There are decisions being made in the corridors of power at Goodison that will determine not only our short term futures but the prospects of our future in the game for ever. In the next few months we’ll go down one of two paths, one leads to being genuinely competitive at the top of the game, the other to perhaps comfortable mid-level security which may satisfy the bankers but not the fans.
By common consent the media day at USM Finch Farm with Sky TV was a very positive experience, show casing all that is good with the club, the progress we are making on the field and the outstanding work of Everton in the Community.
There was however one part of the day that in my opinion did not reflect our optimism nor the fan’s ambitions, and that was the early discussion with our CEO on the stadium. Rather than portraying the opportunity and the loyalty and passion of our fan base we were told “we don’t have a huge waiting list, an army of fans waiting to move in, we’re not like Arsenal”.
I have to say that has bugged me ever since I heard it.
I believe it sells the fans of Everton short. We all love Goodison Park, and despite the thousands of obstructed views, the multitude of poor sight lines, and the almost non-existent facilities, the home sections sell out week in, week out, full of the most loyal, passionate supporters any club could wish for.
The 4 minute video got me thinking about the club, and how we differ in approach to the 6 largest clubs. I understand perfectly the resource argument, that in the absence of capital we’ve had to adopt a make do strategy, but I believe the issues are greater than just financial resources.
I decided to delve into previous academic studies and look up the characteristics of successful companies particularly in growth markets. The Premier League has a history of unbroken growth that appears to be sustainable for quite a number of years to come. Uniquely almost, among the oldest, largest established clubs Everton have failed to take advantage of these growth conditions. Why is that?
Study after study found that the most successful companies in growth conditions placed emphasis internally on issues such as vision, innovation, expansion and talent. Additionally resource management, product development, marketing and partnerships featured strongly with successful companies outperforming in all of these areas relative to their counterparts.
Applying that to football and the Premier League specifically, it’s clear that each of the largest six clubs have used their resources to apply some or all of the above in the development of their businesses and thus on-field activities and success.
One of the greatest features of successful businesses (read teams in football) is accountability, not only to their investors, suppliers, employees but most importantly to their customers. For football clubs this can only mean one thing – accountability to their fans. What does accountability to fans mean? It means providing the resources for success, recognition of the role of fans in that success, and to take action when that success appears waning or absent.
Arguably over the years, every successful club has demonstrated those attributes, yet our own beloved Everton have fallen well short on this count with a markedly poor, near absent level of accountability.
Why is that? A major difference is attitude. Non-growth companies (read unsuccessful football teams) don’t appear to hold themselves to account in the same manner as their growing counterparts. The tendency is to focus on the external challenges, using those a reason for behaviour and performance, rather than execution at home. This was very evident in the Sky video.
As a result comparisons are made with competitors and external conditions rather than within as a reason for performance (or under-performance more commonly).
Successful companies thrive on changing conditions and challenges using the opportunity to innovate, improve processes and when necessary restructure. The commercial landscape of football has changed beyond recognition in the last 20 years and all the largest clubs have made the changes necessary to adapt to those changing conditions. Now it would be wrong to suggest that Everton have not done some of these things at least, but it’s questionable as to how much has been done, and how little has been done in comparison to our peers.
It’s probably fair to say that the rate of progress has quickened considerably since Moshiri’s arrival, certainly ambitions are very much higher – we should always remember going forwards Moshiri’s words at the General Meeting “it’s not enough to be a museum, we must win trophies”.
It’s clear we are progressing in terms of our squad, our management, our recruitment, our junior team strategies, and all of this is very welcome.
However it’s not so clear that we’re progressing quite so well in the running of the business, and the comments made in the CEO interview still show the traits of the past, not the required vision, ambition and drive that will permit us to overhaul the clubs above us.
As with other fans, I’ve said, and it’s clear to other observers also, that we require fresh thinking and new talent in the running of the business of our football club. This week’s TV appearances put that very much into the spotlight.
As fans we must ensure that the club meets our ambitions (and of all fan bases we can argue that the Everton fanbase is among the most knowledgeable yet realistic) and adopts the characteristics of successful businesses, not just survivors.
We need to retain and attract fresh talent, focus on growth, build relationships not operate in isolation or with junior partners, change internal processes and believe we should be operating at the highest levels of the game.
We the fans, the 40,000 that turn up to Goodison week in-week out, who travel the length and breadth of the country, and the uncounted non-match going supporters believe totally in our team and have the highest of ambitions for our club.
It’s time for the board and the senior management to demonstrate in words and actions those same beliefs and ambitions. If that’s not possible for the current incumbents, then ensure the recruitment of others able to do it for us. What is clear (and I’m sure Moshiri doesn’t need me to say it) is that failure to meet those ambitions now, will result in the continuation of underperformance, and it will be impossible to bridge the gap.
Moshiri spoke of the “window of opportunity”. I hope (unlike the appearance given in the Sky interview) that we will take the opportunity in the coming months.
Nil Satis Nisi Optimum should occupy the thoughts of the decision makers.