The words of Farhad Moshiri, in the programme notes of 12 March 2016, just two weeks after his £87.5 million share purchase giving him a 49.9% shareholding and effective control of the club.
What a start, (what a manager!) 2-0 to Everton v Chelsea in a FA Cup Quarter Final with Lukaku scoring one of the most memorable goals seen at the Street End in many a fine year
“What am I to say?” Moshiri said. “I bought into a great club. I felt it today. It is a great club.” He added “I think you can never take over a club, you can be part of a club, and I think that’s what I’m hoping; to become part of a club…I bought into a family, a new family. I think that’s what’s special for me. And I give them whatever I have“
Two months later, on 12 May, Martinez having won only one of nine games subsequent to the quarter final, was fired with the club in 11th position, having lost our second semi-final of the season, the FA Cup semi final versus Manchester United with huge divisions apparent within the squad and indeed the fan base.
Although there was some sadness for Martinez, the decision was received with great enthusiasm by the fans. At last we had a decisive owner, willing to make tough decisions, even cancelling the in-house awards evening at St George’s Hall due later that evening.
With Moshiri promising lots of money for purchases, a striker who scored 25 goals in a season (the first in a royal blue shirt since Gary Lineker, 30 years previously) and the prospects of a “hollywood” manager Evertonians entered the 2016 summer in high spirits. We had an ambitious owner, sufficiently wealthy to attract a high profile manager, invest in the squad, build a stadium and surely bring the changes at boardroom level necessary to deliver and maintain the above.
The reality has been somewhat different. I have broken down the key elements of his time as shareholder.
Recruitment on and off the field has been a major issue for the club in the last 4 years. As anyone familiar with the club will know, managerial appointments have been haphazard with seemingly no strategy behind them. There was a plan when Koeman arrived but despite a promising first season and European qualification, recruitment was appalling and the manager totally detached from the club, players (seemingly) and particularly the fans. Koeman was a hard character to manage, no doubt, but the absence of direction and leadership from the major shareholder, Chairman and directors made a difficult situation much worse. The financial impact of Koeman and Walsh’s time, fueled by a generous owner, but with no checks and balances, still impacts the club 3 years later.
Manager appointments under Moshiri:
Director of Football appointments under Moshiri:
The decision to appoint a director of football was, in my opinion, correct. The initial appointment, how it came about and the strategic thinking and direction were far different though. In the early summer of 2016 the club chased every top candidate across Europe – for whatever we lacked in strategy, ambition was high. However leading candidates like Monchi failed to be convinced (Brands was also approached but for him the timing was wrong) and by mid July we settled on Steve Walsh, a scout with a great reputation for unearthing talent and a fundamental part of Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title win. However, cast into a poorly defined role at Everton and with three others (Moshiri, Kenwright and Koeman) directing their own transfer strategies, with hindsight it is not surprising that the results of spending huge sums, paying inflated salaries and disposing of Everton’s established star assets created a less effective and unbalanced playing squad.
The subsequent appointment of Brands, an experienced director of football with proven abilities and enviable success on and off the pitch has, to date, not yielded immediate dividends. However, his to do list is significant. Re-structuring the academy, integrating the U-23 side as a feeder for the first team, re-balancing a very poor and expensive squad takes time. The difficult market conditions in the Covid-19 era and Everton’s stretched finances further complicate matters, but working alongside Ancelotti in a disciplined manner, reducing the influence of the board and Moshiri in transfer decisions remains the only solution to Everton’s appalling recruitment policies in the last 4 years.
|Director of Football||Appointed||Dismissed|
Transfer Activity under Moshiri
Much has been written about Everton’s transfer business since 2016, and I don’t propose to add much other than to list the major transfers and make the following point:
We have spent £458 million, recouped £266.7million and we have seen our wage bill increase from £84 million to £160 million (end June 2019) in 4 years. Yet, in its entirety, we have an extremely weak squad with many underperforming and unsuitable players. The true legacy of serious mismanagement.
Board changes under Moshiri
One of the most confusing aspects of Moshiri’s time with the club is his failure to really address the board composition. There have been changes naturally, Earl left with his shareholding having been sold, Ryazantsev appointed principally as the finance man but with an extended portfolio now including commerce. Keith Harris came and went. Given his experience with the Wembley stadium construction he was thought the ideal candidate to lead the search for funding of the new stadium. Unsurprisingly, he failed to deliver on this and left the club. Robert Elstone left for new pastures and his true love, Rugby League.
The unanswered questions relate to the retention of Bill Kenwright as Chairman, the appointment of Barrett-Baxendale and why there are no external members (non-executive directors) to bring outside expertise and critically, executive accountability. From a governance point of view it is highly unsatisfactory. Perhaps more importantly, we have a board weak on experience and not sufficiently skilled to meet the demands of a Premier League club faced with multiple problems in the most challenging of market conditions.
In my opinion, Moshiri’s failure to address the strengthening and broadening of the board (and the executive team under it) is the single greatest reason for the strategic errors we have made and our failure to advance on and off the pitch. I hope prospective stadium lenders force him to address this issue urgently. The stadium I will address separately.
|Changes in Directors|
It was clear from day one that one of Moshiri’s primary objectives was to find a new home for Everton. Indeed part of his due diligence in the summer of 2015 was to analyse probable sites and designs.
It’s worth saying immediately that Moshiri brought credibility and financial clout to an issue which the previous shareholders and board, particularly Bill Kenwright, had failed to successfully address for over two decades.
That’s not to say that the proposed move to Bramley-Moore has been totally smooth to date. Whilst some may disagree with this comment, the stadium has taken longer to reach this stage of its development than was originally thought. For example, Joe Anderson quoted 2021 at Moshiri’s first AGM in 2017. The project has had various iterations, including a potentially compromising Commonwealth games version, a stunning 60,000 seat version and now, whilst visually impressive, a considerably scaled back 52,000 seat version sitting in the planning department of Liverpool City Council. To be fair, the consultation processes leading up to the planning application received universal acclaim and in my opinion, are the finest piece of work the football club has done for many a year.
Financing of the stadium is yet to be finalised. Moshiri has said on several occasions he will underwrite the difference between the final cost and the amount the club will be permitted to borrow. The massively changed economic circumstances now facing us and the considerable cash demands of the business over the last 4 years will push his commitment beyond where he most likely planned in 2016.
It is not unusual in the development phase of a project to spend more than you earn, particularly when the income streams are largely fixed. However, mainly driven by the wasteful player acquisitions (as well as significant increases in operating expenses) the club’s P&L account under Moshiri has taken a battering.
Cumulative losses for the 3 years to June 2019 amount to £101 million. I project further losses of £60 million for this year even after the £30 million naming rights contribution from USM. These losses would be even greater if it was not for the significant contribution from player trading. In the three years to June 2019 player trading contributed £152.7 million. This financial year I forecast £58 million in player trading profits bringing an aggregate total of £211 million.
Moshiri’s capital injections have been significant. No one, not even his harshest critic can doubt the financial commitment of the man. To June 2019 he has provided £350 million in equity funding and although not yet confirmed in the accounts to be published later this year, I estimate he has provided another £50 million in working capital.
The commercial performance of the club continues to drag. I accept the failures on the field have reduced our ability to expand our commercial footprint, but I am duty bound to say we need investment in experienced professionals who know how to generate commercial income globally. It is another puzzling aspect of Moshiri’s tenure.
Income growth has almost exclusively arisen from the relationship with USM. Their partnership and commitment to the club is worthy of note. The naming rights deal regarding Finch Farm and associated sponsorship around Goodison and our training kits have generated £12 million a year to date (£6 million first year) and of course, the wonderfully creative naming rights option for Bramley-Moore amounting to £30 million.
The banking relationship with ICBC was hailed as a resounding success. Not only providing a much needed £60 million credit facility but an association with China’s largest bank had much merit. Their (ICBC) withdrawal from corporate lending in the UK was regrettable. The fact that we had to resort to Rights and Media Funding as a credit supplier is perhaps a reflection of the deterioration of our credit rating.
Not every business owner is a natural communicator, nor do they have to have a great desire to stand in front of a microphone. Moshiri’s irregular media appearances, his preferred channels of communication and indeed, some of his comments at shareholder general meetings have not put him in a great light.
He has come across as a maverick owner in my opinion. His comments appear unscripted and not particularly corporate or strategic. His use of Jim White as a preferred channel of communication is bizarre to say the least. The comments about Lukaku, the family references re McCarthy do not sit in the goldfish bowl that is Premier League football.
When being strangely indecisive over the firing of Silva, he spoke to the players and was reported as saying “I think of all of you as my sons.” Some may see that as a positive but again it adds to the theory of unusual management practices at least.
Is this important? Actually, it is. We seek a significant increase in commercial income and partnerships. That requires, in part, someone who speaks coherently and on message from a corporate perspective. If Moshiri is not a natural orator or well versed in public communication skills, the club ought provide the training, discipline and guidance required.
An example of Moshiri’s communication style:
More than 4 years on and in a world now struggling to come to terms with a pandemic, barely contained in the UK but still developing in the Americas and much of the southern hemisphere, I think it’s a valid question to ask is Moshiri really the solution provider or is he presiding over a club with perhaps even greater problems than those he inherited in February 2016?
The appointments of Brands and particularly Ancelotti point to better times. They point to a man who has not only used his wealth but his no doubt, considerable charms to attract these men to our club. That is huge progress.
However, in isolation, it is not enough. If the board and management structure is not competitive vis-a-vis our peers and in the light of our numerous challenges before us compounded by inconsistent behaviour, decisions and communications from the major shareholder then we will struggle to make headway.
Seven years ago we were firmly “the best of the rest” despite the minimal resources available to the club. Four years ago we were probably still the best of the rest (albeit the elite group had grown from four to six). Today, we cannot say with any certainty that that holds true. There are compelling cases for Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers to be ahead of us. There’s even a case for bringing Southampton into this discussion.
That is not progress. It is regression. We have to perform better across the business, every aspect of what the club does has to improve enormously. To dispute that is a form of great denial. Yet this is happening on Moshiri’s watch.
The time is for him to prove he is the solution provider, but his approach has to change to do so. Throwing money at us and expecting us to perform better is not enough. It requires leadership, clarity of thought and strategic planning. If Moshiri can’t provide that or provide the people who can deliver it, then regrettably, despite his financial commitment, he is part of the problem.
Respectfully, being part of “the club…buying into a new family” alone is insufficient in my opinion.