On Saturday morning I got into my car and headed to town, parked up and walked in to the "Casa" with continued scepticism. I was there to be swayed one way or another. I wanted to hear for myself what The Blue Union were all about.
The meeting was very well attended. The Union had done their PR work in the week before the meeting. They had had plugs in some of the local media, all over Facebook, Twitter and the like, and the meeting was an open invite to any blue. However, upon arrival not only could I not get into the small room at the back of the place, but I couldn't hear anything (except the random outbursts of applause) and I could only see through the gaps between the backs of heads, some of the banners - one in particular stating "Phillip Green Is No Friend Of Ours." There were no microphones, the room was roasting hot, but there was a projection of the logo of The Blue Union on the screen at the front. Not very well organised.
The four lads at the front have come together to form a united front with the best interests of Everton FC at heart. Of that I have no doubt. They disclosed information about Derek Hatton and how he had changed his tune more times than the Weekend Top 40, how the only thing he had asked them not to ask Bill Kenwright was how much the club was for sale for (but they did ask regardless), and how the local media should hang their heads in shame at the lack of apparent coverage their cause has received. Sky, Granada and the BBC were there. The "red rag," as I like to call it, were not. That's the Liverpool Echo, by the way and the clue is in the name.
The main speaker, Dave Kelly, explained to the floor that each organisation would continue to pursue its own goal; such as KEIOC who's aim is in it's name - Keeping Everton In Our City. However, he explained they had become tired, frustrated and angry at the stagnation of Everton Football Club. Dave chaired the meeting superbly to be fair. When he invited questions, the first question ruined the ambience set by the presentations from the four organisations - "Whens he f**king going?"
One of the lads stood up to explain he attended the meeting in London with Bill Kenwright. He described the Chairman as being in a world of his own, stuttering and stumbling through answers, glaring out of windows, and constantly stating that things were "off the record, lads." He described the publicised transcript of the interview as accurate and true. To be honest he talked a lot of sense, the most from the four sat on the top table. And his speech was greeted with applause.
My ears pricked up when the guy from Evertonians for Change stood up. He called the Blue Union an "Enterprise." This switched me off. I don't know how you will interpret that, but let me tell you how I did. An Enterprise is an organisation which is set out to make a profit whilst growing. Surely, though, the Blue Union was the collective voice of four seperate organisations with the same goal - to force the current powers that be to step aside and allow an interim board to seek fresh investment. No, apparently, its an "Enterprise." I quickly looked around for the collection bucket.
The floor suggested we "throw in £10, £20, whatever" in to help the cause to buy t-shirts, banners etc. Someone else suggested boycotting the match and hitting the board in the pocket. This was immediately disregarded by the Union as "the team are separate from the board, and the boycotting of the match means boycotting supporting the players. This is completely non-negotiable." Correct.
The top table rightly pointed out a few things. They stated the lack of communication between club and supporter was unacceptable. They illustrated their bemusement at Ian Ross being appointed as "Head of PR and External Affairs." (Coincidentally, I'd love to read where it says in his Job Description to pose as "Rupert's Tower" on a popular Everton fans' forum.) Most importantly of all, they wanted the rubbish the supporters were being fed to stop.
However, they did suggest that Bill Kenwright was using his 90 year old mother as some form of "human shield" to avoid verbal confrontation at the match, presumably. I didn't agree with this one bit. If a 90 year old woman wants to watch her beloved Everton, why shouldn't she? If her son wants to take her and escort her to her seat, no matter who he is, why shouldn't he?
Anyway, the count down to the word "protest" was on. Next question. "Why don't we do something at the Villa game then, like......." Yep. The "P" word. The room went up. Applause, cheers. The decision was made. At this point, a piece of paper was handed to me with names and email addresses. I promptly passed it on. A show of hands was called in support of a "march" from Stanley Park to the ground. Although it wasn't 100% for, it was around 98% for.
The meeting then began to crumble into a bit of a farce. People shouting out, people talking over people etc. I made my exit - and no, I didn't put my hand from my pocket to the contribution bucket.
So, will I be protesting? No. Not at all. Why? Because although I agree to an extent with their collective aim, protesting at a football match is not something which I agree with. The planned march will take place before the game on Saturday. It will pass the car park where Bill Kenwright parks. The players also park their cars there. I guarantee Bill Kenwright won't see the protest. I doubt he will even be at the game. My big concern is the players seeing it before what is a massive game. My hope is that they don't.
I completely agree that something has to give. I want an interim board. And no I'm not scared to be called a "Kopite" and that's why I'm not protesting before anyone suggests that (purely because I'm not one anyway) and I don't mind if there is an emulation to the action the board took at our neighbour's house.
However, the pressure is being mounted in the wrong place. According to the Blue Union themselves, the banks are looking to "kill us." The Royal Bank of Scotland were looking to "kill" Liverpool. However, a group of supporters banged their heads together and pressured the right people - the banks. This forced RBS to take messrs Hicks and Gillet to the high court with the support of an interim board, headed by someone who knew what they were doing. Look what they were able to do this summer - without European football money to rely on by the way.
Surely we are in the boat the loveables alighted from not so long ago. So, lets ask what the banks are doing about it. Let's get Barclays and co on side to pressure the board on our behalf. After all, if I don't pay my bills, the people I owe money to through financial mis-management file a suit against me to recover the debt. What makes the board of directors at Everton so different?
I admire the Blue Union for making a stand. And I agree with their other banner which quote's David Moyes - "I will not accept second best" so why do we?
I walked in to the meeting a sceptic. I wasn't presented with any facts or concrete evidence to prove to me that a protest on Saturday is justified. I left more sceptical than ever, and very apprehensive of the game on Saturday.
I've stressed my opinion before and I'll stress it once more. There are ways and means of going about change, especially at a football club. Airing our dirty laundry in public is not Everton FC. Protesting is not Everton FC.
As always, your feedback is welcome in the comments section below.
Follow me on Twitter - @DarrenMelling
***Note - The article has been changed to reflect that the guy who I thought was from NSNO was actually a founder member of Evertonians For Change, who are a group of like-minded supporters who primarily used NSNO . This was brought to my attention earlier today and I am happy to correct the article with apologies to NSNO***
*** It has also been noted by the Blue Union that the Liverpool Echo were in attendance in an official capacity. The Blue Union has apologised publically to the Echo, and Greg O'Keefe**