April 23, 2017
Speculation has arisen that Everton will award naming rights to our new stadium on Bramley Moore Dock to a “a wealthy Chinese consortium”.
I’m highly sceptical that such a deal could be put in place so early in the stadium process, given Everton have only recently acquired the rights to Bramley Moore, but do not yet have confirmed financing (although rumours of substantial domestic institutional interest grow stronger week by week), let alone planning permission nor final designs.
All of these steps in the process will happen of course, but it seem highly improbable that “advanced” talks are in place whilst so many key components of the stadium are yet to be finalised.
There is without doubt interest in English football clubs from Chinese investors, albeit as buyers of equity (shares) rather than sponsorship of stadia or other naming rights. Most will be aware of the Chinese (CMC) stake in Manchester City’s parent company, West Brom’s Chinese owner Guochuan Lai, and both Wolves (Fosun) and Aston Villa (Tony Xia) in the Championship.
I think it is extremely unlikely that any new or incoming investors, Chinese or otherwise, would acquire a significant interest in Everton at this time – Moshiri is certainly not a seller, Kenwright, Woods and Abercrombie are constrained by an options agreement to sell their shares to Moshiri, leaving only minority shareholders to purchase from and Moshiri has stated he does not favour an additional issue of shares to finance the development of the club.
The media have been awash with stories of large Chinese investors and institutions interested in investing in Premier League clubs, from Lander Sports Development’s interest in Southampton (which did not conclude) and CITIC Securities reported subsequent interest. Additionally HNA Group are reported to have had discussions with Chelsea, potentially with regards to their stadium development, but again without conclusion.
Spurs are several years ahead of us in terms of stadium build and development, yet even with their business acumen, London location, higher profile and currently higher performing team they’ve not been able to secure a suitable naming rights deal from global investors let alone the Chinese.
Thus it would be an extraordinary change of investment strategy by any investor, particularly the Chinese, who to date (as above) have taken equity stakes in Manchester City’s parent company, Aston Villa, Wolves and West Bromwich Albion, to “invest” in naming rights at such an early stage in the stadium’s development.
Therefore to conclude, I believe these reports, in the absence of a significant change of strategy by the Chinese to be highly premature. It’s perfectly possible that discussions have taken place, but it’s unlikely in the extreme that they’ll be substantive at this point.