by Tony Attwood
The failure of Bill Kenwright, the chairman of Everton, to find anyone to buy his club, is either one of football’s oddities, or it is a sign that football is changing.
If you wanted to buy a club that was established in the EPL and had some history behind it, Everton would certainly be on your list of possibles.
The club loses money every year, true, and as such has not the slightest hope of playing in a European competition, but it has a solid support and a spot of history. And the near neighbours look to be approaching terminal chaos.
Bill Kenwright has said, “The truth is Everton do need a billionaire. Of course that’s a stock phrase, but we do need major investment.”
Quite amusingly a while back he said, “It’s hard when you get bombarded, as I have been in the last three AGMs, with questions like ‘Why can’t we have what Newcastle have? West Ham? Portsmouth?’
Ah yes, relegation, financial ruin and a narrow escape, and administration.
The fact is that, like the catastrophists at Arsenal, the catastrophists at Everton are fed up with not winning stuff, and look around with envy at the high spending elsewhere, without looking at the consequences of that high spending.
But there aren’t any more buyers.
Kenwright again: “Am I hopeful? I’ve been hopeful before, and nothing’s come of anything. But I will find that investment. Keith Harris from Seymour Pierce is probably the top football investment broker. He has been, alongside others, looking for us. Every name you see that has been out there looking for football clubs, we’ve spoken to them. We’ve had people in the Far East, America, Switzerland, Japan…”
He has also had to put up with the failure of the £400million Tesco-backed Kirkby project although some of that failure was self-inflicted after the club built a new training ground, then tried to sell the old one for property development, and then when planning permission was turned down, allowed directors to attack the local council and indeed the whole notion of local democracy. And that was just before the same people were about to vote for the new ground. A bit silly really.
So, why does no one want to buy Everton?
The possible answer are
1. Buyers expect profit
That is certainly the case at Man IOU and Liverpool Insolvency. You can buy a team because you always loved the team and want to be in the boardroom hobnobbing with the players and the memories, but unless you have deep pockets your team will sink. If you want profit, how do you do it? Apart from being a con artist (see below) no one except Arsene Wenger seems to know.
2. Owners are aware of leveraged buy outs
In fact you would have to be managing the Sea of Tranquility Reserves on the Moon not to be aware of leveraged buy outs. So sellers of clubs have become cautious. Mr Kenwright may have had offers, but he is obviously not wanting to see the club he has nurtured and paid for, wrecked.
3. People are more aware of crooks and con artists
Apart from the Glazers et al who do operate within the law, (and as far as I know the Glazers made it quite clear what they were going to do before they bought Man IOU) there are the crooks and conmen hovering at every corner.
And some of them, amazingly, don’t even have the money they said they had. Ridsdale at Cardiff proclaimed “there are no debts”. Birmingham was going to spend £40m on players, but couldn’t pay a £2m bank fee. Portsmouth had four owners who seemed to have no money. At Notts County the owners didn’t even exist.
4. The new rules are now too close
While the media had little interest in UEFA’s new financial rules, and there was (and in many cases still is) a feeling that “the big clubs will find a way around them”, I believe that quite a few potential owners took one look at the new Financial Doping Regs and said, “that’s it then” and decided to go into camel racing or Formula 1.
If you own a club now, there is still time to pour money in, buy a team and set up a vibrant youth academy. But the idea of buying a club, and getting to the Champs League final in a year or two is now over. There’s too much competition, and too many rules.
Even in a two team league in which the teams get to keep all the TV money, and the banks will bankroll you to infinity, Real Mad can’t guarantee to win the league. And I think it must have shocked the owners of the KGB in Fulham, and Man arab to the core to find that they couldn’t just buy the best players in the world, control them and then win everything.
The failure of Man Arab even to get into the Champs league before the Financial Doping Regs come in, must be a worry. Everyone assumed Chelsea could buy their way to endless success. It turned out not to be true.
5. Become a laughing stock
Worse, it is possible to get involved in all this football stuff and become a laughing stock as you fail to make it happen. David Gold might be able to walk down the streets of West Ham and be safe, but West Ham is not really a fully civilised area (note the match v Millwall for example). I doubt that the owners of Liverpool and Man C would get a good reception. And although there is good will towards the owners of Man C locally, in the wider football world they are a laughing stock….
“…here’s one we paid £30m for him, can’t remember his name, he’s in Brazil now – he’s yours if you want him. And we got that Adebayor bloke, can’t quite remember why, but Arsenal thought he was good so we took him. Not really that good…. oh and here’s one, I think he’s one of ours…
6. So which clubs are available?
There is, in fact a shortage of supply. Chelsea and Man C are not for sale. Man U apparently is not for sale because their owners now live on Pluto and are putting together a plan to fly to Alpha Centuri. Liverpool is for sale, but before you even think about doing anything you need to clear all the debts, invest £300m in a new stadium and £200m in a new team. Tottenham – who knows, because their benefactor is living half way around the world in a tax haven.
And when we get down to clubs that might be for sale we find that like Aston V, Everton, Bolton, Blackburn etc, they can’t qualify for Europe, and time is now running out. Some are for sale, most not.
If any club is going to be sold, it really ought to be Everton. They have an owner who wants to sell, they have fans that would like the club sold, the potential fan base is high, the rivals are in terminal decline (unless some crook or idiot really does come and buy them out), and they have become so used to years without Europe, that another ten as the owner puts the billions in and then lets it mature, won’t really look any different.
But it just seems no one wants to play any more.
Maybe its because people like the Tottenham owner are reported to have lost getting on for a billion pounds in the stock market crash following the banking crash. Maybe everyone wants to buy into camel racing.
Whatever the reason I suspect we are approaching the end of the era of big buying of clubs.
Temporary editor’s note: As Tony is going away for a few days to get a well deserved rest, I have agreed to take over the operation of the site during his time away . If you have something that cant wait to be published you can send it to this email address email@example.com.
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