So, the most eagerly awaited General Meeting in many a year has passed. 12 hours on and I thought I’d gather my thoughts on the evening, the information provided, and the remaining unanswered questions.
I’ll start by saying this was the most positive GM I’ve ever attended and the contrast between last night and that of 23rd November 2015 could not be starker in any respect. 14 months ago we were floundering, rudderless and just managing to stay afloat despite the benevolent conditions the Premier League had provided for many a year.
On the flipside, a number of issues were not discussed and require resolving, more of that below, but let’s not escape from the fact this was a highly positive evening.
Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images
It’s often a simplification to say the differences are down to one individual, but in the case of Everton, it’s as near to the truth as you are going to get. Single handedly I would suggest Farhad Moshiri has altered the ambitions of the club, and whilst the work that is required to get us to where he and us the fans wish to be has hardly begun, the evidence is there to be seen and believed.
He’s made the changes necessary in the football management of the club bringing in Koeman and Walsh at a significant replacement cost – this window should see the first evidence of how that alters the prospects of the first team but as time goes on will also show the results of having a structure at Finch Farm, a coaching and scouting system that backs up the already excellent work of the academy and the U-21 squad.
A slightly bitter/sweet moment for me to be honest, but whilst I want to focus on the positives it right to say that progress on Bramley Moore is not as far as I and others had hoped or anticipated. However, we are left in no doubt that it is Bramley Moore that is the primary site for building our iconic new stadium. We are in the words of Robert Elstone “two or three months away” from that decision being finalised.
Joe Anderson’s comments were interesting and in a complete contrast to the last AGM were wholly supportive of the club’s plans as evidenced by the infrastructure spend announcements made in the last few days.
The club are making a statement of intent, they, we want a world class stadium on the banks of the Mersey and it’s clear that’s what they are striving for. This should not be lost on any Blues, we are no longer talking about Destination Kirkby, Kings Dock or a flat pack stadium in Walton Hall Park – the scale and impact of Bramley Moore is at a different level and once finally confirmed sets us on an entirely different path – it is a huge positive in my eyes.
Future Funding and ownership
This was touched upon in terms of our current funding arrangements. It’s clear that Moshiri has provided £80 million of funds to remove the secured debt and the restrictions of the covenants surrounding it, plus the early repayment of the then R&M Funding loan against broadcasting revenues. As forecast previously, from the projections that lending will be in the order of £20 plus million by the year end, again repayable from the broadcasting revenues received this season.
What I thought particularly interesting was the comments re smaller shareholders, of whom there are still 1500 or so. There appears to be no plan to acquire our shares in the near future which indicates that Moshiri is not intending to acquire the club in its entirety, at least in the short term.
This is extremely interesting and needs to be revisited as it has significant impact on the future funding of the club and stadium. It suggests that a raise of capital by issuing new shares is very unlikely in the near term. Perhaps as the funding plans for the new stadium becomes clearer we can revisit this.
Sponsorship & Commercial Revenues
It is now well documented how far our sponsorship and commercial revenues are behind our peer group, and last night we saw the first signs of an improvement in the very low base from which we start.
The precise details of the shirt sponsorship/Finch Farm naming rights deal were not announced but the £15 million a year closes the gap considerably on Spurs who at £16 million a year (until 2019) were nearest in the group of 6 above us. It’s a good start in the catch up game.
However there was no comment on our shirt manufacturing and distribution deals with Umbro and Kitbag (now Fanatics). Although the existing deal runs to 2019, it is in the context of the group ahead of us, highly uncompetitive and I hope will be addressed in the coming months.
In terms of increasing the number and range of commercial deals (we have 10, our rivals have between 18 and 33) no further information was provided. Again this is an area that requires further attention self-evidently.
Board composition & future governance
This topic was not really discussed, yes there was a bit of fluff about Harris, but I’ll stick to the comments I have made previously – the club will be better run if the board reduces its concentration of major shareholders and representatives and senior employees.
For the sake of an increasingly complex business new talents have to be brought in, and for the sake of corporate governance, at least one independent non executive would be most welcome.
It goes without saying that the board should be congratulated on their attempts to make watching football as affordable as possible particularly when one considers the future expenditure required for a new stadium and of course the squad.
I’ll conclude by saying the GM was a highly positive affair, the club is far from being the finished article, we are in fact just waking from a deep slumber whilst our peers have been making hay in the sunshine. We’ve a huge amount to catch up, but for the first time in many years I saw the evidence that we’re giving it a go and under Moshiri’s direction have a more than fair chance of achieving it.
I’ll finish with Moshiri’s comment “It is not just enough to say we are special. We don’t want to be a museum, we want to be competitive and we want to win.”
We know we are special, we know our history, and we want a glorious future.
Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.