On the eve of Everton’s belated start to the new Premier League season a supporters’ group has published details of its meeting with Chairman Bill Kenwright. Covering a wide range of topics, the revelations are unlikely to appease disgruntled Evertonians desperate for a change in the club’s ownership and judging by Kenwright’s own comments there is little light at the end of this tunnel.
The Blue Union, an amalgamation of supporters’ groups under one banner, met with Kenwright on Friday August 12. The discussion varied from analysing why Everton had failed to attract a buyer, to where the club’s income is spent, the future of David Moyes, the struggles endured in finding a new ground and Kenwright’s own personal sacrifice in keeping the club afloat. Kenwright also described four players – Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini as: “the
Kenwright detailed an instance when Keith Harris, the football administrator involved in numerous takeovers, brought the representatives of a hedge fund interested in the club to the Everton board. They entered into due diligence before it was discovered one was an inventor from Manchester. The other, who Kenwright said “was the head of ICI in the Far East,” was actually unknown to the company and in fact lived in a one bedroom flat. Rejecting the notion that investors were deterred by the club’s substandard ground, which only generates around two-thirds the match day income of Anfield, Kenwright claimed the sole reason for the lack of interest was the perilous world economy.
The meeting itself has become the subject of much controversy. There have been rumours of the club preparing legal action against some Everton websites for issues relating to the meeting’s transcript – released by the Blue Union and reported by Talksport – and a suggestion that Kenwright did not know the meeting was being taped. Former politician and Everton fan Derek Hatton, who helped arrange the dialogue, tweeted: “Sorry lads, taping meeting without anyone knowing is disgraceful and underhanded. I feel I can never help you again!”
Perhaps, however, the most worrying comments regarding on-field matters came when Kenwright said: “We have just done [sic] a document to the bank which says you can’t stop the football club from trading…So what I’ve told them is don’t kill us this season.” Kenwright later added in an interview with Sky Sports: “The banks are tightening in now. We just can’t borrow any more money.” Which invites the question: just how long will the four unsellable players remain unsellable? If the banks demand Everton takes steps to ease their financial pain, selling one of the club’s key assets – an important, highly-rated player – is the quickest, most profitable option.
If there is some solace to be found it is that Everton has not simply been sold off to the first buyer that shows some interest. The club backed away from Alexandre Gaydamak who eventually took over at Portsmouth and set the club on the way to financial meltdown. Everton are not in those dire straits but the future is not going to get any easier off the field.