The Blue Union public meeting - Part one

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesEverton fans have no intentions of disputing with the club, but want change in key areas

Independent fan group The Blue Union held their fourth public meeting in Liverpool on Saturday afternoon. The meeting covered an array of issues, including a thoroughly entertaining question and answer session with special guest Neville Southall.

Dave Kelly and Colin Fitzpatrick, the two Blue Union speakers on the day, also formed the Keep Everton in Our City campaign during the Kirkby debacle. The group successfully exposed the major flaws within the doomed project and the meeting began with a nod towards the role of such groups.

• The Blue Union meeting: Part two

"I think there is an underselling of what fan movements have actually achieved," said Kelly. "KEIOC took on a Premier League football club, the biggest retailer in Europe, and a council, and proved that what they were doing was inappropriate and wasn't the direction our club should be going in."

Before continuing, the role of special guest Southall was swiftly clarified; the Everton legend was "not there as a spokesman for the Blue Union". A point reaffirmed by the man himself: "I'm not here to tell you to go one way or the other, I'm just here to say what I want to say."

Although primarily focused on Everton, the group are involved in other non-Everton areas. "We are affiliated to the Football Supporters' Federation and heavily involved in the Twenty's Plenty campaign," explained Kelly. The Blue Union will also attend the Supporters Summit later this month.

Labelled as 'militant' on occasion, there was an obvious attempt to build any potentially burnt bridges on Saturday. "We, as Evertonians, offer an olive branch to Everton Football Club," Kelly continued. "We want to sit down and discuss things that affect every single one of us. We don't want to be fighting with our club.

"We are not a small insignificant group of malcontent; we are a group of passionate supporters who believe in our football club. We are not here to slag individuals at the club, we are here to engage with Evertonians."

The topic shifted to the controversial new badge and the Blue Union chairman classed it as "an absolutely shocking decision". Kelly further expressed his views: "The club need to start engaging with the fans. Everton need to understand that Evertonians are a broad church, with many and different views, you need to listen to all our views."

Next to take to the microphone was Colin Fitzpatrick, the Blue Union Press Officer, revisiting the Blue Union financial portfolio created in 2011, something the group received "a lot of stick for". However, after the recent accounts, Fitzpatrick said: "We were completely vindicated, the last set of accounts were the worst in the history of the club."

Then came a stark and in-depth assessment of the club. "There is an inability to generate money and record debt, not stupid debt, but it is record debt." The Blue Union asked the club to appoint professionals to sell the club: "Six months later, they did, they brought in Inner Circle Sports, that's 18 months ago. Yet not a sniff, we're still listening to the same old things, so why is that?"

Talk then centred on the "astonishing" £125 million asking price, the figure generated after Stan Collymore used his radio show to look at Everton Football Club, and the current board went under the microscope. "Let's talk about a few things that the board have done in the past 13 years. They have invested nothing, disposed of the assets, increased the debts to record levels and added no value."

A comparison of the 1999 accounts, the year the club changed hands, and the 2012 accounts opened the next segment: "In 1999, the balance sheet was healthy; there was £20 million on the balance sheet. 13 years later, the figure is -£44 million in liabilities and all the assets have gone.

"Anybody could pick up the accounts and substitute those figures for the figures of today and realise the club is worth nothing. Nobody wants to buy it because it is not worth anything; it is certainly not worth £125 million.

"The stadium is a problem for any prospective buyer; the other is poor commercial performance. That is the one we constantly criticise, the real sore point. We say 'you are harming the club', they say, 'this is the best thing for the club'. If you're going to sell the club, you need to address the stadium and the poor commercial performance."

When Everton signed the Kitbag deal, chief executive Robert Elstone proclaimed the deal would "benefit Everton and our supporters for many years to come". However, the problem for the Blue Union is "what he never mentioned" - the kit supply deal.

After a £3 million five-year deal ended with Le Coq Sportif, Everton signed on with sporting giant Nike. Many expected a large cash windfall, but the club appear to receive more in marketing terms than upfront cash.

A comparison followed; Aston Villa get £15 million for wearing Macron, Liverpool receive £25 million per season from Warrior and even West Brom outperform Everton. According to the Blue Union, "this is why we have no money for players, because, commercially, we are absolutely appalling."

In response to a question from the floor, Fitzpatrick gave his thoughts on the new badge: "It's a disgrace and the real insult is saying 'we extensively consulted the fans'. Nobody consulted anybody."

Another question follows: "What's wrong with the old badge? Nothing's wrong with it, but people want change; fair enough, but if you want change, change for something better not worse."

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