“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
In July of 2020, I wrote an article called Farhad Moshiri, the solution or part of the problem?
I have to confess I felt it might have been poorly timed given we were looking forward to the first full season under Carlo Ancelotti, with planning permission and the start of work on Bramley-Moore stadium projected before the end of 2020. The long anticipated up-tick in our fortunes looked like it might just be appearing over the horizon.
Nearly 12 months on, the reality though is that Everton Football Club, and its owner Farhad Moshiri, have yet again failed to take advantage of such a position. With Ancelotti running at the first opportunity and a totally uninspiring management selection process to date, all the evidence points to the club’s performance and decision-making not improving.
Any study of successful businesses will throw up multiple factors, such as financial resources, product development, competitor performance, strategy, timing etc. However, rarely do these factors just happen, few succeed through luck alone, there is usually the same common element. The fact is that success in any walk of life is down (assuming the resources are available to exploit the opportunity) to the quality of the people charged with creating the success.
Success can look different to different people, but in football, particularly to a club that has been in the top division for 68 consecutive seasons, surely success can only be defined by the club’s competitiveness in winning silverware.
It was Moshiri himself who said as much when attending his first AGM in January 2017 – four and a half years ago “It’s not enough to say you are a special club and a great club, we don’t want to be a museum.”
So why are we no closer, and indeed further away from that objective than we were then?
I’m going to offer two factors. An egotistical, misguided (but possibly well intended) owner in Moshiri and an exceptionally weak board of directors
I have puzzled for years why Moshiri has not wished to improve the strength of his board and executive team. I have wondered why in the face of common wisdom and usual business practice, even the most friendly of takeovers has not resulted in a change of management, particularly when that business has under-performed so spectacularly.
Let’s not forget that successive board members at Everton have presided over nearly 30 years of strategic under-performance. Despite being one of the key participants in the formation of the Premier League they failed to anticipate and recognise the boom years that lay ahead, opting for a safety-first approach which had the principal objective of just securing Premier League participation. No commitment to competing for silverware, or even participation in the money pot of the Champions League. How many times in the pre-Moshiri era were we a striker away from breaking into the Champions League yet never did so?
Commercially, there was no revenue growth strategy other than reliance upon periodic increases in broadcasting income, negotiated and awarded by the Premier League. We adopted the most safety-first approach imaginable. As a result, we tied ourselves to long term arrangements, be it sponsorship or our outsourcing models that were non-competitive relative to our peers and in a booming market got increasingly less competitive year after year. Since Moshiri’s arrival, that strategy hasn’t changed. Revenue growth from commercial activities have almost exclusively arisen from the USM relationship.
Yet Moshiri has seen no reason to change, and continues to see no reason to change the key architects and exponents of this failed strategy?
Recruitment, recruitment, recruitment
|Changes in Directors|
Perhaps we should just recognise this is a board that Moshiri has been and is content with. It is a board that will not present him, the owner, with much in the way of challenge. It is a board that will allow him to dictate regardless of his skills and knowledge whilst not holding anyone to account for their corporate performance.
Why have there been no new board appointments for more than 2 years? Why have there been no challenges to the Chair and senior executive positions? Why has there been no appointment of experienced non-executive directors to provide oversight and challenge to a business and its executives that is failing to compete?
Even with the appointment of Brands as director of football, much of the major responsibilities, namely monitoring, selection and recruitment of players, training staff and managers have at key times reverted back to the owner or the Chairman. The recruitment and appointment of managers since Martinez’ departure on 12 May 2016 has been driven entirely by Moshiri.
Despite assurances post Ancelotti’s departure of Brands controlling recruitment, that trend is set to continue with the appointment of Benitez. How can a board, how can a director of football, put faith in or allow the owner with a track record of managerial appointments and departures that reads like this?
|Managers||Appointed||Departed||No of days||No of games||win %|
Focus on a few key objectives I only have three things to do. I have to choose the right people, allocate the right number of dollars, and transmit ideas from one division to another with the speed of light. So I’m really in the business of being the gatekeeper and the transmitter of ideas.”
To be fair Moshiri has backed the club like few others, currently being the third largest benefactor in English football, just ahead of Tony Bloom at Brighton & Hove Albion. However, it has to be noted that the most recent investments have been to cover the mistakes of earlier decisions, the lack of European revenues arising from poor performance (below) plus the impact of Covid-19 on the club’s finances.
|League position||FA Cup Round||League Cup||Europe|
|2015/16||11||Semi Final||Semi Final||DNQ|
|2017/18||8||3||4||Group Stage EL|
Our player recruitment largely has been poor. Since the arrival of Moshiri in 2016, the following players have been recruited:
|Cost £m||Sale £m||Appearances||Goals||Mins played|
“If we weren’t still hiring great people and pushing ahead at full speed, it would be easy to fall behind and become a mediocre company.”
Ultimately, the last five years can be boiled down to failure to recruit correctly at board, executive, footballing executive and player levels. This is compounded by a failure of governance in allowing the involvement of those not qualified, and in the case of external advisors those with not necessarily the same alignment of interests as the club.
The result is unsurprising. How can we expect to improve if we don’t recruit the best people and then allow those people to perform in line with their experiences and position within the club? How can we possibly expect a superior outcome, a sustainable outcome driven by those not suitably qualified to create and execute the appropriate strategies and make the correct recruitment choices?
It is clear that in the absence of luck (not advisable to rely upon) without the right people recruiting the right people we are always going to produce inferior results to that of our better staffed competitors, regardless of how much money is thrown at it.
Moshiri has to recognise the boundaries of his involvement in the recruitment and selection of players and managers. He could help himself enormously by allowing the director of football to perform his role, whilst he concentrates on recruiting better business leaders and executives.
Recruitment of the right people by the right processes is key to the success of Everton, on and off the pitch. It is the only way we can turn around our fortunes.
“If you hire only those people you understand, the company will never get people better than you are. Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don’t particularly like.”