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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Moral Victory For Minority Shareholders

Moral Victory For Minority Shareholders as Everton Claim Continued Mandate After Banning Show of Hands

Destination Kirkby

As expected last nights Extraordinary General Meeting saw the resolution, to extricate the club from their exclusivity agreement, withdraw from Destination Kirkby and begin meaningful discussions with LCC, defeated by 26,553 to 622. It would appear that the Everton board’s insistence that there would be no show of hands on the night was well founded as this would have seen the motion carried 60/40 by those present at the EGM. Although requested to do so, by Mark Grayson and Tony Bennett, the club’s solicitor declined to officially reveal the individual numbers of votes.

The concerns of the majority of shareholders were addressed through a slick presentation by the acting CEO Robert Elstone during which he highlighted the perceived benefits, affordability and deliverability of Kirkby, the lack of any availability of any tangible alternatives and the unfeasibility of developing the Goodison site.

The shareholders were then given the opportunity to question the board's belief that Destination Kirkby is being pursued in the best interests of the club, its shareholders and fans; some of the highlights were:

The transport strategy was savaged as the club's expert struggled on many occasions to substantiate the earlier claim that this stadium will be the best-served stadium in the North West. The board remained silent whilst genuine concerns about inconvenience, waiting in holding pens and being “crush loaded” into trains; road, rail and pedestrian issues remained woefully unexplained giving people an insight into what the planning inspectorate will have before them at the public inquiry.

The earlier claims of Robert Elstone surrounding the affordability and deliverability were challenged when figures from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors were introduced that indicated that the projected cost of the stadium had already increased to £151M meaning that Everton's contribution would now be £99M. Questions concerning this and the ability of the club's business plan to generate sufficient funds once again went unanswered by the board. Bill Kenwright was then asked to confirm, in light of the revelations since the ballot, if he still believed that the club held a mandate to continue with the proposed relocation to Kirkby, he initially attempted to avoid answering the question but once pushed simply stated that he did not believe that the fans were misled. As an indication of the disrespect being shown to minority shareholders Everton's official website are now claiming that the result of last nights vote does indeed provide the club with a clear mandate to continue, somewhat different than when face to face.

Council leader Warren Bradley approached the podium after Sir Philip Carter stated that Everton had discussed a site in Scotland Road with Tesco and LCC in 2006. Warren Bradley challenged Sir Philip to name when this event took place and whom Everton had spoken to from the council because as council leader he was unaware of any such event. Silence prevailed and after repeating the question twice Mr Bradley left the podium without an answer.

Trevor Skempton, the architect behind the redevelopment of St James Park, addressed the board and challenged them on their assessment of the potential sites, Chris Potts Everton's property expert and author of the alternative site assessment in the Tesco planning application once again queried the viability of the Scotland Rd site which is endorsed through a report compiled by HOK Sport Architecture, the world renowned stadia designers. Mr Potts later confirmed that he is yet to read the report or engage in talks with the site owners.

Liverpool Labour group leader, Joe Anderson, gave a rousing speech in which he described the reasons why the planning application in Kirkby will fail, explained the total intransigence of Everton's former CEO in relation to discussing viable alternative sites within the city and issued a challenge to the board to work with him and Warren Bradley to deliver a solution. Bill Kenwright explained that the door was always open.

The only person to speak in favour of the proposal all evening was Mr Tom Cannon.

It would appear that despite repeated warning Everton Football Club is intent on pursuing Kirkby at all costs and that after preventing a show of hands and avoiding answering questions the era of spin and misinformation is set to continue. Many shareholders reading claims of a continued mandate will now be disappointed that they have wasted an evening which promised so much yet delivered so little.

A full transcript of the proceedings can be read here.

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