.
5 Posted 12/09/2009 at 20:30:46
Gregg didn’t offer to under write the kings dock. It was the opposite of what you say.
6 Posted 12/09/2009 at 20:48:48
Thanks for the link, much appreciated.
Seems to be conflicting info available, as Wikipidia (I know I know!) claims something different.
Was the claim on this link that "Gregg first came to the attention of Everton fan’s, when he became the main driver behind the King’s Dock scheme, promising to plough in an additional £30M to get the project moving" perhaps based on events that occured after the Post’s article? I have just noticed also that the Wiki article actually referncde this site as a source?!
Sorry, going a bit off topic here.
7 Posted 12/09/2009 at 20:56:12
I think that whole Kings Dock thing came too early in Kenwright’s reign to be a possible "get out" opportunity for him.
8 Posted 12/09/2009 at 21:17:31
9 Posted 12/09/2009 at 23:10:21
"The club cannot compete without a new stadium" — yet we seem to be & I doubt the addition of a load of extra debt for a very modest return will actually make us competitive!
"He cannot find someone who can without a new stadium" — any club can be sold with or without a new stadium, the only issue is the price involved.
Elstone looks a big improvement on Wyness, but that ain’t saying much — he certainly hasn’t yet justified the praise you lavish on him.
"Moyes remains a manager sought after by many" — is he really? I don’t recall the queue when his contract negotiations were stalled last summer.
10 Posted 12/09/2009 at 22:40:41
I have yet to read or hear from any source the truth regarding the running of our football club, what problems we have, who are the real power-brokers, how our finances are being managed, what is our transfer strategy and options... and nor do I expect to. The running of the football club is the responsibility of those who have boardroom passes and the detail of what goes on in there is never for public consumption; to those who claim to know the secrets of that room, I say to them ’phooey’.
I have no doubt that from time to time the power-brokers may want to release a little something that they feel might benifit them without having to say it themselves and choose one outlet or another to facilitate that aim. Those in the chosen outlet may well kid themselves that they have the inside track but in the end that is all they are doing — kidding themselves and being exploited at the same time.
I am a fan who cares greatly about the wellbeing of my club but I have no remote idea of our position, viability as a business, or who is really in charge of such things.
The only thing I can have a valid opinion on is what I see on the pitch in terms of squad depth, a depth sufficient to see us through a season competing well in the four competitions that we have entered.
It’s at this point I begin to wonder just what the state of our club is when I note that we were unable to do any transfer business until an asset that wasn’t for sale was sold. The manager, on Radio Merseyside, saying he was disappointed in not being able to get another three or four players in as we really need them at this point.
I will never know the answers and neither will any other fan or shareholder because we are not privy to that boardroom.
All we can hope for is this sort of steady building can keep us competing near the top and be ready to take advantage of investment when and if it arrives. The truth I fear will never be told but results on the pitch, buying and selling of players in transfer windows the outcome and reaction to the Kirkby decision will be transparent and indicators that give fans some indication of how we are doing. No one else will tell us and to those that say they know the ’Truth’ then unless they are a member of the boardroom I will have to take it with a pinch of salt.
For all I know, we may be doing rather well or on the other hand be near administration or somewhere in-between. So I will content myself in observing the fortunes of the squad assembled for this season and hope for great things.
The truth thing I will leave to crystal ball gazers, please keep posting them though as it can be fascinating stuff.
11 Posted 13/09/2009 at 00:11:58
I am so positive about what Moyes and the lads are doing on the pitch busting their arses every week but I am totally dissatisfied with what is going on upstairs and have been for some considerable time.
I have the privilege (if you call it that) of knowing Peter Johnson, Phil Carter and Cliff Finch. They are acquaintances who I have done some business with and in mixing in their circles I know probably a lot more than most Evertonians about what goes on upstairs.
However, I will always put forward my own viewpoint and, in truth, my own bias rather than hearsay.
I would like to make a few points in regards to what has been posted thus far.
First of all BK was no white knight when nobody else would step forward. PJ wanted out quickly due to the adverse reaction from the supporters and a deal was done behind closed doors (BK and PJ were still very friendly despite their previous battle for control of the club). The club was never "on the market". So those people claiming nobody else came forward are barking up the wrong tree.
Secondly Kenwright and pals aquired the majority shareholding for £20 million and once again as BK only had £1 million to his name (from remortgaging his house); questions abound about how he managed to get his chunk but there can only ever be speculation about that because very few know.
However, this raises an issue with me. If BK got the club for £20 million with £5 million in debts, why is he now asking for £120 million plus £80 million in debts plus £150 million for a cowshed in Kirkby?
Surely if he loves the club so much, he would gift a large chunk of that to enable a much better stadium and location.
As to Paul Gregg and Kings Dock, that was the point I finally lost all respect for Bill Kenwright. For 2 years he led the council and fans up the garden path stating that the £30 million EFC were required to put up for a £300 million development was "ring-fenced".
Then, when pushed by the council, he asked Gregg to put the £30 million up and Gregg told him he was not happy the way the club was being run but would put the £30 million up if Bill changed the share structure or gave him a reverse mortgage.
Kenwright’s response to this was run a campaign through the media discrediting Gregg’s football credentials after Gregg called on him to step down. That’s now history but still rankles with a lot of people.
He then follows that by clamping down on the small shareholders who dared to question what was going on with Kirkby. Only this week we get the claim from the Chief executive that we spent £8 million more than we got for Lescott... and Moyes, obviously rankled by this, says, according to his maths, we spent £19 million, which is about what we netted for Lescott before we get the add ons and after paying Wolves their share.
At the start of Summer we had Phil Carter staing how excited he was about new signings and Elstone saying we hoped to do business early this year because we learned the lessons from last year.
Like you I had a lot of hope for Elstone because he appeared to be dealing with some of the issues that needed it but he now seems to have joined the culture that has developed since Kenwright took over of talking TOTAL bullshit. It used to be enough that Ian Ross and Wyness came out with it but now Elstone too...
That is why myself and quite a few other supporters have had it with Kenwright. You may feel that that’s negativity but its how I feel about the supposed "Blue" Bill.
12 Posted 13/09/2009 at 02:41:39
What really, really got the backs of the Council up was with the collapse of the KD scheme, after all of the hard work to get preferred bidder status, a lot of that money was "lost" to the city, as there was no project left to spend that allocation on.
For that reason alone, a lot of people who worked tirelessly on that scheme (consultants yes, but Evertonians, and season ticket holders despite being London-based) cannot ever forgive the blustering Chairman we have now.
Incidentally, Jay you may be able to confirm this, didn’t Cliff Finch sell a lot of his shares to "ordinary" fans? Met him a couple of times and always thought he was a gent. Was he involved in Nightfreight? (Memory is fading! Too many Walter Smith "4 full backs across the defence" nightmares!)
13 Posted 13/09/2009 at 04:02:06
Cliff was Managing director of Park Foods and worked for Peter Johnson in the hamper business.
PJ then added EFC to his duties and he was stretched to do both jobs but nonetheless as you say was a very nice guy with time for anybody.
They also set up "Nightfreight" as a bolt-on to the hamper business but it didn't work out as well as they thought.
Coming back to the KD debacle I think the grants totalled £195 million which was unprecedented.
It makes me sick to think back what might have been and also for some of the posters who give the council flack for the current lack of support to EFC.
I know many of them refused to work with Kenwright ever again and thereby lies our problem.
So instead of our leader trying to patch things up he sticks two fingers up and proposes to go to Kirkby... sums the man up.
14 Posted 13/09/2009 at 06:29:45
Both sides ’seem’ to have some elements of the story and God knows we mostly all love a conspiracy. But for every 10 points they put up and we can only pick say 3 or 4 and still not know if they are true or not.
Just as it could be said that there are (say) 200 ’one true religions’ in reality there can only be ONE and who can say that it is not one of the more obscure ones.
The Umpire will call time when the DK result comes out, then things may clarify, but with this Club DON’T watch this space.
The truth is out there.... cue X-Files music.
15 Posted 13/09/2009 at 08:26:54
16 Posted 13/09/2009 at 08:39:02
I also seem to remember Elstone saying at the Kirkby enquiry that the current board have not invested "one single penny" in the club? One can only assume that we are being funded by Philip Green?
I do tend to agree with the posts submitted by Jay Harris.
17 Posted 13/09/2009 at 10:35:26
Generally, I agree with Ken Buckley in that I’m 99% interested in the football and 1% in the business. However, I felt someone needed to present the surface level arguments from a different perspective, if for no other reason than highlighting that, from another angle, some of the more exaggerated claims can look a bit silly.
The reality is far more complex but the way that complexity is interpreted is contingent on your starting points. If the only starting point is the wealth of material alleging conspiracy, malignant intention and self-interest then analysis of detail will be covered. Hopefully, what it lacks in detail my piece makes up for in alternative foundations.
Finally, in resposne to Lyndon’s initial response, I fully accept there are questions marks about Green (primarily) and Earl (to a lesser extent). However, Kenwright’s business acumen isn’t necessarily sufficient to disppell the idea of the romantic out of his depth. He has the competency to run the club. But, in the billion pound football economy, he’s small fry. A millionaire to an average earner can still be a nobody to a billionaire. The point I’m making is there are levels of acumen and I still feel that Kenwright has got in seeing himself as a saviour as the waters have risen around his limited resources.
18 Posted 14/09/2009 at 02:24:34
Can I ask John Holmes to eplain this for me: "The club cannot compete without a new stadium, which he cannot afford... and he cannot find someone who can without a new stadium — Catch 22."
I’m sorry but why is a new investor/owner dependent on Kirkby? I believe this is a myth perpetrated by Kenwright. Another Kenwright scare story in order to get his own way. If Kenwright and chums can make money out of Everton with the millstone that is Goodision tied around their necks then why the hell would it put anyone else off.
This man has single-handedly (he is the one who claims Green is just a friend so he can shoulder all of the blame himself) crushed my faith in my beloved Everton. The only time I go near the Official site is to confirm a transfer and even then I’ll try and go to the BBC or similar first.
You can stick Kirkby up your arse, Kenwright. I’ll never set foot in the place. Maybe if we all took direct action, then this clown, like the clown before him, would have to sell up for a price that reflects what he’s put in.
19 Posted 14/09/2009 at 02:56:36
“You can work it out yourself,” said the Goodison manager. “Bilyaletdinov, Heitinga and Distin came to roughly £19m give or take a bit, and money we got back for Lescott after we paid Wolves is about £19m.
“We’ve only spent what we have brought in, we haven’t spent any other cash on top of that. That’s what it looks like to me. Times are hard, so I will work to what I can do.”
Another example of that twat Kenwright trying to make himself look good at anyone else’s expense. Moyes is asked to work with fuck all and Kenwright even wants to take the credit for this away from him.
Wake up John for fuck's sake.
20 Posted 14/09/2009 at 03:35:51
His body language at Fulham reminded me of his body language last summer. Given the evidence, God only knows why Kenwright still has the support of yourself and others.
I’m not a city type and I know SFA about the goings on in our club but I know a man who worked for Kenwright who swears he’s a grade A twat who’s in it for what he can get. A couple of CEOs and now possibly our own manager would seem to agree. Sorry if I’ve ranted but I’m so frustrated that this man is being allowed to lead us into oblivion (Kirkby) with hardly a murmer of protest. I suspect that one day the truth will come out but by then it could be too late. Yes, Kenwright cares about Everton but I’d suggest he cares about Bill Kenwright more.
21 Posted 14/09/2009 at 10:34:02
Immediately after the infamous Samuleson AGM in December 2004 (refresh your memories here - http://www.toffeeandtayto.com/AGM_2004.htm) and all the talk of "exclusivity agreements" etc. I spoke to Paul Gregg about what had just happened. For those who don’t recall it, the appearance of Samuelson at the AGM was a real surprise, and having watched Paul Gregg’s body language throughout the AGM - a mixture of disbelief and discomfort - and having spoken to him on the phone a few times regarding the Rooney transfer I was keen to get his view on things.
Paul Gregg stated quite categorically that the whole thing was a complete smokescreen and that he had never seen Samuelson before that night in his life. He said there was no such exclusivity agreement in place (because he would have had to sign it as a member of the board) and he seemed quite bemused by the audacity of it all. Whether this is true or not, I will leave it to you to decide, but it is a fact that this conversation took place immediately after that AGM. It is also a fact that Everton’s Head of PR later confirmed via email that the Samuelson AGM had simply been "a means to an end".
22 Posted 14/09/2009 at 15:41:52
I’m currently more concerned about the well-being of the Manager. At the start of last season, the poor form was directly linked to the period of time taken to agree the terms and conditions of his contract. As soon as the terms were agreed and the contract signed, the team kicked into gear.
Although speculation on my behalf, one of those terms surely had to be that we did not repeat the previous failings in the summer transfer market. In fact, Moyes is on record as saying that he wanted all business done early so that he could prepare his team for the new season. We did not do this again and the manager has had to rely almost solely on the funds from the Lescott deal and will almost certainly feel let down.
He must surely be frustrated with this and this frustration surely has to be a factor in the teams current poor form. For example. What the hell went on in yesterday's half-time team talk? Nothing of any substance by the look of the second-half performance.
Someone has let our manager down and I think he may possibly leave this season. I for one wouldn’t blame him if he did.
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