After attending the AGM last night, it will come as no surprise that we learned nothing new from Chief Executive Robert Elstone.
The AGM started with a rarity, as wiping the beads from his brow, Jon Woods spoke.
He offered apologies from chairman Bill Kenwright, director Robert Earl, and others who had offered theirs. This is very possibly the only thing Jon Woods has contributed to the club in his time as director.
Woods sits in the second best seat in the house, whilst bringing zero to the table. He simply goes with the flow as far as voting is concerned so that he can remain in that leather coated seat.
He didn’t stand at all, as he handed the floor over to Elstone.
There is no club in the Premier League performing better given the “limited” budget. To quote Elstone. Who was quoting from the Guardian. Meaning performance on the field in relation to player trading and wage bill.
A “points per pound” formula, if you like.
Elstone constantly referred to the club, Roberto Martinez, partners, and in particular Everton in the Community as being “great.”
There is absolutely no argument here. The work which the club’s charitable arm does is second to none, and the stories on the videos shown were great testament to the people within Everton in the Community.
The manager gave an insightful presentation looking at his vision for the first team. He described the importance and the “brave” decision to expose academy graduates to first team football, as well as acquiring youngsters such as John Stones, Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu, and mixing these in with players with “know-how.”
Including those who had agreed extensions to their contracts recently in James McCarthy, Phil Jagielka, Kevin Mirallas et al.
Martinez went on to explain that we had also secured some fine talent at U21 level in Luke Garbutt, David Henen, Mason Holgate, Ty Browning and Brendan Galloway. All of whom he deems capable of playing in the first team in the near future.
Martinez explained the team that started against Aston Villa, Gareth Barry aside, averaged 23.6 years. His point being he was investing in young players who are hungry, and are “ready to win.”
Prior to the meeting, the Everton FC Shareholders Association had been asked to gather a list of questions for the people on stage to answer during the meeting. Of the 41 questions submitted, Martinez had answered one.
Robert Elstone answered seven more. Seven questions out of 40.
Elstone answered ‘Who do we borrow from, and why?’
“We look at TV money and then decide what we need and what we can borrow.” Said Elstone.
“We borrow from the Prudential, a long standing agreement which is being repaid accordingly. We have an overdraft from Barclays, which is being serviced each year. Finally, we borrow from JG Funding – a private limited company which does a lot of funding with other clubs, with whom we have a “great deal for the club.”
Elstone categorically stated “there is no connection with JG Funding and any directors of Everton Football Club.”
He’s right, but information I have released previously shows there is no connection between any Director, but there is between the club and the lender, when you scratch deep enough.
Elstone explained that Everton were in a better position financially. He said that there are companies wanting to lend us money.
Walton Hall Park: Everton v LCC
However, he then said the club needed and wanted investment from the council in the regeneration project which includes a new stadium at Walton Hall Park.
He also wanted to know what the Council required for their investment in regards access to the park etc. Finally, he said the investment would be repaid with a profit.
Joe Anderson has previously made it clear the Council would back a regeneration project at Walton Hall Park. He said it was a tough decision to take, but ultimately one which would benefit the area.
With this in mind, why do we need investment as well as permission from the Council? If companies are queuing up to lend us money, as Elstone stated last night, then put the plans for Walton Hall Park to those willing companies.
No shrewd business man is going to turn away a project which will ultimately result in them making a profit. Go ahead without the Council’s money, just get their permission!
As Elstone was commenting on the lack of a “true partnership” with the Council in relation to Walton Hall Park, explaining that if the onus is solely on Everton then we can’t do it, Mayor Joe Anderson tweeted he was looking forward to receiving the clubs plans in the morning.
He later went on to say that Elstone’s comments had been nothing but an “insult.”
He is right.
The council have bailed the club out previously with the purchase and lease of Finch Farm.
A poor, poor choice of words from Elstone has no doubt damaged the prospect of any help from a council poised to be asked to make even further cuts in the chancellor’s speech.
Disappointing, disrespectful and disgraceful
On the list of the 41 questions, 8 of which were covered, Elstone said: “There were some positive questions on the list but some that were disappointing.
“If you want to know why then consult the shareholders association website.”
The Everton CEO also described some of them as “not constructive.”
Elstone seemed to be rattled when challenged by the chair of the Shareholders Association on whether he had plans to answer the rest of the questions put to him in the document.
“They’re disgraceful,” offered Elstone in response.
He then, in summing up the question concerning if anything illegal was happening, if anyone had their ‘hands in the till,’ exclaimed that some of the questions were “disrespectful in the extreme.”
Elstone continued. “Those questions were wrong and shouldn’t be asked. To repeatedly be asked about where we lend from, and where Philip Green is in all this, is just wrong.”
No, Robert, YOU are wrong.
This is your opinion.
A list of questions was compiled by the association of shareholders, many of whom were in attendance.
It was wrong for Richard Kenyon to try to divert questions away from Walton Hall Park, just as it was wrong to mention that the next question would be the last. Not once but twice.
You’re speaking to shareholders and their representatives. They have every right to ask legitimate questions regarding the football club.
Each and every one of those was legitimate. It is your opinion that the questions were wrong, your opinion that they shouldn’t be asked and your opinion that they are disrespectful and disgraceful.
The fact remains, they are legitimate and deserve (and need) answering.
Additionally, if Philip Green isn’t involved “in all this,” why not answer the question about him?
Robert Elstone was covering the period since the last AGM. He said that we borrowed from JG Funding. In the period which was being covered, we actually borrowed from the Vibrac Corporation. They were not mentioned.
Elstone went through the list of Premier League clubs explaining about the holding of AGM’s.
Elstone said that only a few clubs hold them. That is simply because their ownership structures are different! Additionally, Manchester United, Arsenal and Norwich are obliged to hold them.
A question was posed on the list about board meetings. It was one of the “disgraceful” questions, one can only assume, as it remained unanswered.
It is the right of a shareholder to know that the most basic elements of corporate governance are being upheld. Including the date and minutes of meetings.
And, as said, it can be assumed as being a disgraceful question, as when one shareholder asked Elstone if he encouraged the creation of supporters’ trusts, he answered openly, honestly and without hesitation. That question was also on the list.
There was only one director in attendance – Jon Woods.
One shareholder wished to ask two questions, the second of which was for Mr Woods. This was not heard. Why?
No director took part in replying to any questions. Isn’t that what an AGM is all about?
The Elephant in the room
Finally, why is it wrong to ask about Philip Green?
Former Everton CEO Keith Wyness resigned because of Green’s involvement in the running of Everton Football Club.
Is it so wrong that shareholders, and those loyal Evertonians who aren’t shareholders, want to know who really is pulling the strings at the club?
Accusations of no “true partnership” with the council, over 12 months down the Walton Hall Park line, no mention of Vibrac, choosing instead to mention a limited company with whom we have had a loan for just two months.
Questions cut short. “No more questions on Walton Hall Park please.” “Last question,” “last question” (again). No mention of previous minutes of board meetings, and those being agreed upon.
And, closing the meeting with hands still raised and questions to be answered, and no questions, and certainly no answers on, to quote Robert Elstone: “Where Philip Green is in all of this….”
When questions are not only neglected, but ignored and discarded with an arrogant disdain, you leave yourself open to criticism, investigation and accusation. And, if anything was being covered up at the 2015 AGM, Robert Elstone was the man doing it.