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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 14:43 GMT
Everton blueprint for success
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Everton are chasing Liverpool's giant shadow as they search for serious investment and ponder whether to stay at Goodison Park or make a long-awaited ground move.

Goodison Park
Staying at Goodison Park is the nearest thing to a guarantee of decline that you can come up with

Professor Tom Cannon

Chairman Bill Kenwright has watched Liverpool seal a block-busting 450m takeover with American tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks and start work on a new 250m stadium close to Everton's own home.

Kenwright, in contrast, continues a hunt for investors that has lasted years and is still waiting to finalise plans for a proposed ground switch.

The club is currently in talks with Tesco and Knowsley Council about a new stadium in Kirkby - but even this his raised the hackles of some fans who are mounting a campaign against a move outside the Liverpool city boundary.

Everton have reached a pivotal point in their history - so what might the future hold for one of English football's great institutions?

Here, football finance expert and Everton shareholder Professor Tom Cannon investigates how attractive the club is to potential investors, and reveals the frustrations and letdowns Kenwright has suffered in his search for greater financial firepower.

Cannon also delivers a blunt answer to those Everton fans rebelling against a move away from Goodison - warning that to remain at their current home will be a blueprint for rapid decline.

Liverpool council leader Warren Bradley will then give his views on why he hopes Everton will still remain inside the city boundaries.

ARE EVERTON ATTRACTIVE TO INVESTORS?

It depends on the type of investor. If you are looking for a bankable asset probably not because bankable assets are probably the top four clubs, with one or two others who are single town clubs such as Newcastle.

If you are a speculator and you think you could invest enough to turn a club strategically in another direction then they might be attractive.

WHY WEST HAM AND ASTON VILLA BUT NOT EVERTON?

With West Ham there was a very real London factor, as you have seen with a certain shift in football power from the north to the south. London is seen as one of the most dynamic economies in the world.

Another element with West Ham, which was a peculiarity, was a lot of the talk about possibilities linked to the 2012 Olympics and the possibility of a ground transfer to the Olympic Stadium

I think investors saw that as a real opportunity.

Villa are a genuine long-term potential club. They have history. They have won the European Cup and, despite the fact that Birmingham may get promoted to the Premiership next season, they are still the only major club in the Midlands.

That is a franchise that stretches almost from Leicester and the east Midlands right over to parts of central Wales.

The natural franchise for Villa is probably 15 million people, whereas the natural franchise for Everton is maybe 1.5m.

In financial terms, they look a much better bet than Everton. Their ground is in a good position and they are virtually debt-free.

And they had someone in Doug Ellis who, for all the criticism levelled at him, ran a tight ship that made them debt-free and relatively inexpensive to buy.

HAVE EVERTON HAD INTEREST FROM INVESTORS?

The failure of the Fortress Sports Fund to materialise certainly made people inside the club more cautious.

When you talk to people within the club, maybe they took people at face value and I think that has now created a genuine sense of caution.

I know Bill Kenwright well enough to know he has had an awful lot of false promises about investment. The truth of the matter is that he has had an awful lot of people talk about promises and they have come to nothing.

The Fortress Sports Fund got a lot of publicity but it was only one of many false claims by people who said they had a willingness or ability to put money into Everton.

Bill Kenwright
I know Bill Kenwright well enough to know he has had an awful lot of false promises on investment

Professor Tom Cannon

Externally, there is some worry about putting money into the second club in a town. When you talk about branding, people want to invest in the brand leader not the second brand and, unfortunately for Everton, they are not the brand leader in Liverpool.

But I am sure there are investors out there looking at Everton.

While hedge funds are awash with money, while speculators are seeing opportunities in English football, while sports franchises see English football as a big potential area for development, then there are bound to be people looking at a club like Everton - with its very strong support base, history of achievement, and a strong squad.

People will be looking at Everton, although I would have to add that they might not be at the top of people's list at the moment.

HOW MUCH WOULD IT TAKE TO BUY EVERTON?

One of the hardest things in the world is to value a football club.

If it was a takeover, one would have to assume there would be a premium. So assume that premium, particularly in the current market, would probably value the club at around 50m.

There is also now the question of the new stadium.

It looks like there is a very attractive package on offer in Knowsley, so assume Everton need to put in 30m for the stadium and then to invest to clear most of the debt would probably be another 30m.

Everton are relatively debt-free in Premiership terms, so let's say it takes 100m to buy the club, make an investment in the stadium and clear most of the debt.

Everton normally spend around 20m a year on players.

So in terms of players, to take Everton to the next level and spending more than you normally spend, you are probably talking between 40m and 60m, taking the gross price to about 150m to 170m.

WOULD BILL KENWRIGHT SELL?

Bill has said in the past he would stand aside if someone he regarded as the right person came along, and I believe he is being 100% accurate in that, but that hasn't happened yet.

I remember an accountant arranging a meeting and said he had somebody willing to put 10m into Everton. I was at the meeting with Bill Kenwright and obviously we expected to meet the man who was putting up the 10m.

The only person who turned up was the accountant - and all he wanted to talk about was an enormous, truly enormous, finder's fee before he would even tell us who the investor was.

I don't think there is any way Bill would hold this up if the investor or investors came along and I'm confident no-one else on the board would either.

I think Bill has done very well for Everton.

There are things he could do differently. I think the board is too small, with only two or three people. He should be looking for a more broadly-based board, maybe five or six people with different kinds of expertise, if not more money.

Look at who Bill's closest friend in football is? It is David Dein at Arsenal and they did not achieve their success overnight.

One of the funniest things I've heard recently was one Everton fan holding up West Ham as a model of how the club should be going.

HOW IMPORTANT IS A NEW GROUND?

The ground move is crucial, given the type of ground developments we are seeing in the north-west of England.

Everton need a new ground. Goodison Park is old, tired and badly structured, with 3,000 obscured-view seats and only 11 executive boxes.

Staying at Goodison Park is the nearest thing to a guarantee of decline that you can come up with.

Whatever you did there, the cost would be enormous. If you tried to close down sides while you turned the ground around, it would inevitably be in the shadow of the new Anfield. I think it should be some distance away.

There are people who say stay at Goodison. I say to them then plan to be in the Championship, and possibly the next division down in the Football League, in the not too distant future.

Sir Terry Leahy
Tesco chief executive and Everton fan Sir Terry Leahy may be a key figure

I don't see Kirkby as a problem. If Manchester United can be outside Manchester, I don't see why Everton can't be outside Liverpool.

Staying at Goodison takes Everton to being more like Tranmere Rovers than the Everton of old.

Knowsley Council has a fantastic reputation for collaboration. You don't have organisations the size of Ford, News International and Tesco involved with the council unless that is the case.

These people who say being in Liverpool is a guarantee of success should ask what Marine have ever earned.

Being in Liverpool is not a guarantee of success.

Having the money to spend on players, having money to invest in the development of talent and having money to bring in the best in terms of management and skills is the way you get success.

Everton are obviously involved with Tesco in the new ground and we are very lucky to have arguably the most successful company in Britain being run by a totally committed Evertonian in Sir Terry Leahy.

But it must all make sound sense for everyone involved because I do not believe Sir Terry would make a decision like this based on sentiment. He would not damage Tesco and he would not damage Everton.


SEE ALSO
New stadium proposals submitted
06 Feb 07 |  Merseyside
Everton reassure fans over move
12 Dec 06 |  Everton
Everton confirm new stadium talks
12 Dec 06 |  Merseyside
Everton in talks on stadium move
15 Jun 06 |  Merseyside
Everton fail in King's Dock bid
11 Apr 03 |  Everton


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