“Kicking the can down the road” forms part of the lyrics of Randy Newman’s achingly sad “I think it’s going to rain today” written back in 1968, ironically when perhaps (and unknown to him for sure) Everton and indeed the City of Liverpool were at the peak of their powers.
In modern day language it means deferring, putting off difficult decisions, to postpone a difficult action. To me it singularly defines the last 12 to 18 months at Goodison Park.
For the last 12 months on the EvertonBusinessMatters podcast, and for a while longer on this blog, I/we have highlighted the areas of deficiency I (and increasingly many others) have identified within the club.
The list will be all too familiar, be it moribund commercial performance, appalling communications strategy, prolonged lead up to the financing and planning approval of Bramley-Moore, and on the pitch the poor manager and coaching team selection, the poor player recruitment, the inability to retain our best players, let alone an underwhelming and under-performing Director of Football, the complete destruction of any playing philosophy, the unwillingness of players “to put a shift in”, turgid tactics, performances and horrific result after result.
In all the complete antithesis of Nil Satis Nisi Optimum.
How on earth does it come to this?
Farhad Moshiri is an intelligent man. He was identified and headhunted by Usmanov from what must have been many, many advisors clambering for his attention as the man to be entrusted with his growing metals, mining, telecommunications businesses and other interests. As a result, he grew his own fortune sharing a significant minority interest in Usmanov’s holding company. Today he still is Chairman of USM a phenomenally successful business despite the most recent difficulties Russian businesses and their owners face.
That’s all background, it doesn’t answer the question posed? Why is almost every area of the football club under-performing? His intellect and business skills have not seen an improvement in Everton’s footballing or corporate performance, in fact I’d argue the reverse.
Prior to Moshiri the club survived for many years on a risk averse basis, with a solid relationship between manager(s) & Chairman whilst sweating the asset as far as they (or more accurately the banks) would allow. This requires a different methodology and skill set to a business that becomes well-resourced and is looking to expand commercially and operationally.
Whatever talents the Board under Kenwright and the administration of Elstone and other executives had in tight financial conditions, they have demonstrably proven inadequate since Moshiri arrived. I stress this is not wistful thinking harking back to the dark days of the past, we stagnated under the previous regime whilst our major competitors raced ahead and that should always be remembered.
Lack of leadership
What is clear, is that from board down there is no leadership within the club at present. Moshiri almost certainly has a plan and he’s probably shared it with at least one or two directors, but it seems the rest of the organisation is either blissfully unaware or incapable of executing it.
There can only be a limited number of reasons why we find ourselves in the position we are in. Either Moshiri has a plan or he hasn’t, but as stated above it’s impossible to believe someone who possibly will have committed nearly £500 million by the time the stadium is built and fully financed does so on a whim. If you remember he came to Liverpool FC on behalf of Usmanov in 2005 with a plan including partial ownership and stadium funding, so much of this is not new thinking.
So perhaps the plan hasn’t been articulated sufficiently to the Board? Perhaps there’s communication problems at that level? That seems unlikely given the close relationship between himself and Sasha Ryazantsev, the role Keith Harris plays from his London base, and his relationship with Kenwright.
Maybe the board, including two representatives of the senior executive team in Robert Elstone and Denise Barrett-Baxendale don’t communicate sufficiently in detail or frequency to ensure instructions are followed, and questions are answered when the executive team requires them?
Finally, perhaps communications are fine, but the people charged with executing the strategy are just not good enough across the business.
The need for change
Whatever the reasons, and from the outside one can only speculate and use experiences elsewhere to suggest possible causes, there must be change. We cannot afford to continue as is.
We’re faced with so many competitive issues. Our competitors are bigger than us, and continue to grow faster than us. It used to be the “Sky 4” who were bigger than us, then it’s become the “big 6”. For much of the last two years I’ve expected us to do the things we have to do to make it a “big 7”, then we gradually climb the rankings of those 7 back to where almost every Blue believes we belong and hopes we will return.
However, the longer we continue to “kick the can down the road” and not address the serious issues the business has the more difficult the task becomes.
Our competitors grow stronger, those below us close the gap and perhaps overtake us. We will find it more difficult to attract the right talent in the business, the best business partners, on the football management side and of course, on the pitch itself. The task of persuading a player to join us must be more difficult this summer than last. Even the goodwill, patience and loyalty of the finest supporters in the land are finite.
There’s an immediate requirement for change at the top of the organisation, be that an Executive Chair who is involved day to day, or a really heavy hitting CEO who for the next few years eats, sleeps and drinks Everton.
It has to be someone who can express the vision both within the club but also to all of the stakeholders outside whose engagement, and agreement to do business with Everton we must secure in order to advance.
It has to be someone who can attract fresh management talent and thinking into the business.
It must be someone prepared to take tough, and perhaps unpopular decisions from time to time so that we keep moving forward in line with the plan.
To not do so, particularly at this time endangers not only Moshiri’s investment (although that’s not necessarily our premier concern) but the very competitiveness of the club. Moshiri said we have a narrow window of opportunity – that extends on the pitch, it extends with Bramley Moore, it extends to our ability to do commercial deals. If we continue to do nothing to improve the situation, and by that I mean bring leadership and fresh talent into the business then all is at risk.
The song “I think it’s going to rain today” contains the lyrics “Tin can at my feet, Think I’ll kick it down the street, That’s the way to treat a friend”. The Everton can has been kicked far enough down Goodison Road, and back a few times, that’s no way to treat the friends of Everton in my opinion.
Allow change to happen whilst it can still make a difference, and frankly whilst the fans (or friends) still care enough to kick up a fuss. The moment we stop caring, it will be too late!