Today, 17th August, marks the first anniversary of the establishment of Blue Heaven Holdings Limited, the offshore vehicle set-up by Farhad Moshiri to secure ownership of Everton Football Club. How has this first year gone?
Whilst Everton managed to keep the true identity of its new owner a secret for another six months, a time of ever increasing speculation with American, Arab and Chinese billionaire consortia allegedly being seen on a weekly basis at Goodison, Finch Farm and the city’s Hilton hotel, Moshiri’s team diligently set about securing their goal.
Once revealed, media speculation went into overdrive citing Moshiri handing Everton a £150m summer transfer budget which would signal the end of the woeful Kenwright era. Increasingly speculative reports of “Moshiri to fund new stadium” accompanied equally imaginative conjecture on candidates for a new Everton manager, yet throughout all of this, Moshiri said very little, memorably, “I'll give Everton whatever I have” whilst trying to shrug off a Lazarus like Kenwright embarrassingly grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Those expecting instant solutions to Everton’s well documented problems, on and off the pitch, may be slightly disappointed; Farhad Moshiri isn’t handing Everton £150m to spend on players nor is he going to fund a new stadium out of his own pocket; it’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution, an evolution that is now hopefully governed by common sense and the rules of the Premier League rather than reliance on some dodgy retailer.
Rather understandably, Evertonians see the arrival of Farhad Moshiri as the dawning of a new era, an era where Everton can, once more, compete with the very best in the premier league. A potent symbol of the status of a football club is their stadium, and, sadly, there has been no greater symbol of Everton’s status as the premier league’s perennial paupers than Goodison Park.
Bill Kenwright’s search for a wealthy investor has spanned sixteen years and once the understandable euphoria over Mr Moshiri’s arrival has subsided the enormity of the task facing him needs to be understood. He inherits a team that has finished in the bottom half of the league, it requires significant investment and a new manager. Off the field Everton’s commercial performance, in relation to their perceived peers, also requires considerable attention but perhaps the most enormous task facing Everton’s new investor is that of addressing the stadium.
Whilst players, managers and owners may come and go on a regular basis a new stadium can exist throughout the lives of generations of Evertonians to come. The decisions on subjects such as redevelopment or location and design are complex; it is simply not the case that a stadium can be built on any piece of available land or because it fulfils the needs of others as was the case with Kirkby which KEIOC vehemently opposed. Everton need a stadium for the benefit of Everton and nobody else, nothing but the best will be good enough this time.
One of KEIOC’s expert witnesses at the Kirkby public inquiry was architect Trevor Skempton . Apart from being an avid Evertonian Trevor was Consultant Urban Design Advisor to Liverpool City Council and is currently a Lecturer at the University of Liverpool School of Architecture.
Here we’ve invited Trevor to outline the criteria for a successful stadium solution and we would invite you to consider this brief document when potential sites and designs come forward.
Everton – Eight Criteria for a Good Football Stadium
1. Inner-city or City Centre location. The stadium should be easily accessible by public transport. The city centre is by far the best place for this as public transport capacity drops exponentially with distance from the city centre. Matches are played at the weekends or in the evening, when there is plenty of spare parking capacity. The stadium can contribute to the overall image of the city, alongside theatres, cathedrals and civic buildings. The inner-city is the next best thing.
2. Scope for Incremental Development. Football Clubs need to be able to develop continuously. The case for incremental developments is that they can change with time. A one-off completed design can quickly become an out-dated straight-jacket. But fixed historic elements can complement a changing context.
3. Core Capacity of 48,000, with potential for further phases to take it, at first to more than 60,000, then – ultimately – to the appropriate size to be able to stage the Champions League Final [at least 80,000]. Supporters must be able to dream of the ultimate goal, in their home stadium, as they do in terms of their team.
4. Just half the seats should be of a generous ‘premium quality’. The other half should be of a contrasting traditional ‘atmospheric quality’ – that is they should be tightly-spaced and close to the pitch, ideally with an element of ‘safe standing’.
5. Closeness to the action: This is of great importance in regular club football, both for the experience of the spectator, and the creation of a good atmosphere in support of the team. Distance from the pitch is every bit as important as sight-lines. That is why is notion the idea of sharing with athletics in a club ground has fallen out of favour [as against occasional big International games or Cup Finals]. Despite ingenious attempts, nobody has yet come up with a satisfactory solution.
6. Eight days a week. The stadium should exert a continuous presence in the eyes of the supporters in particular and the public in general. There should be many activities every day – concerts, museum, club shop, restaurants, hotels, etc.
7. Aspects of ‘atmosphere’ must be given serious consideration – just as in the design of a theatre or opera house. Match atmosphere, or being a ‘fortress’, has long been regarded as the accidental by-product of a cost-conscious engineering approach. But team performance, and the attractiveness of a venue to television audiences are vital factors, and both are directly related to the stadium design.
8. History. Football is an emotional business – the accumulation of trophies and the accumulation of memories. Many of these emotions are bound up with the stadium, and a move puts at risk [in business terms] these ‘unique selling points’.
Conclusion: An expansion of Goodison Park, retaining and incorporating the best aspects of the famous old stadium, done properly, is not the cheapest option, but it can be done incrementally, and respond to ever-changing requirements.
Any alternative would have to capture some extra-special unique magic, through its location in the city centre or on the waterfront. Just to follow unimaginatively in the footsteps of Bolton, Wigan, or Derby [to a ‘business park’], or even Arsenal, Manchester City or West Ham [to a leggy superbowl] will not be good enough.
TRS/ for KEIOC / 17th May 2016
Throughout the Kenwright era Everton’s accounts have always featured an imaginative preamble, creative summaries coupled with emotional reviews of off-field activities which, whilst having little impact on the matters in hand, served only to deflect from the root cause of Everton’s prevailing problems, the non-performance of a demonstrably inept board and the insipid activities of an equally inept management team who continually lunge from one expensive crisis to the next such as Kirkby, Everton Place and the embarrassing and ultimately costly badge fiasco.
This year, somewhat surprisingly, they have surpassed themselves; an eighty page document, a massive 150% increase on recent years, leads the reader firmly down a long and well-trodden path. The question is, why?
In terms of the preamble, less would have definitely been more as, in comparison to previous years, the accounts presented this year appear positively glowing, turnover is up, costs are being controlled, it’s a club so lean and mean Mr Micawber would have been ecstatic, a club perfectly positioned to take advantage of this year’s massive windfall from the Premier League’s increased media payments. Yet perhaps the theatrical presentation and the equally positive accompanying press release, which the vast majority in the media will unquestioningly regurgitate, fails to hide the full story, fails to disguise the underlying trend seen by the more discerning eye.The stark reality is that earnings remain insufficient to drive the business forward; indeed EBITDA yet again fails to even cover the interest payable on loans, borrowing, from unidentifiable offshore entities, remains a necessity with a further £10m borrowed during this period and player purchases, perfectly balanced via sell to buy, remain wholly dependent on continued disposals resulting in a heavy reliance on a short-sighted player recruitment policy whilst Everton’s continued inability to address the commercial opportunities, being exploited by all other clubs, continues to be somewhat of an elusive challenge, a major hindrance to competing financially with their peers in the Premier League.
It seems like only yesterday that we were talking to our friend and colleague, yet, remarkably, it has been six years since we’ve had the pleasure of the company of one of life’s most charismatic Evertonians, AJ Clarke.
Time may have passed quickly, yet for some, his family and closest of friends, the daily journey without their son, husband, father, grandfather and lifelong friend has been an excruciating one, for unlike the perpetrators of the heinous crime which took AJ’s life, their sentence is a lifelong one as they remember AJ on each passing day.As ever we at KEIOC ask every Evertonian to take a moment, raise a glass or simply remember a favourite moment to honour the life of Anthony James Clarke who died on this day in 2007.
The FSF will hold Watching Football Is Not A Crime! in Liverpool on Thursday 28th November (7pm-9pm). Register for free by sending your name and club to firstname.lastname@example.org. This event is open to fans of all clubs:
Date: Thursday 28th November 2013 (6pm doors, 7pm start) Venue: Epstein Theatre, 85 Hanover Street, L1 3DZ
Register free: Simply email your name and club to email@example.com
Panellists: Supt Chris Markey (Force Operations, Merseyside Police); David Lewis (Head of Security and Stadium Safety, Everton); Dr Joel Rookwood (Senior Lecturer, Hope University); Amanda Jacks (Caseworker, FSF). The event will be chaired by the FSF’s Michael Brunskill.
Fans tweeting from the event should use #WFINAC.
While we understand that some fans might have individual complaints relating to specific incidents for which they are seeking answers, this isn't the forum for that. However, we are happy to offer advice in relation to such complaints, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous evenings were held in London, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Manchester. They proved to be lively, successful events which gave supporters the chance debate issues around match day policing and stewarding with a panel of experts.
Questions raised at previous events include:
- Are football fans discriminated against?
- Is it in the public interest to prosecute fans for offences like drinking in view of the pitch?
- Can stewards sometimes provoke more trouble than they prevent?
- Is match day police/camera surveillance OTT?
- Are Football Banning Orders used appropriately?
- Are games over or under policed?
- Is it time to abolish football-specific legislation?
- What information can clubs and the police share about me?
Dave Lewis is Head of Security and Stadium Safety at Everton. Dave is responsible for monitoring fan behaviour at both home and away games, and works closely with Merseyside Police in respect of those arrested and/or ejected from stadiums.
Dr Joel Rookwood is a Senior Lecturer at Hope University. Joel's a Liverpool supporter and his research interests include British fan culture, spectator violence and the legal response, and issues relating to sport, race and identity. Joel's also a member of the 92 club.
Supt Chris Markey is responsible for ensuring that the policing tactics deployed are appropriate and coordinated with the club's matchday operation. Chris has more than 20 years experience policing football at different levels.
Amanda Jacks is the FSF's Caseworker. Amanda helps and advises fans who have cause to complain about policing and stewarding, and assists those who may require legal assistance for criminal or civil matters.
Ten year old James died following a bus accident. The young blue, who had described his recent tour of Goodison, before the last home match against Hull, as the best day of his life, was given an Evertonian’s funeral at Garston Bridge Chapel. Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman represented the club as James’ coffin, draped in an Everton flag, was carried into the chapel, by pall bearers in Everton shirts, to the Z Cars theme.
During the service a letter from Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, was read by Everton club chaplain, Reverend Henry Corbett as well as tributes from James teachers at Whiston Willis primary school where James was head boy.James’ friends and family have ensured that out of this tragedy there will at least come some good as they have set-up a just giving page to raise money for the Wirral Autistic Society. You can donate by visiting justgiving.com/Helen-greenop.
KEIOC has received an incredible response to our recent article on the online secondary ticket market or if you prefer, in plain English, ticket touting.
A tout obtains a ticket at one price then sells at a higher price, pocketing the difference, and running the risk of being arrested, whilst an approved company in the secondary ticket market promotes the sale of a ticket at any price and pockets a substantial commission from buyer and seller, so what's the difference and who's the loser in all of this? Ultimately there is no difference and it's the ordinary fan, the fan the clubs and the Premier League are purporting to help by cutting the cost of watching football but who's being priced out of the game once again; at least Dick Turpin had the courtesy to wear a mask. If it looks, walks and quacks like a duck it’s a duck, no need for convoluted descriptions such as “our partners in the secondary ticketing market” it’s legalised touting, plain and simple.
It’s legal due to a technicality in the law that concerns the resale of football tickets. Section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act states that it is an offence for an unauthorised person to sell a ticket for a designated football match or otherwise to dispose of such a ticket to another person for which you may be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and have a football banning order imposed. Unauthorised being the key word as by entering into an agreement, thereby becoming an authorised partner, this law is circumvented.
Some fans will see nothing wrong with this form of touting, they’ll claim that it’s perfectly legal, as is tax avoidance, and as long as it’s legal and Everton are earning money what could possibly be wrong? They see nothing wrong in something being morally wrong as long as it’s legal. So advertising cigarettes at sports events was acceptable when it was legal but became unacceptable when it became illegal? Racism was perfectly acceptable when it wasn’t illegal as was throwing kids up chimneys, the good old days, let’s get back to them as quick as possible. Touting is wrong no matter what you prefer to call it. legal or illegal.
Everton’s three year commercial deal with StubHub, with income estimates ranging from £1.6m a season to the same over the term of the contract, is claimed to be the largest commercial deal, excluding shirt sponsorship and retail, in the club’s history which, to be fair, isn’t exactly a difficult target to beat when you consider that Everton managed to sign away their kit supply deal for nothing whilst Liverpool earn £25m a season, Spurs £10m, Arsenal 13m, in fact everyone beats Everton’s square root of nothing kit supply deal through Kitbag which apparently is a great deal too!
The real problem is more long term, ask yourself why the two largest players in the legal touting business, StubHub and Viagogo have already struck deals with 40% of the premiership? StubHub being Everton’s second Secondary Touting Partner, as Viagogo, being the first, under Keith Wyness, disappeared faster than an "interested party" in our chairman's fervid imagination.
The 40% of the league who have authorised partners include Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Sunderland and Spurs. Where is this going to end? Outsourcing of all ticketing? An official Premier League endorsed partnership? Modern print at home technology means far more flexability but is this technology about to be exploited by the legalised touts and is this good for the fans and the best deal for the clubs?
You’d be surprised what a little research brings up, it's not always good for the clubs either. The American MLB season can see 81 home games with the less attractive games available on Stubhub at prices undercutting the host club whilst the more attractive fixtures costs their fans an arm and a leg. Some clubs aren't embracing the official league partnership with StubHub and the situation is far more complex than the simplistic and superficial perception on the availability of apparently cheap tickets with more astute observers beginning to understand exactly what is going on here.
Wouldn't it be better for the fans and the clubs to set their prices at an affordable level and remove the parasite causing all the problems from the equation?
To claim that it is the fans that set the price, and nothing whatsoever to do with the club or the tout, is as embarrassing as watching them run for cover in the face of criticism or actually naively believing that the free market will regulate prices.
You may be interested in watching the activities of one of the aforementioned “authorised partners” in this excellent video and thanks for the overwhelming responses to our article, rest assured, we'll be fighting for the ordinary supporter on this one.
Everton, along with all premiership clubs, has at least started to look at the totally unrealistic cost of watching football today. As previously stated, in an earlier article, and perhaps more due to falling attendances which would eventually, unchecked, have a detrimental effect on their ability to sell our product to the watching world for billions of pounds, the Premier League prompted the establishment of the £12m away fans fund.
Some clubs have been a little more innovative in their thinking, Aston Villa are the latest club to join Newcastle, West Brom, Hull City and Swansea in making a real difference to the prices paid by away fans; so it’s a start, not the conclusion of the supporters “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign.
Attending a game where there’s a full house and a great atmosphere, at the right price, is clearly where we all want to be, it’s the symbiotic relationship between fan, club and organising body that we all desire and benefit from. What we don’t need are parasites feeding off this relationship in the form of secondary ticket agencies which of course will come into their own if games increasingly sell out.
Let’s be quite clear, these businesses are little more than legalised touts which the clubs are embracing through monetary deals rather than an understanding of the English football fan psyche which finds touting abhorrent and has long since had their own methods of utilising unwanted tickets.
For the November derby game ticket prices of up to £575 can be found on the site of Everton’s official partner StubHub whose activities are being defended by the club’s director of communications who, via twitter, claims,
“For those asking: StubHub offers ST holders a facility to sell their seat for games they can’t attend, it is the season ticket holder’s prerogative to list their seats at whatever price they choose, ultimately though, it is up to the potential purchaser to determine if they are prepared to pay it.”
That disheartening response is little more than a ticket tout’s argument. Let’s see if the same defence stands up for somebody arrested caught selling the same ticket for the same price outside the ground before that game; it won’t, guilty and a football banning order awaits them, but apparently if you’re an “Official Partner” of the club it’s acceptable so that's okay then.
What next? The official cocaine and heroin partner? Why not? After all, you don’t have to worry about the morals or the legalities because ultimately it's simply "up to the potential purchaser to determine if they are prepared to pay it"
Like all theories of the self-regulated free market economy the only thing that’s ultimate is that ultimately it’s a charter for those with their noses in the trough to exploit those who hand over their hard earned cash. Look at the power suppliers being regulated through supply and demand, look at the transport companies and with full houses it doesn't take a genius to work out that the “official ticketing partners” are waiting patiently like a praying mantis.
Spurs fans are already seizing the initiative through an online petition, do not let all the hard work by fans, organisations such as the Football Supporters Federation and those clubs who, in place of the traditional act of paying lip service to their fan solutions, have embraced the philosophy of the Twenty’s Plenty campaign over ticketing prices.
Don't sit on the fence over this one, don't abdicate your responsibility as a matchgoing fan, leaving temptation in front of others, as in the long run we’ll all suffer. You know it makes sense, lovely jubbly.
Newcastle have secured agreements on their innovative reciprocal ticketing proposal with Swansea and West Brom. The scheme will see away supporters of all three clubs paying more affordable prices for tickets at their 2013/14 fixtures. Newcastle fans attending both away games at Swansea and West Bromwich, will benefit from a saving of £44 on these alone, with ticket prices at Swansea previously set at £35 now costing £20 whilst the £39 ticket for last season’s game at West Brom will now cost just £15. Swansea and West Brom fans will be charged the same amounts for their visits to St James Park under the reciprocal agreement.
The Premier League recently launched the Away Fans Fund to reverse falling away attendances, with all 20 top flight clubs now ring-fencing £200,000 each per season over the next three seasons to assist away supporters.
John Irving, Finance Director at Newcastle United, said: “Ticket prices are too expensive generally across the Premier League and we believe the right way to encourage people to attend, and to therefore fill stadiums as the Away Fans Fund intends, is to look at charging reasonable prices.”
Newcastle’s innovative management team also lobbied the Premier League for the abolition of the prohibitive “sale only/sale or return” method of selling away tickets, which the Premier League duly ended in summer 2013 as part of efforts to halt a decline in away attendances.
Everton have proposed a raft of familiar measures surrounding enhancing the experience of all fans attending Goodison but specifically, for Everton’s own away support, £5 ticket reductions at the four away games over the festive period in addition to offering all junior Evertonians travelling to Stoke on New Year’s Day the opportunity to purchase their ticket for just £1. It is not known how many junior Evertonians usually travel to Stoke or if Stoke City has agreed to provide extra tickets for what one would expect to be a sell-out fixture for Everton’s legendary and sizeable travelling support.
John Irving continued, “While we respect the right of clubs to choose options which suit their individual circumstances, we believe there is room for clubs to work more closely to try to charge a fair amount rather than discounting very small amounts on match tickets in isolation. We are delighted to have reached an agreement with two of the first clubs we spoke to, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City, and we applaud them for taking part. As prices indicated last season, fans of some clubs continue to pay far more than those of others and we hope this initiative will lead to a fairer system which can ultimately benefit all supporters.”
By contrast, in the face of some criticism to what so far appears to be Everton’s somewhat meagre proposals, CEO Robert Elstone said, “Just to be doubly clear on the Premier League’s instructions, they asked us to commit at least £200,000 of existing money, at our discretion, to ideas, activities and events that would fill visitor's sections. It was left to us and it was our money. “I’ve just been in a meeting talking about being a fan-led club. It’s undoubtedly our aspiration, and our away fan's initiative underlines our commitment to making sure our actions speak louder than words.”
Indeed, actions are ultimately what you are measured on but great news, we’ll be looking out for those actions and we’ll be looking forward to a democratically elected fan’s forum who will make proposals rather than listen to them.
In the meantime, for those still confused as to why the "away fans fund" was suggested by the Premier League, here's a short explanatory film from the New York Times, as action speaks louder than our words - obviously!