A year on to the day that Farhad Moshiri took over at Everton, and the club is at a much better place than it was just 365 days ago. While not a brash and outspoken owner like seen at other Premier League clubs, the changes the Iranian investor has made have been no less profound.
Moshiri spoke to the chairman of the Everton Football Club Shareholders’ Association John Blain a few months ago, and in an interview with the Liverpool Echo, the EFCSA head said -
“Most of us, and the majority of the fan base, would’ve asked at the time: who is this guy and has Bill delivered on that quest for a billionaire? He’s certainly a billionaire but the flip of that was that we really didn’t know who he was and what his motivations were.
“Quite quickly we knew of his partnership with Alisher Usmanov at Arsenal, and that he was originally a Manchester United fan, but many were still asking why it was only a stake of 49.9%, meaning he wasn’t taking control?
“But what came out over time, and was then qualified when I met him last summer, was that he does have options on shareholdings of the guys he has already bought from - Bill Kenwright, Jon Woods and Arthur Abercromby - and I believe that would take him into the 70s in percentage terms, so he can have control.
“He, presumably, wanted to stay below the radar a little bit. I suspect he didn’t want to disrupt the status quo and, going back to the Arsenal case, Usmanov was very much in the light and Moshiri doesn’t want to be. He then put his own man, Sasha Ryazantsev, on the board, rather than himself.
“And so, on reflection, it was right to be cautious and say ‘let’s see’ but nothing has happened since that has been negative.
“Everyone feels as optimistic, if not more so, than they did a year ago. And from an off field perspective do fans feel better than they did 12 months ago? The answer has to be yes.”
Blain is convinced from that meeting with Moshiri about his vision for the future.
“People were seeing that the club had a billionaire backer so were asking: What are we going to do now? Are we going to buy a load of players? But at the other end, people were asking: Is he going to fund a new stadium? And is he going to buy all of our shares off us? Does he want control? That was a concern.
“As far as the overall shareholding is concerned, he has no intention at the moment of buying all the shares.
“That would’ve been enough but he added to that: ‘That would dilute your membership and I wouldn’t want to do that’. My take on that was that he’d been a minority shareholder (at Arsenal) who had been pretty much ignored and he wasn’t then going to become the man who was doing the ignoring.”
An announcement for the new Everton stadium is expected very soon, and Blain also spoke about what Moshiri’s thoughts were on moving away from Goodison Park.
“His view on the stadium was that he wanted to be really careful that it was something of quality and not just full of the things an accountant would be happy with – lots of seats, lots of lounges – but that it is iconic and he certainly knows the value of it being on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey.
“If you’re talking about him as a man, granted we have only met once, then he’s a football fan, definitely, a very knowledgeable one too, and he’s invested in Everton because Bill sold all that history and passion to him.
“Farhad brought up the Goodison atmosphere, he was blown away, and he couldn’t believe it. He said: ‘I’m sat there, in a fabulous seat, right on top of the pitch, the noise, the atmosphere and every time I walk up the steps the atmosphere hits me’.
“That’s great because we’re fans and we think ‘It’s a miserable place sometimes’ but he’s comparing it to what he knows, which is the library that is the Emirates.
“So when I asked him about the stadium, understanding it was still early doors for location and all of that, he talked very cautiously about various sites but his eyes seemed to light up when we talked about the potential for one on the banks of the Royal Blue Mersey.
“He wants to transport the atmosphere we currently enjoy at Goodison and the proximity to the pitch, to the new stadium. Moshiri’s design brief to the architect, you can imagine, would be: ‘I want the most atmospheric stadium around and I want it to look good’. He’ll still lean on the costs and ensure we get value for what we get but I'm sure that’s what he wants.”
Under Moshiri, the club has been able to clear up its financial situation with exciting new initiatives and sponsorships, and the investor even provided an interest-free loan of £80m to pay off old debt.
“Moshiri is very astute and knows these things take time. He wants to build the club’s financial strength, not from the fact that he has hugely deep pockets – because in absolute terms he hasn’t – but what he can do is enable things to happen, through his own network of contacts, and through his own businesses as we’ve seen with Finch Farm.
“It is about building for the future and building a sustainable club that is not reliant on him as an individual and can stand on its own two feet.”
Blain was also asked where he saw the club in another year’s time under Moshiri’s leadership.
“This time next year, if we are progressing the way I’d like us to progress, then there wouldn’t be any doubt if we were going to be in Europe or not, that ‘certainty’ of being in Europe is something we should expect and hope for,” he offered.
“And looking at the so-called top six, we need to make it a top seven, and break into that elite group.
“Off the field, the stadium needs to be getting built. If we’re sat here a year from now and still two or three months away from an announcement, that wouldn’t be acceptable.
“But I expect there will be tangible progress this year and I expect they will have announced the site. Tangible progress also means to me that the site is getting cleared or work has started, the World Heritage Organization are happy with what we’re doing and the city is behind it."
Interesting words indeed from someone who knows the club very well and has had the opportunity to speak with Moshiri from the fans’ perspective. By nature Toffees will want to be cautious after numerous let-downs in the past, but everything we’re seeing and hearing from the club’s ownership sounds like a great vision for the future of Everton.