Why Everton's latest general meeting truly broke the mould - by David Prentice
An event dogged by rancour, rants and violent billboards was wonderfully positive on Wednesday
Everton General Meetings have traditionally been fractious affairs.
Ever since George Mahon delivered his immortal response “I’ve got one in my pocket,” to heckling that he couldn’t find a new stadium, Everton’s annual gathering of shareholders have been, shall we politely say, lively.
Mahon’s comprehensive comeback – he did have a stadium lease tucked in his trousers – was in 1892 at the lecture hall of the Shaw Street College.
Ever since, the club’s annual get togethers have been – at best – spirited affairs.
I’ve witnessed journalists accosted by protestors in billboards outside Goodison Park, a club official who claimed to have been assaulted by a shareholder, an elderly fan who left an unpleasant personal deposit at the rear of the Alex Young Suite.
And then there was the light relief that was Christopher Samuelson.
Chris Samuelson at the Madejski Stadium, Reading.
He was the potential investor who stood up and spoke of his lifelong love of Everton FC, then froze like a rabbit transfixed by headlights when a shrewd inquistor asked: “Who scored the winning goal in the ’66 FA Cup final?”
“Errr, I was a student in Munich in 66,” was his entirely unconvincing answer.
If that was humorous, perhaps the most brazen was the December 1997 meeting, a period of the club’s history when the Goodison fanbase was in foment.
The AGM was expected to be apoplectic - until Peter Johnson effectively guillotined all questions by setting a time limit on the meeting, so that he could take his new girlfriend out for dinner!
In recent years the relationship between board and fan base became so detached that Everton actually guillotined the entire meeting.
A change in the Companies Act removed a legal requirement for the Blues board to hold an AGM – and from 2008 to 2013 they didn’t hold one.
The Liverpool Philharmonic Hall hosts the Everton FC Shareholders AGM. Photo by Ian Cooper
Since their return, in the summer of 2013, the mood has become more constructive - but Wednesday evening’s General Meeting broke the mould.
Several ‘good news’ items were announced, spontaneous rounds of applause broke out three times, and Evertonians were left feeling optimistic, upbeat and in some cases even euphoric.
The reason was evident.
Farhad Moshiri hasn’t spoken much since his majority investment last March, and even then it has been through his conduit, Jim White.
But here he was, mic in hand, in the flesh, and speaking positively, ambitiously and enthusiastically, but crucially with a clinical dash of urgency.
“It’s not enough to say you are a special club and a great club, we don’t want to be a museum,” he declared.
“We need to be competitive and to win. We have a position but we do not have all the time in the world.
“We need to establish ourselves and we have a window to do it.
“Chairman Bill Kenwright and previous managers kept the club close to the elite for many years but now we need to look at a sustainable base to be among the elite.”
He employed the rhetoric so many of his predecesors have used – but mixed his words with brutal reality.
It was a tactic employed by one of Everton’s greatest majority shareholders.
John Moores was interviewed on television back in the 1960s, declaring “Everton is a very good club with a very good crowd, but they expect success and if they don’t get success something should be done about it – and something will be done about it.”
John Moores, Everton chairman (far left) points out preparations for World Cup ties at Goodison Park in 1966
That ruthlessness saw a manager sacked in a London taxi cab in 1961 - after ‘only’ achieving the club’s highest post-war league position of fifth.
Two years later Everton ended their longest trophy drought - until now - and were crowned champions.
Only the wildly optimistic and the unrealistic can envisage that kind of turnaround.
But Farhad Moshiri has already enjoyed one success. An upbeat Everton General Meeting.