£1.5Billion Rumour Emphasizes Harsh Gulfs

There are endless rumours today surrounding foreign investors buying into clubs in the English football system.

The news last week that the Qatari Royal Family is backing a £1.5bn bid forManchester United is the latest; if the deal goes through, United would become the second example of a club being bought twice since the turn of the century, following Liverpool‘s sale to the Fenway Sports Group in 2010.

Elsewhere, the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Newcastle and even Notts County have been subject to big-money takeovers (with wildly varying levels of success) and there has been an ongoing power-play between Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov for ultimate control of Arsenal.

One club, though, is surprisingly absent in all the rumours of foreign money flooding the English game. I am unaware of Everton ever having been mentioned in conjunction with foreign (or English) investors.

This seems perplexing for several reasons – not only are the Toffees a massive club with a vast fanbase, an excellent tradition and a stadium, Goodison Park, which may need a little modernising but is one of the finest grounds in the country. In addition to all this, owner Bill Kenwright is actually actively seeking investment in the club – heightening the intrigue over the lack of interest.

David Moyes operates Everton’s squad on a shoestring budget – almost literally, if the summer’s deals are any indication. Despite bringing in over £16m in transfers – the sales of Mikel Arteta, Jermaine Beckford, James Vaughan and Yakubu –  Moyes was limited to the loan signings of David Straqualursi and Royston Drenthe in return. While these two additions will bolster the squad in the 2011/12 campaign, they will likely be moving back to their parent clubs next summer and Everton will be back to square one.

The club’s bank balance is the primary potential drawback to securing any investment. Valued at in the region of £25m by the directors, Everton have debts of over £45m and though the transfer deals of the summer will stem the flow of interest accruing on that debt, there is no bottomless pit of players to be sold. The club’s training facilities have already been sold off, and Goodison Park itself is serving as the security on a £30m loan.

Faced with dwindling assets and increasing debts, Kenwright and chairman Robert Elstone are increasingly dependent on securing outside help for the club’s ailing financial stability. The club cannot afford to lose the services of Marouane Fellaini, Tim Cahill, Tim Howard or Leighton Baines, their remaining stars.

Those looking to dip their financial feet in the Premier League’s proverbial waters may want to look again, though. Moyes has achieved spectacular results at Everton over the last eight years. He has spent big at the right times, sold at the right times – Andy Johnson being a pertinent example of both of those abilities – and his loyalty and leadership are invaluable to Everton.

With two or three additions (specifically up front) the club’s squad could look a lot deeper. All that is missing is the money.

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