By Rodger Armstrong

“Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
You play the football on the Sky TV.
That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your kicks for free…

Above lyrics adapted from Money for Nothing by Dire Straits, 1985, a year when Everton won the 1st Division Title. The song poked fun at bands with limited talent who exploited the recently launched MTV to promote themselves on video, rather than using live performances exhibiting their musical virtuosity.

At the recent Everton General Meeting (EGM) CEO, Robert Elstone, proudly announced that we had the fourth cheapest Season Tickets in the Premier League. Those of us who have sat through the absolute drivel served up at Goodison this season (bar a Rooney wonderstrike) might argue that they are actually overpriced.

30 minutes in on Saturday, 0-1 down to WBA and “captain” Ashley Williams lumped a free kick into the box towards a waving Sigurdsson. Heaven help us! Surely our £45m dead ball specialist should have been taking it, & the CB should have been waving at him?!?

No matter, I am not paid millions of pounds to play football, coach footballers, buy footballers or select a team of footballers.

I know my place. In absolute disgust I headed to the bar in the Top Balcony where, amazingly, there were at least another hundred Blues, choosing not to watch their team. Many of you will say they (and I) should have been “sticking with the team” and encouraging them. Fair play to you, but that first half v WBA was the absolute worst football I have seen in over 40 years of watching the Blues. Before Half Time the bar was heaving with fans exhibiting a mixture of anger, shock & disbelief at what they were paying to watch. I wondered if the same mood pervaded in the Directors lounge?

Money for nothing (and no kicks for free).

We have had many worse players than today’s millionaire “superstars”, but at least they tried (and failed, more often than not), at least there was a plan (of sorts), at least they cared. That team on Saturday had no plan, other than long balls, no passion, no intelligence. They were a disgrace to themselves, their Manager (and his entourage), the Director of Football and the Board. We are a football club, and the product is not fit for purpose, normally you would ask for your money back, you might even cite the Trades Description Act.

It’s Season Ticket renewal time and, of course, I’ll renew, I’m an addict/masochist, you decide. Looking at the marketing collateral I was struck at how little it refers to football, or at least the current team.

You might have thought it would say “Roll up, roll up to watch Sigurdsson, Rooney, Pickford, Gana, Tosun, Walcott…..”. Not a word. It’s all about the past, lovely fan stories & memories. Maybe that is all we are left with; maybe that is all we have. But we don’t want to be a museum? Square that circle, if you can.

There is no doubt that Farhad Moshiri has invested a large amount of his own money into our Club. Before doing that he bought just under half the equity (49.9% so NOT a majority) for £87.5m, arguably overpaying at an effective price of £5,000 per share. Since then he has contributed another £150m to the club in the form of loans, with no repayment date to cleanse the balance sheet, and equity. Top man and all credit to him; he’s no “fraud”, as some would have you believe.

He has also overseen and sanctioned the biggest spending spree the Club has ever seen, invested in key infrastructure and sacked two managers at not inconsiderable cost. Let’s look at the numbers:

  • 16/17 & 17/18 (to date), source transfermkt.co.uk
    • £260m Gross spend on players (£94m Net Spend)
  • More significantly, in the same period, source Club accounts
    • increase in annual wage bill from £84m to £105m
    • increase in annual player amortisation from £24m to £40m
    • 2017/18 figures estimated growing further to £120m & £71m respectively
  • And, as widely reported in the media
    • Paying off Martinez:- £11m
    • Securing Koeman :- £5m
    • Terminating Koeman:- £8m

The Report & Accounts also showed an increase in Other Operating Costs of 30% to £39m and a doubling of Directors’ remuneration to £1.6m. Both went unquestioned and, therefore, unexplained at the EGM.

Much has been made of Mr Moshiri’s relatively passive role within the business, not taking a seat on the Board, leaving the “old guard” on the bridge and trusting the judgement of others. According to the Chairman he is a benefactor who never says “No” to requests for money. Without real progress on the pitch, it is hard to see how that can continue, if Moshiri is really here for the long term. A ruthless businessman surely cannot tolerate mistake after mistake.

He suggested he hired Sam because he had “an uncluttered football brain”. On the evidence of the past six games there is very little evidence of anything whatsoever relating to successful football cluttering Sam’s brain. Boring? More like soul-destroying, the antithesis of what Everton is about. Forget KPIs, Sam, just try a bit of forward thinking 4-4-2. Try to win not just avoid defeat. Money for nothing right now.

One continues to wonder what on earth Steve Walsh does. How can a Director of Football fail to secure any kind of replacement for Lukaku? No, Steve, we don’t believe we would have still finished 7th without him. How can he not secure a second string Left Back? He needs to look beyond the stats because we need a team (one which is greater than the sum of the individual parts). We need to hire the right kind of players, with the right mentality, hungry to succeed, not just greedy for a bigger pay cheque. Is it any wonder the fans might boo a little?

It pains me to say there are players at our Club who are almost stealing a living, and some of them are making the starting XI game after game. They must love it at Everton, no pressure, no expectations. Money for nothing.

What about the support staff? Lee, Shakespeare, Ferguson. What on earth do they do? What are they paid to deliver? What value do they add? Who are they accountable to? Money for nothing.

What does the Board do? Three of the six members didn’t say a word at the EGM. The CEO wanted credit for “record deals” that pale into insignificance when compared to the Top 6 “peer group” last seen riding off into the sunset. 80% of the Club’s revenue comes from TV money, how hard is that to collect?

Media relations continue to bumble from HT announcements of signings to “no comment” on Holgate’s very serious accusations. No control over the narrative. Mayor Anderson almost hung out to dry when the Club should have been stood proudly alongside him shouting about all the merits of the civic partnership in the funding of Bramley Moore?

Only EiTC and the Deputy CEO offer any passion, any vision at all. Just as we don’t want to be a museum, surely we want to be known for more than our magnificent charitable work in the community?

Surely the man who owns 49.9% of Everton cannot allow this to carry on. Our Manager still says relegation is a possibility. Relegation: the “R word”, after investing all that money. Unthinkable, surely, isn’t it? Not on current evidence, hard to think of three worse teams.

Time for Moshiri to lead, to act and to effect wholesale change across the entire staff of the Club. The fans may put up with money for nothing in the short term because it’s in our blood; but don’t abuse that love, that trust.

Money can’t buy me love. Everybody tells you so. One day that love might fade, we’ll all be in Dire Straits and the owner will have nothing for all his money. Mr Moshiri won’t want it to come to that.

Follow: @rodgerarmstrong

Read more: www.rodgerarmstrong.com

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