UK: People’s Group formed to rid Everton of Kenwright
Pre-season is usually a time when football fans begin to feel optimistic about their team’s chances ahead of the new season. With new signings to be unveiled as financed by the ever-growing amounts of money pumped into the game it is also a time when fans look forward to seeing some new blood in the squad which can help the team improve from last season’s performance, and maybe even win a trophy.
For fans of English Premier League side Everton Football Club, however, fans are starting to tire of a board which promises much but delivers little. The Toffees have done really well on a restricted budget thanks to their canny manager David Moyes who, almost every season, refuses offers from rival clubs and shows his loyalty to the Goodison Park club despite the lack of financial muscle at the club. For that particular problem, as well as a host of other off-the-pitch issues, a new group has been formed to become a voice for fans of a club that should be aiming higher but whose internal problems deny it that opportunity.
The People’s Group has recently been set up with the aim of trying to oust a board, led by chairman, local celebrity and impresario Bill Kenwright, whose promises of seeking further investment for the club only for nobody to come forward with any fresh money whilst seeking an unpopular move to a new stadium on the outskirts of the city of Liverpool has become too much. Even for those supporters of the club who are still on Kenwright’s side the promises have become an ever growing sign of tedious disappointment. As every new season approaches players have to be sold before new ones can be bought and Moyes has done very well in the circumstances to keep the team competitive. It’s all the more frustrating for loyal Evertonians to see their team enjoy six top-eight finishes in the last seven seasons and see their team reach the 2008-09 FA Cup final only for ambitions both on-and-off the pitch to be thwarted by a constant lack of finance which, when playing in the richest league in the world, begs questions to be asked about where the money is actually going.
The People’s Group have recently issued a letter which they have sent to a number of UK newspapers in the hope that their cause will be highlighted in much the same way as fans of Manchester United have protested over the Glazer family or fans of local rivals Liverpool FC protested against previous American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks before the club was eventually taken over by New England Sports Ventures. The People’s Group’s has highlighted a number of issues which they feel need addressing:
KING’S DOCK FAILURE – Everton seemed destined to move home from Goodison Park to a prime location on the Liverpool waterfront at King’s Dock in 2003. However the move fell through after the club were unable to guarantee their share of the funding (£30 million) which was all the more disappointing given that Kenwright had said that this was an opportunity that they “would not let….pass us by”. Given that the Liverpool Echo Arena, which hosts pop concerts and other sporting events, has subsequently been built in its place and is extremely lucrative, this missed opportunity was perhaps Everton’s biggest mistake in recent times.
WAYNE ROONEY SALE – When speculation began that home-grown talent Wayne Rooney would be sold to another club Kenwright stressed that “David Moyes and I agreed Wayne has to be a £50m player now….I would turn down any bid for him”, only for the club to sell the player a couple of months later for an initial £20m fee which eventually rose up to £27m due to various added extras. The fact that Rooney was sold was one thing, the actions of a board that spoke tough and acted weak was another.
LACK OF INVESTMENT – There have been a couple of false dawns over the years regarding investment opportunities. Kenwright has been honest in the past to admit that he doesn’t have the sort of cash that many of his Premier League counterparts have but any chances to gain fresh investment from other sources or to sell the club on to something with adequate resources have consistently failed. As The People’s Group eloquently argue in their letter:
“Kenwright says that there are people out there who have looked at buying the club but then never show up with the money. So, every potential investor who ever has an interest in Everton gets to the final stages but never come up with the money? Really? If that is so then why? Why are people not showing up with the money? Who are these people he claims were interested…….They all just suddenly disappeared conveniently? Was it due to the amount they were asking, or were they even there to begin with? No names were mentioned, why not? “
PROJECTED MOVE TO KIRKBY – Another group called Keep Everton In Our City (KEIOC) was created in 2007 to fight against plans to move the club from its present home of Goodison Park to a new stadium on the outskirts of the city in the Kirkby area. Despite the King’s Dock fiasco the club said that they had the deal of the century and could finance the £78m share needed to make the dream a reality. However the move to Kirkby was scuppered by in 2009 by the UK government and now the club has been linked with a ground share with arch rivals Liverpool, another move which is deeply unpopular.
These are just some of the major points which The People’s Group have highlighted in their fight against what they see as the incompetence and lack of business acumen of Bill Kenwright and his fellow board members. How can a club which is a founder member of the Football and Premier Leagues, nine times champions of England, has enjoyed more top flight seasons than any other club and enjoys a massive fan base be mismanaged to this scale? And how can The People’s Club, as David Moyes famously referred to the club when he joined Everton in 2002, appear to be so detached from its own supporters? This, it seems, is only the beginning of football’s latest fan/owner dispute.
For anybody interested in looking further into The People’s Group you can find them on Twitter and Facebook.