Keith Wyness joined Everton Football Club as Chief Executive Officer officially at the September “EGM” last year, and since then has seen the club rocket from a team who had just lost their star striker, and finished 17th in the Premiership, to a team able to pick and choose in the transfer market having just clinched a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds.
We wanted to know what his first year had been like at Everton, and what he had planned for the future, as well as ask some of the questions that our visitors wanted to put to him. So, on Tuesday 19th July 2005, off I trotted to Goodison Park to meet the man himself.
Keith’s office is covered in pictures of Everton’s most successful times, a prominent picture is of Evertonian’s in Rotterdam with a banner saying “Vienna, It’s Scouse, Not Strauss” and there is a book-case filled with various books on Everton’s history and a massive collection of match-day programs, a clear indication that he sees Everton not only as a business, but recognises the club as the entity that it is.
Thanks for agreeing to meet me Keith, especially at this busy time of the year.
KW : Sure, it is a very busy time.
So, You’ve been at the club a year now. How have things gone according to your original plan when you joined?
KW : Obviously we’ve exceeded a lot of targets by way of the performance on the pitch, and for me other measures off the pitch are just as important and the success on the pitch has given us the opportunity to improve things and really get the club moving forward and to change things permenantly.
Obviously when you came to the club, the club’s finances were something that was at the forefront of people’s attentions with various forms of investment being mentioned such as the Fortress Sports Fund. How are things progressing with bringing investment into the club?
KW : We’re still talking to a number of investment possibilities, but obviously our improved situation and therefore valuation of the club should be taken into account.
Whereas last year, I wouldn’t say we were desperate, but we were certainly searching harder for investment, we are now in a much stronger position and have to look very closely at the deals that we go into, if we go into any at all.
There was mention of a possible Share Issue last year as well, is that still something that you are looking at?
KW : Absolutely yes. It’s something we have been looking at, and continue to look at. However, there is always a concern that there is actually the money available from various supporters groups that people assume is available, but it is something that in the coming months we will be looking very closely at.
In April a figure was mentioned by yourself in the media of around Ã‚Â£30m that David Moyes would have to spend this summer, and he has spent Ã‚Â£15m since January on transfer fees alone. Is there still money available to David to spend?
KW : The figure of Ã‚Â£30m was an approximate number, and included the players’ wages as well, but David still has money to spend, and we [the board] are continuing to support the manager, but it has been a difficult window to work in.
Absolutely, there was even a story recently whereby Guerrero was quoted as saying we offered the best deal financially but he turned us down
KW : Well we’d never even heard of him until then. We had not been talking to him and we will be investigating that story further to find out how we got mentioned.
We don’t think it’s fair for Everton to be used as a stalking course in other clubs’ negotiations but with us having qualified for the Champions League qualifying rounds then it appears that we are being mentioned in other deals where we aren’t actually involved.
We are looking at several players at the moment, and this is the time of the season where things start to move a lot quicker in the transfer market.
So how does a typical transfer work, from David identifying a player to him signing and being paraded with the Everton scarf?
KW : Well, obviously David and his team identify a player through the scouts and Alan [Irvine] and the rest of the playing staff and then he comes to myself and Bill [Kenwright] and we try and look at how we are going to broker a deal for that player.
David has the final say on transfers, and there hasn’t been a situation whereby his valuation of a player exceeds ours, in fact it’s been the other way around on a few occassions.
Agents have been very strong this window, and occassionally things have been leaked through other sources and perhaps there have been some hidden agendas from some quarters.
We like to try and go about our business as quietly and efficiently as possible, but unfortunately some things have been leaked to the press regarding some transfers.
You say you like to go about things quietly, but on the clubs’ own Official Website several players have been mentioned who have ended up going elsewhere.
KW : That’s because once details are leaked from other sources, and then appear in the media, as a club we need to either confirm or deny these stories, and therefore statements appear on our website.
The Arteta deal was leaked to the papers in Spain and we then had to go with that and confirm or deny any rumours surrounding it.
Qualifying for the Champions League obviously gives the club a big boost, how has it changed the clubs’ targets?
KW : Well, we’re certainly not counting the money from the group stages yet, that would be a big mistake. It’s a massive opportunity we’ve got but there are no great riches to be gained if we don’t qualify for them.
Even if we do, it’s up to an extra Ã‚Â£10m, but we need to be doing that 2 or 3 years in a row to be able to compete regularly.
Our targets, from last season and this onwards, are to be in the upper end of the top 10 in the Premiership, that’s our bread and butter.
The aim is to budget for a mid-table finish, but exceed that. That way you have a profit which can be invested back into the team, and is the only way to sustain growth.
(at this point his mobile phone rings, it’s an agent, he doesn’t answer)
A lot of work has been going on at Goodison Park this summer, and no-one can deny that the old girl needs a bit of work if we are to stay here in the long term. What are your plans for the future of the stadium?
KW : Well, the boxes, the lounges and the pitch have all been updated and improved this summer, but obviously yes there is a long way to go to improve the stadium.
We still have three main options on this now. Improve Goodison Park, our own new stadium, or the ground share proposition. [Which has again been pushed into the limelight by the Mersey Redevelopment Agency]
For a successful groundshare, there needs to be two willing parties, and both side have obvious reservations on the matter, so I think the Redevelopment Agency will need to put an awful lot of money on the table before either club will consider it more seriously.
Reveloping Goodison comes at a cost, and the question is how do we fund that cost, and whilst funding a new stadium is in theory much easier, you have to find the right partners for that scheme and go into it very carefully.
You spoke about the lounges being being redeveloped and expanded. A supporter contacted the site about that in particular, as he and his family group were seated in a section affected by the expansion and felt that the relocation offered to his group, who between them have over 200 years’ worth of supporting Everton, wasn’t appropiate. How would you respond to these people?
KW : I believe the Box Office have worked very hard to handle everything as sensitively as possible although unfortunately there will be some dislocation as the club looks to expand and move forward.
Unfortunately we don’t have great seats everywhere in the ground, but the club does need to move forward if we are to succeed and the expansion of the lounges is a major part of that progression.
So, along with the lounges being improved, will the catering facilities and service be improved throughout the rest of the ground?
KW : Yes. We have teamed up with a company called Sodexho who are the biggest and best events caterers in the world and together we are looking to expand the range of products available at our catering outlets as well as improving the speed and standards of service.
You’ve obviously realised through your statements in the press and on the clubs’ website that, aside from the team and Mr Moyes, the clubs’ biggest asset’s are it’s fans and it’s history. A lot of fans want to see things, for example, such as DVD reviews of our most successful period made available to buy. What are your plans for the retail and merchandise side of the club?
KW : The whole retail and merchandising side of things is being re-vamped this season. We will be speaking to the fans more and getting their ideas on what we could provide.
However, we need to be careful with things, and make sure there is a demand for it, as obviously the retail side is there to make a profit and we need to look at the investment and return.
We do, however, also need to be innovative, and try to be at the forefront of things and provide a good range of products for our fans.
One thing that could be improved, vastly, is the online store.
KW : [obvioulsy realising the problems the online shop has] That is something which is giving me continual problems, and I can assure you that we are re-doubling our efforts to put them right.
NSNO would like to thank Keith for taking the time to meet with the site and look forward to speaking with him again soon as the club progress with him at the healm.