There’s been much talk about Everton since Moshiri acquired his 49.9% stake in February 2016, yet communications from Everton have been inconsistent and incomplete, especially in recent times.
The question must be asked Why? It can either really only be one of three reasons. Either (i) they consciously have decided not to share information, (ii) they have no-one who can adequately articulate the vision, or (iii) there’s no clarity of vision, no central and unanimous strategy from which they can build a consistent message to their stakeholders.
Now some reading this will say “why should they? it’s a private business and there’s no obligation to share”. Strictly speaking of course that is true, but it’s not in my opinion a sensible strategy for many reasons.
Moshiri’s initial message
Let’s examine what has been said. When Moshiri first arrived he used the programme notes in the Chelsea game (March 2016) to share a few of his thoughts.
In that message he essentially made three forward-looking statements. Firstly he was going to provide money for the club “additional funds for transfers and retaining our key players to ensure we have a strong core to build on in the future”. Secondly, “looking at the best options for the stadium” and thirdly “finally and most importantly Everton is about great football and winning matches“
Fast forward a few months, after the disasters of the Anfield Derby and the FA Cup semi-final, Martinez had proved (rightly) not to be the man to take the club forward and at great expense Moshiri has acquired the services of Koeman and his team.
Koeman and the 3 year project
Unlike in previous managerial appointments there were no great fanfares, the pictures of Bill Kenwright beaming next to our new manager far less visible than previously. There seemed a hardened more clinical approach. This was business, and Koeman made it very clear this was a project, a three year project.
On top of this the bringing in of Steve Walsh as Director of Football was seen as hugely positive, even if the window did not go to plan. With goodwill it was put down to the newness of the structure and perhaps a lack of definition of roles, something we all thought would be sorted in future windows…
After a decent start to his first season, followed by a sticky patch in the autumn of 2016, Koeman appeared on the BBC Premier League show with an 11 minute interview (below) with Gary Lineker in December 2016.
In the interview he said after the approach from Everton he had listened to the club and the project was described as Year 1 “still best of the rest, possibly qualify for Europe” Year 2 (this season) “to improve” and finally in Year 3 “be close to Champions League qualification“.
At the time, an adequate explanation of his (and the club’s) ambitions given the promising start, the freshness and the then admiration for his bluntness following what had preceded him.
Moshiri at the AGM
A month later, at the January AGM, Moshiri takes the opportunity to expand on the general feeling of well being with the following:
“It’s not enough to say we are special” he said.“We don’t want to be a museum. We need to be competitive and we need to win”
“The gold standard is the Premier League. The league is where our competitive edge will be measured….
We have a window to establish ourselves and do everything we can.
Bill through his sheer dedication has kept the club close to the elite. Now we must look at sustainability to be amongst the elite. It takes time, but we are committed. That is why we are here”.
By the end of the 2016/17 season it could be argued that despite the difficulties of the summer transfer window, the club was on course in terms of Moshiri’s initial statement – funding for transfers, progress on the stadium and most importantly on the pitch itself.
We had after all, achieved Koeman’s stated objective from his Lineker interview, qualification for Europe albeit with the assistance of the top 6 above us allowing 7 English qualifiers in European competitions.
The very quick start to the transfer window had us as fans and most of the football media purring, this was a new Everton, or at least not the old Everton of the last 20 years.
The wheels fall off
Then the wheels fell off. No replacement for Lukaku, no left back cover, no wide players, the loss of Barry, the Barkley situation, the idea that perhaps different parts of the Everton management team were running different strategies, a lack of understanding as to who was responsible for what.
Unsurprisingly (for Everton) communications stopped. The growing confidence and impression that there was a strategy and a structure to build from seemed to disappear overnight.
Compounded with the uncertain start, no defined team, selection, tactics, poor performances and increasingly bad results the Everton project (on the pitch) ground to a halt, in fact did more than that started reversing at an alarming rate.
The inevitable happened, Koeman who had not invested time and energy in building rapport with the fans, the club and perhaps the board and major shareholders too was gone. Not before time neither, but that’s not the subject of this piece.
How did the club respond?
How did the club respond? How did it communicate with its stakeholders, the fans, commercial partners, the press and players?
Apart from the briefest of statements, zero, nada, nothing – at least publicly and most importantly to the fans.
I said earlier it’s wise in difficult times to communicate. Senior executives across the corporate world are trained that in time of crisis, you communicate. Tell the people who are most affected by what is happening three things:
What and why has it (the crisis) happened?
How it affects the current and the future?
What are we doing to put it right?
But what about Jim White I hear you say? His self serving mouthpiece act is not the club speaking. It’s apparently the major shareholder speaking. Well that doesn’t do the job.
If Moshiri has something to say, come out and say it, but say it through the proper channels as a statement from the major shareholder. The risks of using an unqualified third party are huge. Any message that is there to be delivered is diluted instantly; it’s not official, it’s open to interpretation and most importantly is it consistent with the thoughts of the club, board and other shareholders?
The “project” is at risk
The project is at risk. It’s at risk because of what’s gone on the pitch this season. It’s at risk because of whatever happened in the summer, despite the sums spent have weakened the squad. It’s at risk because we don’t have an obvious replacement manager, we don’t know what type of manager is being sought. It’s at risk because the footballing world must be looking at the club and wondering who is in charge and what’s going on there?
This obviously and most critically affects our on pitch performance. But it affects future player acquisition which has already proven a difficult nut to crack. It must affect our discussions with future commercial partners. It affects our revenues and our ability to grow our wage bill in the future, slowing our return to competitiveness.
It must affect the very people we are talking to who will be charged with getting the project back on course. By the way, a reminder of what the project is would be useful.
It requires in the first instance two key components.
Leadership and communications
It requires clear leadership and it requires a very clear form of communication, clear and full of clarity leaving no ambiguity as to our ambition, our objectives and who will lead the club in the difficult days ahead.
The warning is stark. Without clear leadership and communication the “project” is floundering.
Moshiri and his, yes his, selected board are the only people who can sort out the position we are in.
It needs sorting, the footballing world and most importantly the fans have to see evidence of this without hesitation. Those charged with the leadership role have to demonstrate and communicate their leadership like no other time in our history.