x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Protests portents of Premier League fans' discontent

England's top tier is becoming a place of protest where supporters flex frustration through collective action, as has been the case at clubs such as Blackburn and Liverpool in recent times.

David Moyes, the Everton manager, has worked wonders on a tight budget at Goodison Park.
David Moyes, the Everton manager, has worked wonders on a tight budget at Goodison Park.

A little over a year ago Liverpool supporters finally succeeded in evicting Tom Hicks and George Gillett from control of their club. Blackburn Rovers fans have spent the entire season attempting to force the exit of a resilient manager and some naively distant owners.

Before the campaign began, Aston Villa followers attempted to prevent Alex McLeish's appointment with banners and threats not to attend. At Everton, they are taking to the streets to demand transfer spending.

The Premier League is becoming a place of protest where supporters flex frustration through collective action. Sometimes the discord ebbs away like the Green and Gold that swathed Old Trafford two season ago gradually turned back to red. Rarely does it go ignored.

During the past week, two prime targets responded to critics with letters of explanation.

McLeish wrote to every Villa season-ticket holder, responding to "a myth that I am a naturally defensively-minded manager", and arguing a "mid-term report for myself and the team should perhaps read, 'Satisfactory progress, can do better'."

At Everton, the defence was extraordinarily detailed. In a long letter on the club's website, Everton's chief executive attempted to explain "Where the Money Goes". Robert Elstone went through five years of financial figures, detailing a wage bill that increased from £38 million (Dh213.5m) in 2006/07 to £58m last season when it consumed 66 per cent of the club's income, and a net spend on transfers of £35m.

Over the half decade, Elstone calculated that Everton's cumulative income was the eighth highest in the Premier League; their wages the 10th highest. And their performance?

"As a result of being better than our rivals at negotiating, recruiting, signing, preparing and coaching players, we've finished an average of sixth, an enviable performance," he writes. "I make no apologies for asking you to reread this paragraph."

The remainder makes for grim reading. There is an explanation of why much of the £10m taken for Mikel Arteta in August has been used on new contracts or to compensate for falling gate and broadcast receipts. Also a reminder of how the club's debts have doubled and their lenders now demand a break-even budget.

The inevitable conclusion is that Everton are trapped. Much of the outperformance Elstone takes pride in can be attributed to David Moyes - and a manager that good will not want to work on mid-table finances indefinitely.

The only solution seems to be a foreign takeover, which as often as not leads to what? Yes, more protest.

sports@thenational.ae