Liverpool City Council is proposing to loan Everton Football Club £280 million towards the £500 million it will cost to build a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. Mayor Joe Anderson has reassured everyone that the potential profit for the city will be £175 million, that this will protect jobs and services, and the loan will not come out of cash earmarked for day-to-day services.
Is this really such a great deal? Or is it a 25-year gamble on the future of football finances? Like other Premier League clubs, the huge Sky TV deal, worth £5 billion, has transformed Everton’s finances with a record profit of £30 million recorded. TV income rose from £82 million in 2016 to £130 million in 2017 or 76% of income (TV – £130 million, Gate Receipts – £14 million, Sponsorship – £15 million and Other Activities – £11 million). But just how secure is the TV money?
For some time, the richest clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool – have been lobbying the Premier League for a larger slice of the TV money. In Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid signed their own exclusive TV deals, even though the Spanish Parliament changed this to a deal involving all clubs, the new deal still gives a large slice to the two richest clubs.
The £3 billion overseas television deal for 2016-19 generates £39M annually for each club – and for the previous 25 years, there has been an equal sharing of international broadcasting income between the clubs. Once again, the same suspects listed above have been lobbying to change this arrangement.
The big game changer would of course be the creation of a European Super League – something that has been floated on a regular basis over the last few years. The potential riches are an alluring prospect for the wealthy elite. However, it would leave the domestic leagues as a poor relation starved of TV money.
Finally, when it comes to football finances, there is the dreaded ‘R’ word – relegation. In America, all the richest sports – Football, Baseball and Basketball – are franchises; relegation isn’t a prospect and that is one reason why American billionaires have been wary about investing in the Premier League. Relegation won’t happen? Only the most incurable optimist would refuse to accept it as a possibility for Everton this season. Relegation, despite the parachute payments, is a costly and potentially fatal blow to a club’s finances... Blackburn and Aston Villa being the prime examples.
In the worst-case scenario, if a club goes into administration or is liquidated, then all outstanding debts can be written off. Glasgow Rangers are still negotiating pay-offs for creditors with financial experts predicting ‘pence per pound’ for any creditors.
Liverpool City Council are proposing to borrow the £280 million from the Public Works Loan Board at 1% interest and then loan this to Everton, receiving a higher rate of interest in return. As the Financial Times reported, a number of councils are now engaging in property speculation as a way of generating income. Lord Oakeshott, chairman of Olim Property, investment manager of £650M of commercial property for pension funds, charities and investment trusts, said: “English councils punting on property is an accident waiting to happen.” He added: “There are real echoes here of Northern Rock, where many punters were lent all the purchase price of a property, and the Icelandic bank scandals, where councils played a market they didn’t understand for short-term income gain.”
Will there be full disclosure by Everton of all their current loans? For years, supporters have raised questions about the murky world of offshore accounting and Everton’s loans from the Vibrac Corporation based in the Cayman Islands. This issue was raised by Chester MP and Everton fan, Chris Matheson, in December 2016 at a committee session in the Commons. Everton’s accounts show that a loan was taken out as recently as 26 August 2016. This time, it was registered to a company called Rights and Media Funding Limited, which had changed its name from JG Funding at the end of 2015, the company’s only listed director was a Sligo born accountant Jonathan McMorrow.
Finally, the City Council claim that a new stadium will lead to ‘regeneration’ in North Liverpool with the prospect of thousands of new jobs being created. The impact of new football stadiums on the local economy is still a subject for academic research. However, if Everton do move away from Goodison Park, that will create a massive hole in the economy of County Road for a start. The enlarged 54,000-seater stadium at Anfield hasn’t exactly regenerated the local area. Will a stadium hosting 19 league games plus any cup games bring a substantial income into North Liverpool?
Aside from the tribal football rivalries with accusations that Joe Anderson is sanctioning the loan because ‘He’s a Blue’, there seems to be very little questioning or scrutiny of the deal. Call me Mr Cynical but, whenever I hear the phrase, "It’s a win-win", I do start asking questions. Is this really such a fantastic deal or a 25-year gamble on the future of football finances? If you do play in a casino, it’s usually the novices that get cleaned out... and if property dealing is such an easy business, why are there so many bankruptcies? Just ask Donald Trump...
Reader Comments (25)
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1 Posted 30/01/2018 at 09:39:03
Joe has quoted Finch Farm as an excellent deal for LCC, but there is some disparity between investing £10m in a training complex and lending £280m to what is after all, a private business.
I'm not sure who this vote will have to get past for this loan to be endorsed, but I have said that, regardless of the business case, there will be some extremely vocal opposition to this scheme, the main thrust being "Why are the people of this City underwriting loans to a billionaire?" A difficult sell to anyone.
Then we have the Carillion scandal on top of this; like it or not, the new Royal Hospital has been plagued by problems that will be another bone of contention for any critics. What if the builder goes bust in the middle of building any new stadium?
I'm hoping that, even after taking into consideration all the above, Moshiri can ultimately act as overall guarantor for the LCC monies, then I can see this project getting the green light.
The process has been quite transparent so far, with leases signed, legacy plans drawn up for L4 and the promise of thousands of jobs the club are putting massive pressure on LCC to sign off on this. That, in my opinion has been the wrong approach, they look like they are forcing the Council into this arrangement. This should have been done in private, because the fallout of any failure to deliver this scheme will now be extremely damaging.
I thought this was nailed on 12 months back, now; I'd guess there is a 50/50 chance of seeing our new home being erected on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey.
2 Posted 30/01/2018 at 09:47:38
On the subject of the Blue Mayor, it is hard to imagine that a Red Mayor would be quite so keen to re-enable our great club if he were in-post.
3 Posted 30/01/2018 at 11:04:37
Simplifying this a lot but the Council could and should hedge themselves against a possible default by Everton, by utilising some trading products, such as a Credit Default Swap. This essentially reduces the overall profit but also minimises the risk, because the Counterparty assumes the risk of default and other restructuring events in return for a regular payment.
4 Posted 30/01/2018 at 12:42:27
In considering your first question is this really such a great deal? It needs to be asked not only in relation to the club, but from the council and city's perspective also.
Like Kevin Tully, I can imagine there will be considerable opposition to this, both within the council chambers and from the electorate also for the reasons Kevin states.
I think you exaggerate a tad, Richard, by claiming 'if Everton do move away from Goodison Park, that will create a massive hole in the economy of County Road.'
Whilst some pubs and eateries around L4 may suffer and lose their best pay day in the week Everton have a match, I very much doubt that the majority of businesses in the area operate with the singular idea of maximising their income from match days alone.
By contrast, the new stadium location so close to the city centre, together with the visionary '10 Streets Plan' Anderson has tabled, is a project with far greater potential and likelihood to ‘regenerate' North Liverpool and create new jobs.
For the club, on the face of it, it looks an excellent deal, to have the council secure a loan which Everton will repay over 25 years at interest rates more favourable than they could otherwise arrange.
You question if it is a gamble taken on the future of football finances. Surely any secured loan is taken on some risk factor. Be it an individual's ability to hold down a job to receive a salary that ensures they can meet the monthly mortgage payments, or in this case a long-standing business/institution such as Everton backed by a billionaire majority shareholder.
You speculate on the possible collapse of the ever-spiralling monies Premier League clubs earn from media deals, as others continue to do. But rather than regress, those numbers constantly grow. And there are mega online media and commercial businesses who could enter the game and dwarf what the likes of Sky, BT and other current international licenced broadcasters currently pay.
You further speculate on the creation of a European Super League which could potentially tempt away the elite clubs from their domestic leagues. You presume if this scenario came to pass, the domestic leagues would be but poor relations, starved of TV money.
Because actual match attendance is so huge in England a recent report showed that for attendances from all the European leagues the Premier League is way out in front, the Bundesliga 2nd, and the English Championship in 3rd (beating the likes of La Liga and Serie A) people can be mistaken in believing football is equally avidly followed in other countries, both live and on TV. It isn't.
It has always been the case that Europe needs the presence of English clubs in the continent's club cup competitions, more than the reverse.
As such, a case could be made that the elite English clubs (of whom currently, sadly, Everton is not among) would be wary of turning their back on the domestic league for the Nirvana of a European League.
Finally, sorry, but I don't buy into your scaremongering when you throw in the dreaded ‘R' word – relegation. We are NOT going to be relegated! Not THIS season, anyway!
We are also in no danger of your 'worst-case scenario' of the club going into administration or being liquidated.
5 Posted 30/01/2018 at 17:37:20
This is where we started and we can be close to Goodison Park. It makes sense to me, although developing Goodison also makes sense.
6 Posted 30/01/2018 at 17:40:43
Apart from the fact that the Park is a facility for the people of Liverpool to enjoy, the prospect of an iconic stadium next to the Mersey where all the tourists can see it, as well as the Cruise Liner passengers, can only increase our profile around the world. A no-brainer.
7 Posted 30/01/2018 at 17:44:54
8 Posted 30/01/2018 at 18:20:44
9 Posted 30/01/2018 at 20:05:15
What problems building at Bramley-Moore?
10 Posted 30/01/2018 at 20:08:36
11 Posted 30/01/2018 at 22:48:06
How did the original docks get built? The docks they replaced?
In construction terms, there's no problems that can't be overcome. Not in this day and age.
Can't imagine how many construction companies are waiting for the bids to go out.
12 Posted 30/01/2018 at 23:02:25
13 Posted 31/01/2018 at 00:38:35
14 Posted 31/01/2018 at 01:25:31
Everything; the river, docks, houses sit on a shelf of the local sandstone. I doubt, given the number of surveys done for railway and road tunnels over the last 140 years that there is much there to surprise the stadium builders geologically... but this is Everton, so there's probably a Jules Verne-esque hidden world just where we want to dig.
15 Posted 31/01/2018 at 06:37:04
I have posted this on other stadium related threads but why would you fill a perfectly good whole in when you could sink the ground into it three metres and have another two levels of car park underneath that?
That, I think, has the potential to save construction costs three metres in height the full perimeter of the ground.
It would give you about 21 rows of seating each side of the pitch to the dock wall if you replicated the Goodison pitch width plus 5 metres each sided for the linesman and coaching area.
Not only would it solve any parking related problems it would also provided an additional source of income on match days (and through the week?). How much does it cost to park your car for 2 or 3 hours in Liverpool these days?
All you need is plenty of concrete (no Sam jokes please) and a vision. The site itself is terrific for construction, good road access, plenty of lay-down area, and presumably power and water supply.
The new stadium is my one source of Everton enthusiasm at the moment it's got to happen.
16 Posted 31/01/2018 at 08:41:23
This platform allows EFC access to loans with much lower APR than offshore investment funds plus its clear and transparent to all, isn't that what you and Blue Union have been moaning about for years so why aren't you happier with this arrangement?
What you conveniently fail to mention is this loan equates to a 56% mortgage providing EFC have no other creditors other than its owners, that yield is well within “safe limits”.
Again, another very important factor to the loan is LCC have first dibs on Season Ticket & Sponsorship revenues which allow a certain guarantee for LCC moving forward. If EFC did drop down a league it would be the footballing side of the business that would have less money not its creditors.
All loans have a risk associated to them and if we did have issues I would be far more comfortable with our major creditor being LCC than some faceless offshore fund. The deal is the best we could hope for other than a Sugar Daddy paying for it himself.
My final point is more to do with added incentive: LCC now has a direct moral and fiscal responsibility to ensure this World Heritage site development becomes a success. They are pushing in the same direction as EFC as rateable value alone for that area will also prop-up LCC.
This should give them enough money to be able to continue to clear up the dogshit around Anfield & Goodison Park, something which drives me mad every home game!!
17 Posted 31/01/2018 at 08:53:32
And when season tickets are made available for the following season. And when results aren't going well. And...
Whenever they say anything, they get slated. Or they could just keep quiet and then get slated.
Hang on, who initiated this discussion. Have the club made yet another announcement?
19 Posted 31/01/2018 at 18:32:34
I'm in Dubai and am being called weekly by a financial advisor linked to a London firm promoting off-plan residential property in the the north docks; telling me all about its benefits and a 'new stadium'!
As far as the City Council funding element, this makes complete sense. The Council can borrow at the lowest rate possible as a tier 1 counter-party and can pass on that saving to the club and still make a profit for the city treasury.
As a cautious person I share some of your concerns re the financial bubble that is the EPL however in my 45 years on the planet revenues in the first division and latterly the PL have only risen. Worst case scenario will be the downgrading of the value of the club, its impact on the shareholder and the potential implosion al la LFC's previous brush with Hicks and Gillet.
Fans need to realise this has nothing to do with football; its a land and property deal.
As for faceless offshore funds... I've lived and worked in offshore financial centres all of my adult life Alan and have posted on this site previously post panama and paradise papers. If you live in the UK, or Ireland you live in two of the largest offshore centres in the world... its just that the UK media are so dumb they are unable to comprehend that, or do their job and report it factually.
20 Posted 31/01/2018 at 18:47:09
21 Posted 01/02/2018 at 01:23:00
I have no doubt that the stadium is for real.
And there's no doubt there will be no geological barrier to building it.
"there's probably a Jules Verne-esque hidden world just where we want to dig."
Turns out true, better reason than the ring-fenced £30 million.
22 Posted 01/02/2018 at 16:54:18
This may all be very well, and should certainly be addressed before any loan is agreed, but surely it is more a concern for Liverpudlians in general than for Toffees in particular? The sort of article I would expect here on the financing of the Bramley-Moore Dock project would be one wondering whether Everton would be able to meet their side of the deal, and what would happen if they did not.
Or are Evertonians supposed to join a debate that potentially undermines the required financial backing for a new ground?
23 Posted 01/02/2018 at 23:46:23
24 Posted 02/02/2018 at 00:22:22
Philip Green, Vibrac and Riverdance: the mystery of Everton's ‘shadow investor'
An MP's question in October detailed rumours of the retail magnate's involvement at Goodison, but is there any connection between him and companies who have lent millions of pounds to Premier League clubs?
After almost two hours being interrogated on everything from the details of Sam Allardyce's England contract to homophobia at October's culture, media and sport select committee inquiry, question 90 was the curveball the Football Association chairman Greg Clarke certainly wasn't expecting.
Switching his attention to ownership of football clubs, Chris Matheson, the MP for Chester and an Everton season ticket holder, asked Clarke if he had ever heard of Vibrac Corporation. Between 2011 and 2013 the company described by Bloomberg as a “closely held lender” based in the British Virgin Islands was allowed to make millions of pounds in loans to Everton, West Ham, Fulham, Reading and Southampton despite the mystery surrounding who actually owned the company.
(Everton's Farhad Moshiri to visit two sites for proposed new stadium
Admitting he had not heard of Vibrac or BCR Sports – another company registered at the same address, Vanterpool Plaza, Wickhams Cay 1, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, as entities linked to José Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo, and owned by the former Everton director Robert Earl – Clarke could not confirm the estimation that 57% of English league clubs are owned or receive finance from offshore entities. But he did acknowledge “we need to make sure we know who they are, that they are people of standing and do not have disproportionate influence over football clubs”.
Matheson then attempted to find out whether rumours that have been swirling around the blue half of Merseyside for more than a decade were actually true.
“I understand that Sir Philip Green had something of a role as a shadow director at Everton, including having [the accountancy firm] PWC conducting an audit of the club and summoning the chief exec and the team manager to BHS headquarters to discuss transfer budgets,” he said. “Now, if somebody has paid for some shares through somebody else and through an entity in the British Virgin Islands but is not declared as a director, would that be a problem?”
Shuffling in his chair, Clarke acknowledged he was “no expert” on the Premier League and said he “would be happy to have that debate with them”. The man who was Football League chairman from 2010 to 2016 having previously served in the same role at Leicester City did not waste any time – last month, the Premier League confirmed that from the 2018–19 season that “any assignments of central funds can be made only to FCA registered lenders”, although, according to sources with knowledge of Vibrac and other similar companies, the process had been in the pipeline for much longer.
The news may not have made many headlines ahead of another busy weekend of action on the pitch but it was the culmination of a long story that has been chronicled in minute detail by a disaffected group of Everton fans.
Green's alleged links to Everton stretch back to 1999, when Bill Kenwright successfully bought the club from Peter Johnson. According to an interview with the Observer in 2003, the multi-billionaire “wrote a £30m letter” for Kenwright to help secure funding from The Bank of Scotland because “I like him”.
Last September, an article with the headline, “Who is the main player in the Everton show?” was published on the website Everton Viral. Written by an anonymous author, @watchedtoffee, it described the complicated process that saw Kenwright's consortium, True Blue Holdings, purchase a majority shareholding that year thanks to a substantial loan from BCR Sports – a family investment set up by Earl, the founder of Planet Hollywood and a long-term friend and business associate of Green.
According to the Telegraph, Kenwright was given advice from the owner of BHS and Arcadia “by telephone on an hourly basis” as they sought to see off a challenge from Paul Gregg – an entertainment impresario known for establishing Apollo Leisure Group who had formed the original consortium with Kenwright, his interest being the proposed stadium move to King's Dock.
The same 23% stake sold by Gregg to BCR Sports was part of the deal that brought the new majority owner Farhad Moshiri to the club in March. According to @watchedtoffee, that was the culmination of more than 15 years in which Green has exerted his influence over the club via a series of mysterious offshore companies.
In 2008, the CEO Keith Wyness resigned from Everton on a matter of principal, reportedly citing Sir Philip Green's control over the club.
“After Wyness submitted employment tribunal papers, it was reported in The Times that Sir Philip Green and Robert Earl raced across the Mediterranean in Green's powerful yacht, Lionheart, to meet with Wyness and reach a mutually agreeable compensation package,” claimed @watchedtoffee. “This included the signing of a confidentiality agreement, one which has been adhered to by Wyness.”
Despite Everton Viral's attempts to link Green to the club, Everton have always strenuously denied he has any financial involvement at Goodison Park. “He's not interested,” Kenwright told the Guardian in 2011. “He would say to me [adopts a mockney accent]: ‘Bill, Bill, Bill, if I put facking money into Everton Football Club you think Liverpool fans would buy from Topshop?' He's not interested. He's a total genius when it comes to money, he's like Mozart is to music. He's an adviser.”
However, the plot was about to thicken significantly. By the start of the 2011–12 season, Everton had debts of more than £40m and faced the prospect of having to sell some of their better players to balance the books. With banks unwilling to lend in the wake of the financial crash, Kenwright turned to Vibrac to arrange a deal worth £14m a year, although they were to take out more than £80m in loans over the next four years. Fulham also borrowed £16m, while Reading took out a £11.7m loan for which they were later fined £30,000 for contravening Football League rules.
The £5.14bn deal for domestic television rights and more favourable relations with regulated lenders have reduced the Premier League clubs' reliance on mysterious offshore funding in recent years. Yet Everton and West Ham – who took out a £27.8m loan with Vibrac in 2013 – borrowed an as yet unspecified amount from a company called JG Funding in August 2015. A few days earlier, in an article for The Sun, the club's vice-chairman Karren Brady had defended Kenwright, who she met at a dinner party at the home of the former prime minister Gordon Brown, against criticism from Everton fans. Brady is also listed as a director of Taveta Investments, ranked as the second-largest operator in the UK clothing retail market, and registered in Monaco under the name of Green's wife, Tina.
As well as Green, two other names are consistently linked to the complicated web of companies. The first – Graham Shear, a lawyer at the London-based Berwin Leighton Paisner who was involved in Carlos Tevez's move to Manchester United from West Ham in 2007 and was also briefly a vice-president of the mysterious Uruguayan Second Division club Deportivo Maldonado – acted for Vibrac, JG Funding and a number of Isle of Man investment vehicles. When contacted by the Guardian, he denied previously representing Green but welcomed the introduction of the new Premier League regulations.
The other is Simon Groom, a British lawyer based in Monaco who represented offshore companies registered in Panama, Geneva, Monaco, British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man. He previously was a director of a company called Balzane Services SA, which was used by Vibrac as a vehicle to transfer “movable assets” through Switzerland between 2011 and 2014 before making loans to football clubs. Balzane was also the intermediary in the buyout of substantial blocks of shares in the pub company Mitchells & Butlers in 2009, which involved the racehorse magnates Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, JP McManus and John Magnier, as well as the Tottenham owner Joe Lewis.
Groom also signed off loans from two entities based in the Isle of Man to Rights and Media Funds Limited on the same days as the loans with West Ham (10 August 2015) and Everton (14 August 2015) were charged. Kirkton Investments and Carroch Holdings both give the same London address as Shear's law firm, Berwin Leighton Paisner, while documents show that they and JG Funding listed the same permitted third party security: another entity registered in the British Virgin Islands called Mousehole Limited.
That has previously funded Atlético Madrid, Espanyol, Getafe and Valencia, among others, and is also registered at Vanterpool Plaza, as is Powsfield Limited, a company dissolved in 2009 that held 95% of the shares of Selkan Limited – owned by Gareth Bale's agent Jonathan Barnett – which appointed Simon Groom as company secretary on 26 July 2005. Selkan were involved in the purchasing of players' economic rights, including the former Brazil striker Luís Fabiano, and receiving a percentage of the transfer fee when the players were sold.
At Everton's AGM in November 2015, the CEO Robert Elstone castigated shareholders who asked questions about Green's potential involvement before revealing that the club's net debt had increased from £28.1m in 2013–14 to £31.3m in 2014–15, despite announcing a record turnover and bumper new TV deal.“We have three sources of lending,” he said. “We have a long-term loan with the Prudential that expires in 2026, an overdraft with Barclays that is not enough to manage the day-to-day cash flow of the football club and, to address that, we borrow from JG Funding (a private company) against the TV money. It is all fully disclosed in our accounts, is approved by the Premier League and paid back at the end of the year.”
Less than six months after the loan with JG Funding was taken out, Moshiri paid £87.5m for his 49.9% share, valuing the club at £175m. The publication of Everton's 2015-16 accounts last week revealed the Iranian businessman has also provided an interest-free loan of £80m “with no agreed repayment date. This funding has been used post year-end to reduce the club's long-term debt by repaying the entire other loans balance of £54.8m at 31 May 2016.”
Despite that, Everton's accounts show that another loan was taken out on 26 August 2016. This time, it was registered to a company called Rights and Media Funding Limited, which had changed its name from JG Funding at the end of 2015, and, just as before, the company's only listed director was Jonathan McMorrow. Born in Sligo, Ireland, he is now a registered accountant married to Claire Usher, who he met while dancing in Riverdance on Broadway. According to McMorrow's Linkedin page, he joined the James Grant Group – a management agency described as a “one-stop talent shop” – in 2008 before becoming director of its subsidiary JG Funding.
The only other name on the charge documents is Fiona McPadden, who is also listed as an accountant and has signed off the loan on behalf of JG Funding. After digging a little deeper, @watchedtoffee claims she is the sister of McMorrow and works at a BMW dealership in Sligo, having married a local builder, Vincent McPadden.
“A multi-million pound loan has been taken out by Everton Football Club and has been signed off by an ex-Riverdance dancer and his sister, who is an office worker at a BMW dealership in Sligo,” he wrote. “Unbelievable isn't it?”
The Premier League has insisted it is aware of the identity of the investor behind Vibrac and its associated companies. But as the riches associated with modern football continue to increase, it appears the murky world of offshore funding in the game is still alive and well.
This article was amended on 30 December 2016. An earlier version said incorrectly that Daniel Levy was once chairman of James Grant Group.
25 Posted 02/02/2018 at 14:29:55
26 Posted 06/02/2018 at 22:53:24
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