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Football, Finances and Everton F.C

September 6, 2011

So the whole world now knows it…Everton fans are at war with their board!

Last weekend saw the first ‘Blue Union’ meeting take place in Liverpool City centre. The Union, consisting of a number of different fan groups met in order to discuss their concerns with the Everton board, the financial constraints and what they see as the stagnation of the clubs ambitions. The meeting was deemed a great success, with such a big turnout at the meeting that many were turned away. As a result of the meeting public demonstrations outside Goodison Park have been arranged for the coming home games in order to further emphasise their demands. A statement from the Blue Union reads;

“In order to allow the CEO to concentrate on reducing costs, developing our own revenue streams and repairing relations with the fan-base, the board must now appoint a fully autonomous group of professionals who can effectively develop and implement a strategy to identify and sell the club to a buyer who can demonstrate an ability and desire to take the club forward on both a commercial and football level”

Whilst the turnout for those demonstrations may provide a more accurate indication to the size of this movement and also the discontent amongst the rest of supporters, it would seem that those involved with the Blue Union are at least very well organised. The amount of media coverage this week can be seen to demonstrate the group’s ability to organise themselves in such a way that has resulted in large amounts of column and air time space being attributed to their cause (also owing to the fact that there was no domestic football, something the group admittedly intended to exploit). To read comment sections on news feeds, also demonstrates how dedicated, determined and organised the people involved in this campaign are. Whilst this can be greatly admired and the dire financial situation at Goodison Park cannot be denied, the Blue Unions objectives do give me some cause for concern.

It is no secret that football has turned into a business, a business that has sky rocketed over the past 20 years since Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Sky’ has become involved with the sport and the creation of the Premier League. Many changes have taken place since then and also before to further push the game and indeed wider society to a more wealth accumulating machine. Changes to transfer regulations, new formulations of European competitions and changes to the makeup of the domestic competition as well as massive sponsorship deals and TV rights money being pumped into the game, has resulted in unimaginable wealth being accumulated by the sport. But where is it?

Popular consensus on this question tends to lead to players being paid too much money and the involvement of agents being the root cause of the financial downfall of many clubs certainly within the English game. A ‘documentary’ aired on BBC and hosted by ‘Sir’ Alan Sugar, saw much of the focus of the program being attributed to this very thing. Now it is obvious that in the context of society football players do get paid far too much, the average person will struggle to ever earn a salary of £40,000 or even £30,000 a year. However these players are earning that in a week and in many cases now much, much more than that. Nevertheless it would seem unrealistic to attribute all the blame to the pay rise phenomena, especially considering the huge amounts of revenue being accumulated by the English FA, other football associations and some clubs.

As is the case with all capital enterprises the wealth accumulation race will always inevitably result in monopolies, which will then dominate the markets and dictate its rules and direction (e.g. setting the standards for transfer fees, wages and lobbying football association for changes). The business of football is no different and the monopoly of the ‘the big four’ within the English game can be viewed as a shining example of that. Those who have benefited most from the changes within the game are those who where best prepared at the time of change and who were able to adapt in order to take advantage. Good governance of these clubs has also played a factor, however even when this governance has faulted (e.g. Liverpool under the stewardship of Gillet and Hicks) their global capital and marketing potential has seen them being ‘rescued’ by other shrewd business men who know how to make money.

These changes and the monopolisation of football have resulted in most clubs falling into huge amounts of debt in an attempt to try and compete. Debts so huge, that many have faulted on them and have been accordingly punished by the football association for doing so. A tumble down the leagues has consequently followed for many. Clubs such as Portsmouth, Nottingham Forrest and Leeds can play great testament to this. Whilst Manchester City and Chelsea would seem to be the exception to the rule, the task of competing with the monopolies without the help of a Russian Billionaire or an Arab Sheik would seem a mammoth task and one that is as realistic as your local newsagent owner becoming a competitor of Tesco’s.

Now I know most of this information is ‘teaching your granny how to suck eggs’ so to speak, however it is important in the context of what is being raised by Blue Union. Whilst the issue of the effective stewardship of Everton FC can obviously be called into question, especially when considering the lack of transparency at the club; a factor that raises suspicions of what is being hidden. What worries me is the measures being sought. In demanding that the club hires a group of autonomous professionals in order to ‘identify and sell the club to a buyer who can demonstrate an ability and desire to take the club forward on both a commercial and football level’ what is actually being requested?

Of course every football fan wish’s for their club to be moving in a forward direction and to be able to compete on the field, but in order for any football club in this country and many others to genuinely compete then a similar circumstance to what has happened at Manchester City will need to happen. Is this what we seek at Everton?  Now I’m sure people will point to Tottenham’s success in breaking into the Champions League two seasons ago, however as was seen with Everton’s own success after  finishing 4th 2005 , it is completely unsustainable unless you have the spending power of the monopolies. Sustainability and the lack of it can also be attributed to clubs like Stoke, who many have looked to in order to demonstrate the dire state of Everton’s summer transfer window. Without the revenue or success to counter that type of spending Stoke run the risk as does any club outside of the monopolies of descending into financial ruin and suffering the same fate as the for mentioned teams of Nottingham Forrest etc.

There is no room within the modern game for a well run club who have little financial clout. A big money spender who is happy to splash their cash on his new hobby is the only source of change for Everton and clubs like it within the current climate. Now even in the unlikely event that this autonomous group of professionals can find such a billionaire or sheik, is this something that Everton fans as a whole actually want? I obviously speak for just myself here but I’m not sure I do. Watching the team I have loved all my life and followed around the country and beyond, last season felt like a chore enough as the preposterous amounts of money being thrown around football and the financial demands on fans became more apparent to me when the ever increasing burden of austerity measures were being felt around the country.  Whilst people are being put out of work and their vital services being taken away from them, football fans are being increasingly pressured to not only burden the brunt of the consequences of the greed of a few within their everyday life but also whilst supporting their clubs, greed that has resulted in the state of football today. I honestly don’t think I could stomach watching my beloved Everton being ran as some foreign investors play toy.

The current alternatives seem no better though; try to compete by lending (something which Barclays bank don’t seem too happy about Everton doing anyway) and run the risk of following in the footsteps of other fallen giants or languish in the stale state of affairs we are in now. So what is to be done? As has already been mentioned, Blue Unions organisation and determination is something that is to be greatly admired and whilst the type of change that is being sought concerns me, at least they are seeking to find a better future for Everton F.C.

Their organisation and determination however could possibly be better placed within the framework of demanding a change to the structure of football as a whole and a breakup of the monopolisation of the game. Only when the race to the bottom of capital is removed from football will a true competitiveness be returned to the sport. Only when people such as Rupert Murdoch and others are denied the opportunities to exploit the game will fans have their game returned to them. It sounds like a pipe dream, but it’s not unrealistic. Football depends on fans, regardless of what we are continually told by media outlets. What Blue Union have demonstrated in their short existence is that fan bases can shake those in power in football, as can be seen by Bill Kenwrights’ poor attempt at discrediting Blue Union last week,  in a failed bid to deflect attention away from the damming information provided by the Union in relation to the clubs finances.

Football fans count for millions across the country and abroad and could be a very powerful force for change. A network of football Unions and groups as determined and organised as Blue Union, working together could make significant headway in changing football for the better and let the powers of the game know that we want our football back. Simply requesting for a change of stewardship or for the club to move forward financially, could quite possibly result in our great club becoming another piece of the monopoly jigsaw that has become so detrimental to the game.


From → Football, UK

  1. Paul permalink

    Agree with you on most things you have written about the state of modern football, how it should change & what could be done to change it however I have to disagree with one thing.
    Everton cannot maintain their present circumstances without drastic change. The club is in a spiral of debt that will lead to disaster unless the debt is addressed now. It is not an option for Everton to now live within their means, make a small profit and gradually pay off what they owe.
    There are no non-playing assets left to sell. In 2010 the club made a £19m profit on selling players yet still the cashflow was negative, the club made a loss & the debt grew larger.
    We have yet to see the 2011 accounts but we know that the Bellefield money was swallowed by debt, that the board has to prove to the bank that they can continue trading for another year & that this was done by mortgaging 2012/3 TV revenues for working capital requirements for this year.
    We have sold £15m of players & added nothing permanent to the squad this summer & even this does not guarantee that we will not make another loss in the 2012 accounts.
    Action has to be taken now or Everton’s future is at risk

    • The clubs current financial situation is something that evidently needs addressing and the lack of transparency about its true state suggests the problems could possibly worse than feared, although that may not be the case. However what I’m concerned with is that if and when they are addressed, what then? How long can the financial health of the club be secured within the current football climate? Without becoming one of the big monopolies, a scenario which is highly unlikely anyway given the fact we are not an attractive investment due to debt, lack of modern stadium etc. Then the likelihood is that we would very soon find ourselves in the same position, along with all the other clubs outside those monopolies.

      • Paul permalink

        I agree, long term something needs doing with football & I think your article addresses that well.
        Problem is, I don’t think Everton will be anywhere near the Premier League unless immediate action is taken on the debt

    • And cheers for the comment

  2. Mike permalink

    Very impressed with that article mate. We as Everton fans hear all the time about the ‘mess’ our club is in but thats all we ever seem to get told. Behind the sceens we all know that there is alot more to it than that and with the likes of yourself and the Blue Union it gives everyone a better insight into what is really going on. You’ve covered alot of different angles and spoke in depth about each point in question. Personally speaking i dont buy into the fact that to potential buyers Everton do not seem an attractive proposition, yes we may not be a global name and yes Goodison is not a modern stadium but you only have to look at Blackburn and whats happened to them recently. We are obviously a bigger name than Blackburn (no disrespect) and Eawood Park is probably in the same state as Goodison but their board have managed to do somethin ours haven’t, attract an investor/buyer. I no its only the Venkys group and their wealth is not on the same scale as Chelsea and City’s owners respectively but nevertheless Blackburn have funds available to improve/strengthen its squad where as we have to kneel down and pray that a couple of serious injuries do not turn our season into a complete and utter nightmare.Kenwright claims he’s been trying to sell the club for 7-8 years now?? Sorry Bill it just doesn’t take that long. In the past i have never questioned his love for the club, but now i think its his love that is killing us. He just isn’t able to let go!!

    Personally speaking outside the top 4 or 5 i do think when fully fit we have one of the best startin 11 but its after that and what you have to work with on the bench there is no strength in depth.

    You raised one point that i’m most concerned about and for me the most important sentence in the whole article. ”I honestly don’t think i could stomach watching my beloved Everton being ran as some foreign investors play toy”

    I think for most Evertonians this is our biggest fear but we all seem to be in a catch 22 situation,
    Its clear we need a buyer to take us forward to the next level but you only have to look across Stanley Park to what happened to Liverpool, if left in the wrong hands it could get very messy.

    Great read tho mate keep up the good work!!!

    • Cheers mate, I dont know about us being a good investment prospect. I know whats happened at other clubs, but this isnt just an issue that has happened since Kenwright has been apparently trying to sell the club we have had this problem for a while. The fact that Kenwright had to take over in the way that he did due to the lack of investers I think shows this. I dont know what the reasons are, but I do think the stadium playes a huge factor. Blackburns ground whilst not Old Trafford at least has fairly updated stands on atleast 3 sides, there need for a new stadium is not as desperate as ours. But im sure there must be other reasons for it too.

      What worries me most though, is where the focus is being placed. I think this fan based movement has the potential to make a significant change, but if it is missed and somehow the financial and administrative issues are solved at the club then it wont be long until we are back in the very same situation.

  3. Excellent article John, as a fellow Evertonian you’ve expressed exactly how I feel about the current situation.

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