It hasn’t been a good week for Everton Football Club.
Beaten at home by Swansea City, out of the League Cup, primarily due to a horrendous second half performance but admirably aided and abetted by Martin Atkinson and Manchester City.
With some of the most talented players we’ve had in years in disarray and the manager in denial, seemingly unable to comprehend the statistical evidence indicating a crisis, Everton supporters are witnessing what has been described as their best team in a generation disintegrate in front of their eyes.
Meanwhile, matters off the pitch are little better. A PR disaster was assured following Everton’s decision to invite chancellor George Osbourne to Finch Farm. The man responsible for draconian cuts to services to the City of Liverpool received with open arms by Robert Elstone’s deputy and CEO of EiTC, Denise Barrett-Baxendale.
The reason behind the visit was very valid. Sport Relief is an excellent cause. But the invite of Osbourne further highlights how out of touch the people making decisions at the club have become with you and I.
Yes, without doubt, a terrible week, hard to believe that it could get any worse but of course, this being Everton, you could almost guarantee it.
Incredibly, Everton has ostracised its Shareholders Association, the watchdogs of the club whose exsitence, raison d’être, since before the second world war, is to safeguard the club for all shareholders and fans alike. To ensure that directors act in the best interests of the club as a whole.
The ‘crime’ was to ask a series of questions, many concerning the highly questionable ownership of directors’ shares and the involvement of Sir Philip Green, at last years equally questionable AGM. A highly orchestrated affair at which no business was conducted and no director was put up for re-election as required by the company’s memorandum of articles; the rules by which the company operates.
Whilst it’s understandable that the majority of fans are more concerned by matters on the pitch, what happens off the pitch dictates the ability of the club to compete with their peers on it and not only to compete but to bypass them and become the best in the land again.
At times when the club has taken a questionable direction, the Shareholders Association have held the directors to account. Think back to when Christopher Samuelson was paraded as a potential new owner, only to be exposed by a shareholder as a fraud.
Think about the directors’ ill informed decision to move Everton Football Club to Kirkby. The EGM called on this matter opened many people’s eyes and exposed the frailties of a plan doomed to failure.
Everton’s PR machine promotes the notion of the club being open, approachable and inclusive – proud of the way it communicates. “Behaving the Everton Way.” The reality is that they would give North Korea a run for its money when it comes to misinformation and manipulation.
From blacklisting supporters, to pressurising and then banning journalists and newspapers, all because they dare to report that all is not what it appears at Goodison Park. Everton’s efforts at attempting to manipulate the truth knows no bounds, as seen in the bizarre case of Richard Knights.
When journalists covered fan unrest aimed at the board and the chairman at the beginning of the season, alongside reporting on the mysterious kit supply deal with Umbro, a deal that appears to be handled and received by Kitbag, Everton’s PR department went to great lengths to distort these facts.
They pointed out that the payment from Umbro, a claimed £6m, will be shown in the next accounts – a statement to make journalists think twice about reporting what fans are telling them.
Of course the accounts came and went, and of course there was no £6m payment. The mystery of why Everton are the only major club in the Premier League, perhaps the whole of Europe, not enjoying a multi million pound kit supply deal, as it’s handled by their partner to which they outsource their merchandise operation, continues to this day.
Incidentally, Real Madrid have just signed the largest deal in the world which will see them receive in 12 months the equivalent of 12 Steven Naismith’s!
Everton Proud Of The Way It Communicates
At a time when there is a potential change in the ownership of our club, the Shareholders Association are needed more than ever. Of course for Everton and Elstone, ‘derecognising’ the Association at this time is somewhat convenient.
Some people will inevitably say that the owners of the business can do what they want, it’s their business. Others will claim if Everton are now involved in negotiations, due diligence or have signed confidentiality agreements, they’re prevented from saying anything.
Two thoughts spring to mind, firstly the questions asked by the Association predate any negotiations, and secondly it is the legal responsibility of the directors of the club to act in the best interests of the business, as opposed to the best interests of their own.
Everton’s directors have repeatedly failed to adhere to this requirement and, in addition to flouting its own articles, it is abhorrent to dismiss the opinion of 32% of the club’s shareholding.
I’d ask you to contact the press. If you know a shareholder, tell them of your concerns surrounding the treatment of Everton’s Shareholders Association. Contact Robert Elstone, ask him to explain why he refuses to answer legitimate questions from the association and why he refuses to meet with them – even after certain people from the Association volunteered not to attend.
If Evertonians want to experience the downside of being sold to owners with a separate agenda to that of the club’s fans, essentially success on the pitch and winning trophies, look no further than across the park when our neighbours were sold to Hicks & Gillette.
If you choose to fight for the Shareholders Association’s right to question the board you may lose, but if you sit back and do nothing we will all lose.
And given the track record of this chairman and his board, would you put your house on any new owner they choose not being a disaster for Everton FC?
Can it get any worse? Sadly yes, a whole lot worse.