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Monday, March 5, 2012

What's this Blue Union then?


The Blue Union have responded brilliantly to an article published on the Everton fan site ‘Dixie’s Sixty’ which allegedly offered the view of a middle ground supporter criticising both The Blue Union and the club’s board yet ultimately portrays a lack of knowledge on the motivation and beliefs of The Blue Union.........

The Blue Union, having read through the article, explain that they’re saddened that an Evertonian feels not only the need to attack and misrepresent the actions of fellow Evertonians but also to so vehemently misunderstand the role of the Blue Union; it’s even sadder that other Evertonians believe that this is the best article they’ve ever read [see comments] when there exists a plethora of factual information on the subject of the source of the angst between fan and board.

The piece is an amalgam of opinions backed up by little more than more opinion, which is, of course, the role of fan websites; but rather than attacking Evertonians for exposing what is going on at Goodison, it may be slightly more productive to look at what The Blue Union are really saying, what they’re actually advocating and gauge them on their results rather than on the perceptions of those removed from what is actually taking place.

This isn’t a popularity contest; this is about who is right and who is wrong; it’s about who really cares about the future of Evertonians and Everton in a thriving district of the city or who simply cares about their return on an investment made in buying the shares of a football club.

Consider this statement taken from the piece, “Everyone wants a filthy rich owner, a billionaire white knight owner and the rest will take care of itself.” Bill Kenwright advocates this, it’s here in this video; but The Blue Union don’t advocate it as we’re fully conversant with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations and their implementation will not allow a City or a Chelsea situation; hence why we simply state that the prospective owner should be one who can best demonstrate the resources to facilitate the change that is required to deliver real change and progression. These resources will not just be monetary resources; they include the ability to deliver a cohesive business plan through innovative strategies and professional personnel.

This has been Blue Union policy since the summer of 2011; we even named three likely candidates to conduct the sales process; professionals with a successful track record in the disposal of major sports businesses and only last week it was announced that one of these, Inner Circle Sports, has indeed been engaged by Everton in their quest to sell the club, just as we outlined.

We’re unaware of any madmen letting out bloodthirsty cheers at meetings nor have we met anyone who claims Kenwright has “trousered” the other operating costs other than employees of the club who used the faux accusation to move the spotlight away from the massive and still inadequately explained increase from £12m in 2007 to £23m in 2008; it’s an old trick and it’s easy to spot. The 85p in the pound was just such a tactic; a tactic to remove supporter’s attention away, from the now £24m other operating costs, as this only concentrates on 50% of these costs, which simple arithmetic we prove.

It is of course true that all football supporters are “volatile and will vacillate wildly” depending on results on the pitch; that observation is not limited to Blue Union supporters or Evertonians in general, it is a fact all supporters exhibit these characteristics; paradoxically these improved results on the Goodison pitch do nothing to address the root cause of Everton’s problem and that root cause is the real issue. Bill Kenwright is the chairman and self-styled spokesman for the owners of 76% of the club’s shares and it is his chairmanship, and the mechanism through which it is operated, that is the fundamental issue and no attacks have been made or will be made on his personal life or his business life outside of Everton Football Club.

We’re also unaware of The Blue Union denigrating David Moyes; one often used strapline is “Support the Team Oppose Stagnation”, hardly a denigration of the man whom the Blue Union wrote to, along with the players, explaining our argument is with the board and not the playing staff. But as in life, if you can’t attack your target with factually accurate information, simply make it up and use that.

The statement in the article relating to the sale of Bilyaletdinov is another prime example of the misinterpretation of The Blue Union, here’s the Blue Union quote in the form of a tweet,

“Whatever the fee, I think we can all agree Moyes won't see a penny, and the already smallest squad in the league is another player light.”

This articles counter to this, regarding January transfer spending was, “Moyes did spend money this January”, which is of course true, we brought in Gibson for £500k and Nikica Jelavic for an initial fee of £1.5m but out went Saha and Bilyaletdinov, which more than covered any spending and our squad was further added to with loanees, Donavan, since departed, and Pienaar; the end result of which is we still have the smallest squad in the premiership and, as Moyes was promised some of the Arteta money, it’s safe to say he has not seen any of the Bilyaletdinov money as the Blue Union quote suggests.

At a period in time when our manager was crying out for funds, our chairman gave him a paltry amount representing far less than 10% of the income from the recent disposals of Ruddy, Jutkiewicz, Pienaar, Vaughan, Beckford, Yakubu, Arteta, Saha and Bilyaletdinov. Taking into account the £20m in savings in wage costs, that the disposal of these nine players represent, it’s a fair assumption that Moyes has not actually received a penny to this day.

The article states that “Kenwright has been attacked for not finding the person to sell the club to” and ponders if this person even exists. It’s a fair question, but only if you can identify the criteria being applied. We believe the person or organization to take the club forward, reduce the debt, restructure the clubs business activities and invest in the infrastructure to develop the business as a whole, does exist; but we also believe that nobody is willing to hand over good money to directors who have done little to enhance their business over the past twelve years in charge. This intransigence by the board over the value may well mean that even Inner Circle Sports will fail in securing a new owner.

An apostrophe maybe the difference for some supporters, it’s a great little anecdote, but we never believe Everton are anything other than the greatest team and that they are an proud asset of the City of Liverpool, the city region and its supporters.

Our beliefs are founded on fact; the fact that Bill Kenwright is without any shadow of doubt the worst chairman amongst Houlding, Jackson, Mahon, Baxter, Cuff, Green, Searle, Moores, Carter, Marsh and Johnson; some of the latter officials offering stiff competition, but factual evidence confirms Kenwright is the worst and an individual, as far as Evertonians are concerned, that cannot be trusted due to the available evidence.

This isn’t personal; this is just an indictment of Kenwright’s chairmanship which is the issue at Everton.  A cursory glance at the relevant information is all that is needed. In 1999 when Kenwright formed True Blue Holdings to take over Everton from Johnson, Everton had £20m of assets on their balance sheet which revealed net debt of £20m; today that same balance sheet no longer has any assets whatsoever, it has £35m of liabilities primarily due to our net debt increasing to a record £47m.

Whilst other clubs are indeed more heavily indebted, their debt is to their owners; our debt is to institutions as no director on this current board, unlike Peter Johnson, has invested a single penny into the club.

Persistent poor financial performance has necessitated the disposal of assets, both on and off the field, to fund the deficit; examples of this being the sales of Rooney and the disposal of Bellefield, but it does not stop there, Everton, under Kenwright, became so indebted due to poor decisions, prior to the abortive NTL funding, that a securitisation loan was needed to address the level of debt; this will cost the club almost £70m over its term and did not address the underlying  problem, so two years later Rooney was sold to save the club and the pattern fixed for a future hand to mouth existence. Despite record turnover, primarily due to media payments, Everton is in a worse position [financially] today than under Peter Johnson.

A consequence of this board’s actions is that we’ve even mortgaged our future ability to raise our own revenue or to put it another way the inability of a future owner to decide what to do with that revenue has been assured, as we’ve already spent money due to us two seasons in the future and we’ve sold our ability to generate revenue through merchandise and catering for a pittance of its value.

The performance of Bill Kenwright should not be judged by the finances alone; there has been a series of well-known decisions which have had devastating consequences on the club. The boardroom in-fighting between Bill Kenwright and Paul Gregg, the loss of a new stadium on the Kings Dock, the supposed investment by the mysterious Fortress Sports Fund and the equally mysterious appearance of Philip Green’s close friend Robert Earl claiming to own the shares currently residing in the name of a British Virgin Islands registered company, BCR Sports, but paid for by Philip Green himself according to their former owner, Paul Gregg.

Of course all of these events are open to interpretation; for example, long after the demise of the stadium on the Kings Dock the directors [Carter] claimed that the cost escalated to an unacceptable level but of course it could be said that continually failing to produce Everton’s £30m contribution caused the delays which caused the cost escalation in the first place.

These incidents are clearly a great source of debate because they’re open to interpretation; what isn’t open to interpretation is what happened over the proposed relocation to Kirkby because it is so well documented.

Everton told their shareholders and their fans that they were receiving £52m from Tesco, towards the cost of a new stadium; this is what they actually said:

“Normally when a club has to look for a new stadium, it has to look at financing the whole depth of the new stadium itself. In this case we have been able to work with Tesco and Knowsley to create a situation where Tesco will make a contribution of £50m towards the cost of a new stadium. That is a huge contribution and we believe that with stadium naming rights and proceeds from the sale of Goodison and with some additional debt that we will be able to deliver a world class stadium that will be up there with anything in the Premiership”

This was a blatant lie and no matter how much employees and PR consultants and journalists attempt to cover it up they can’t. There was no money, what Everton were receiving was a £52m value derived from the increased value of the land once planning permission was granted, a value that would have eventually appeared on the Everton balance sheet and was revealed in the report to the Secretary of State by the Government planning inspector when they described the stadium as being funded by the council through Tesco by the uplift in the value of its land to facilitate an increase in the value of the club for the benefit of its present owners and no doubt the value of the club to its owners would increase if a new stadium could be provided at a subsidised cost.

Notwithstanding the fact that Everton, in an era where non-football income will become vital [FFP], was being left marooned nine miles from the city centre with one of the worst transport provisions of any stadium; it was for the sole purpose of increasing the value of the club for the benefit of its owners, a benefit that would be realised when the club was quickly sold.

The Blue Union have never betrayed the club as Bill Kenwright suggested. His own guilt regarding betrayal of the club is palpable. An often repeated warning is that we should be careful what we wish for, meaning that we could end up with owners as bad as Portsmouth, Birmingham, West Ham or Rangers. The warning that should actually be taken on board is that this is what eventually happens with owners who do not have the resources to run professional football clubs.

The various factions of The Blue Union are working for Evertonians; we’ve suggested professionals are brought in and they have; we’ve suggested policy changes on how the club communicates with its fans and, during private meetings, we’ve suggested means of elevating hardship to encourage the next generation of fans all of which are being implemented. The KEIOC faction of the Blue Union has been working with the city council on improving the physical and business environment around the stadium with its Football Quarter programme which is designed to benefit future owners when they investigate stadium redevelopment as an option for the long-term future of the club.

We’re not acting against Everton; we’re working for Evertonians who support our club and don’t accept second best as only the best is good enough.

The Blue Union

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