A MEANS TO AN END
After a busy week supporting the team at both Goodison and Ewood Park we are finally releasing our full response to the unfounded allegations that we believe were intended to undermine the value of the detailed report on our recent meeting with Bill Kenwright. We will endeavour to explain the background and the events subsequent to the meeting being held.
Following the recent and very successful media awareness campaign, conducted by The People’s Group element of The Blue Union, Derek Hatton replied with a sympathetic response to our concerns surrounding Everton’s true financial situation.
A meeting was organised where we met with Robert Elstone; we were asked to keep this out of the public realm but Derek Hatton has subsequently breeched this confidentiality in his statement on Everton’s website. Following this initial meeting, Derek Hatton brokered a further meeting with Bill Kenwright.
Some members of the Blue Union expressed their concerns over the involvement of Derek Hatton due to his history in the city and his previous unbridled support for Bill Kenwright’s policy on relocation.
It was our opinion that the whole exercise was little more than an attempt to take the heat out of our campaign by offering minor concessions in return for our compliance with the clubs strictly enforced policy of controlling all information and punishing those who speak out against the present regime; examples of which are, Ian Doyle of the Daily Post who was banned for writing this and the Echo staff who were banned in February for reporting a series of articles including this; an article, incidentally, which certainly bears a closer resemblance to the actual financial situation we find ourselves in rather than the image that the club were attempting to project in this communication to their fans.
Our meeting with the chairman was arranged for the 12th August 2011; we were concerned that the club would attach last minute conditions aimed at preventing accurate reporting of meeting. Prior to this meeting the only condition we had agreed to abide by concerned not asking the chairman for the price he was looking for the club.
We agreed to nothing else; in fact we were not asked to comply with any other condition whatsoever and we maintain that we clearly informed Everton that a full report would be compiled of the meeting and that this was understood by all; that this understanding was accepted by them can be seen here:
From: Mark Rowan (Everton) <email@example.com>
To: Arthur Jones
CC: Graeme Sharp (Everton) <Graeme.Sharp@evertonfc.com>
Sent: Fri, 19 Aug 2011 6:44
Subject: RE: FAO Graeme Sharp
At the meeting it was requested that there was to be no note taking but an acceptance that a report of the meeting would be released in their own words.
There was no agreement with regards to an audio recording and verbatim transcript.
The above email contradicts claims that the meeting was to remain private. We agree completely that there was an acceptance that the meeting would be reported, but at no point was it stressed to us that this had to be in our own words. The report we delivered was as accurate as possible under the circumstances; we did this in a bid to eliminate any possible accusation that the contents were misrepresentative or a fabrication of the conversation.
As predicted, after we arrived, Bill Kenwright attempted to prevent an accurate report of the meeting being recorded; he said “no notes” yet he repeatedly asked us to write information down during the meeting.
It is ironic that towards the end on the meeting, in a bid to prove how hard he was working on Everton related matters, the chairman produced his diary and then, from his desk drawer, a collection of notebooks containing information taken at meeting relating to Everton’s business activities, Bill Kenwright stated, “you have to write everything down with these people”. We have to say that we agree with that statement entirely.
Fearing that Everton would simply use our meeting with the chairman as a publicity coup, and issue information before we had communicated our findings, we placed a short statement on our website which explained that we’d met with the chairman and that a report would follow.
Over the weekend we were contacted several times by Derek Hatton, he was enquiring as to what we were going to do. We were becoming uncomfortable with the pressure so we invited Derek to a meeting late in the afternoon on Sunday 14th August.
At that meeting we were joined by various members of the Blue Union including people from KEIOC. Derek Hatton began by telling everybody present [ten people] that he could completely reassure everybody that the banks were categorically not pressuring Everton, he said, “he could guarantee this 100%” a KEIOC member took exception to this statement and informed Derek he needed to stop him there; this was less than a minute into the meeting.
We had been told of Derek’s modus operandi at meetings, talking through interruptions and shouting the opponent down, the KEIOC member did exactly the same and held his ground; a quite heated exchange took place where facts and figures and director’s reports were quoted from whilst Derek Hatton maintained his stance that Everton’s bankers simply weren’t applying pressure to the club.
Other members of the Blue Union, including those actually present at the meeting just two days earlier, reminded Derek exactly what Bill Kenwright had said about pleading with the banks not to kill us this season, about having to take a document to the bank to prevent them from stopping the club from trading. Derek eventually relented and claimed that all banks were on the backs of every business.
The above scenario was repeated many times; towards the end of the meeting Derek received a text message which he claimed was from Robert Elstone; the meeting ended shortly afterwards with Derek stating that if the Keith Harris story came out there would be no further assistance from him and that in addition to this we should forego the claim for an interim board as, in his opinion, it was unacceptable, and should perhaps be replaced with a request for the board to establish a group, which would include fans, who had a remit to investigate the sale of the club.
Following a unanimous vote to reveal the full truth, and a remarkable effort by those involved in producing it, our report was published at 22:00 on Wednesday 17th August; some five days after the meeting had taken place.
The following morning various members of the Blue Union were being contacted by people in the media; they explained they were being informed by the club that Everton were ‘considering’ taking legal action. Our advice was that they didn’t have a leg to stand on and that this was simply a diversionary tactic intended to limit the publication of the contents of the report.
Despite this flagrant attempt to divert attention away from the real issues revealed within our report the journalists went ahead and reported the details in many local and national papers. These threats of legal action, for essentially reporting the truth, have sadly had a detrimental effect on the health of one of the members of the Blue Union; as expected, the threat disappeared once publication went ahead.
Later that evening we discovered that the Echo intended to run a statement from Everton. We contacted the Echo’s night desk and requested a right to reply; we were promised a response before their deadline but sadly we received nothing; we have since contacted the editor and we have welcomed his response.
Apart from the club’s statement, printed in the Echo on Friday 19th August, the newspaper did carry several critical articles which continued in the Saturday edition including an excellent piece from former Everton player Barry Horne.
If the club’s stated position is that the information released by the Blue Union “did not properly represent the conversation”, why haven’t they specifically explained what wasn’t representative?
It is somewhat sad that Everton chooses to employ the same old tired tactics. Ultimately this does nothing to enhance the clubs image, their relationship with their fans, nor their reputation with the media.
Bill Kenwright explained to us that Ian Ross had been recently promoted. It’s disappointing to see how Mr Ross communicates with the Everton fan base; here’s an example from a fan who had enquired about the statement released by The People’s Group weeks before the Blue Union even met with Bill Kenwright:
Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2011 22:01:41 +0100
I have nothing to say about these ill-informed children……they inhabit a fantasy world where their every wish is granted by the Gods of Football……fans of West Ham, Birmingham City and Poretsmouth made similar wishes – and look where they are now
Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2011 22:15:03 +0100
Perspective….the four groups united under the twee banner ” Blue Union ” boast no more than 50-60 people…..militants, kids etc……I’m not sure precisely what it is you expect us to do?
All Clubs have detractors….they distort the truth, the facts…they lie…they abuse….they spit at people like me in the street…..I have no time for them….they don’t matter to me……and they don’t matter to 99 per cent of those Evertonians who can read a balance sheet and who can accept that everyone should be careful what it is they wish for…..
It’s our opinion that this type of response is totally unacceptable; the observations are disgraceful and the allegations are without foundation. We believe that Everton, as a professional organisation, should act professionally at all times, whether that is when communicating or in dealing with the media. Perhaps if the club treated their fans with a little respect the fans would be equally respectful of the club and those they employ.
The current crisis at Goodison Park hasn’t been caused by those fans who have questioned the policies being adopted, neither was it caused by the three of us outmanoeuvring the senior officials of a premiership club in order to discover the truth; we’re just three ordinary fans who’d had enough of being treated with contempt.
Have our actions damaged the club? No, why do you think Phil Neville was valued at £250,000 by Tottenham at the beginning of year? The football world has long since known of our plight and finally our fanbase has woken up to the reality of our situation. Neither have our actions damaged the prospect of a sale; the financial situation would have always been uncovered during diligence.
Some fans may feel our actions have been detrimental to others wishing to communicate with the club; it should be understood that any meaningful communication with the clubs hierarchy is nonexistent. Evertonians 4 Change for instance, persisted over many months in attempting to engage the CEO, he refused and pointed out that the fans forum was there to do what they were asking, and let’s not forget that the shareholders have been refused the right to question the board at general meetings and furthermore that the club changed the articles of association in a bid to make the calling of EGM’s more difficult. Are these the actions of a club open to communication? We think not; this is a club intent on preventing effective communication with their fanbase.
For too long the fans and shareholders have been kept in the dark; those working for the club should realise they have a responsibility to keep their fans and shareholders informed; we’re not just customers and Everton isn’t just a business; we contribute over £20m a season to this business and at the very least we expect not to be misled.
We kept to the only prior condition placed on our meeting. Of our own volition we removed all references of private observations, anecdotes, information deemed to be sensitive as indicated by Bill Kenwright, and any conversation about past and current players or other members of staff. In return we have been accused publicly of committing a breach of confidentiality which is totally erroneous.
The strategy to discredit us hasn’t worked, the attempt to turn fans against us has failed; the comprehensive booing of the chairman when he appeared on screen at last Saturdays QPR game bears testimony to the fact the genie is now out of the bottle, the game is up, the PR stunts need to end right here and right now.
Many fans also feel let down by our CEO; he has been at the forefront of the campaign to keep the fans in the dark over the seriousness of our financial situation and he has allowed club officials to castigate the fans who have done nothing more than reveal that the emperor’s new clothes philosophy being employed at Everton has failed and that the board appear unable to develop an effective strategy to address this problem.
To say we’re disappointed would be an understatement; the persistent promotion of the fans forum as an example of how Everton are improving communication with their fanbase is nothing less than embarrassing. If any further proof was needed that the forum is nothing more than a superficial organisation consider this; whilst the club was faced with many serious problems the fans forum was directed to discuss the all important issues of the playing of z cars at half time and the availability of betting kiosks. Promoting and using a hand selected group of fans who are given their agenda, who are forbidden to reveal what they discuss and are essentially anonymous can’t possibly be classed as effective communication.
Here’s another example of the truly appalling standard of communication with the fans. These fans put over £20m into the club every season, yet when we enquire as to why the all important Park End development has seen no progress this is what we get:
- Robert Elstone – Delay’s due to complex legal issues.
- Ian Ross – Not able to relocate the offices and IT equipment during the season, categorically states it has nothing to do with legal issues.
- Bill Kenwright – Delays due to insurance problems.
- Graeme Sharp – Delays due to a disagreement between two of the parties concerned.
We are of the opinion that fans should not be treated in this manner. Suggesting that supporters don’t understand the problems faced by the club is based on ignorance; the evidence on display would suggest that the fans, despite strenuous efforts by the clubs communications department to prevent this, have too readily understood the problems all along. Our meeting with Bill Kenwright has at least confirmed the following beyond all doubt:
- That there are serious concerns over the ability of the current board to identify and deliver a new owner who can provide the necessary funding and the ability to take the club forward.
- That the club is in a far worse financial situation than officials have admitted
- That the chairman appears to have had to beg the banks not to “kill us”
- That the rest of the board appear to do nothing whatsoever.
- That there is a total reliance on selling the club to prevent the inevitable financial meltdown.
Following the publication of this report we would encourage our supporters to contact the club, contact newspaper reporters, radio and television stations and ask them to obtain answers to the following questions:
- What has Keith Harris have to say about the allegation that he introduced a bogus buyer to Everton?
- Why did Bill Kenwright, knowing that he had earlier secured finance from a BVI registered entity, claim on SSN that he could not and would not put the club into any further debt?
- Who exactly is Vibrac Corporation, why does it have the same address as a company that holds a significant portion of the equity in Everton Football Club, who are really behind these organisations?
- The chief executive confirmed during a government inquiry that none of the directors had ever invested a single penny into Everton; when will the £5m, Bill Kenwright spoke of, be made available to the club?
- During the course of the chairman’s meeting with The Blue Union Amanda Staveley’s name was mentioned, what has been her involvement to date, has she introduced any clients to Everton?
Many fans are now genuinely concerned for the future of Everton under this board. The fans spoke out about Kirkby and were ignored; they spoke out about the possible decline into the financial difficulty we’re now experiencing and were ignored again; now they’re proposing the club needs a complete reappraisal of their approach relating to their treatment of their supporters and the need for a groundbreaking decision to be taken to ensure the future safety and prosperity of the club.
Far too many poor decisions have been taken in the past and because of this many feel that the next should be taken out of the hands of the board completely. Our proposal is simple, it is as follows:
“In order to allow the CEO to concentrate on reducing costs, developing our revenue streams and repairing the relationship with the fanbase, the board must now appoint a fully autonomous group of professional individuals who can effectively develop and implement a strategy that will identify and sell the club to a buyer who can demonstrate an ability and a genuine desire to take the club forward on both a commercial and football level.”
All members of the Blue Union will, as always, continue to support our team and our manager; we want to see positive change brought about that will enable the manager to compete both on and off the field to the highest level possible. Divide and conquer is an age old tactic; all fans should now unite with the common aim of returning our club to its rightful place, amongst the elite of the Premier League.
The Blue Union will be holding a public meeting at 12:00 on September 3rd at the Casa on Hope St when the current dilemma faced by the club and the way forward for The Blue Union will be discussed.