Could things get any worse for Everton? Yes, they could
‘Is there anyone in the world that's been more serious about buying football clubs in history than Josh Wander?’ asks Josh Wander
Dear readers — welcome to this week’s Post briefing.
September was our best month of growth at The Post since the heady days of March 2022 (that was when hundreds of you signed up after The Echo took a big grant from Google in an attempt to bully us out of existence — fun times). Last month, more than 120 new people signed up as paying members, taking us well on our way to 1,300 in total. Plus, another near-18,000 of you are reading our free content. Big numbers — keep ’em coming!
The past month saw some of our biggest pieces of the year, including widely-shared investigations into the departure of Suba Das from the Everyman Theatre, and a series of scandals at The Blue Coat School, culminating in an exclusive revealing the arrest of a former assistant head teacher. We’ve got plenty more big projects in the pipeline for the next couple of months, but do remember: this kind of journalism is expensive and time-consuming to produce (especially with a tiny team). It would be much easier to simply churn out rewritten press releases or low-grade clickbait. If you want to support us to keep doing things our way — with a focus on high-quality, nuanced reporting — do consider signing up if you haven’t already.
The Liverpool Literary Festival returns this weekend, running from Friday until Sunday. The range of talent this year is remarkable, from Ashleigh Nugent — whose debut novel, Locks, is based on his time spent in a Jamaican detention centre on his 17th birthday — to Dame Averil Mansfield, author of Life in Her Hands, the story of how she became one of the country’s leading surgeons back when the field was 98% male. If you follow this link you can read through the full lineup and book any events that jump out at you. Or, if lots of them do, get a weekend pass instead and go to as many events as you fancy!
Today’s briefing focuses on the proposed takeover of Everton Football Club by American investment company 777 Partners. The deal, which was agreed three weeks ago, might just save Everton from financial calamity. But there seem to be plenty of questions about the new owners…
We’ve also got a former Liverpool striker bemoaning governments who want to “bring down everything” (whatever that means), rave reviews for the Royal Court’s Boys from the Blackstuff, and questions over what the loss of Melodic Distraction says about Liverpool’s claims to be a “modern music city”. And a church converted into a flat, for good measure!
This week’s weather
Tuesday 🌧️ Light rain and a fresh breeze with highs of 15°C
Wednesday ⛅ Sunny intervals and a moderate breeze with highs of 18°C
Thursday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a gentle breeze with highs of 17°C
Friday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a gentle breeze with highs of 18°C
Weekend 🌦️ Sunny with a gentle breeze with light rain showers on Sunday and highs of 22°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
Want to have a greener home?
From today’s sponsor: As part of Retrofit Action Week, The Home Upgrade Show (13-14 October) is an unmissable event for anyone looking to create a greener, healthier and more energy-efficient home. It’s brought to you by Low Carbon Homes and it’s so good it’s worth travelling to Manchester for, taking place at the beautiful Victoria Baths. It’s a unique showcase of over 50 exhibitors and will include “Ask an Architect” sessions, a heat pump clinic and advice on how to phase a “deep retrofit”. Go ahead and register for free.
The big story: Could things get any worse for Everton? Yes, they could
Top line: Serious questions are being asked about 777 Partners, the American firm who recently agreed a deal to buy Everton Football Club. The proposed deal is a full takeover which — financially speaking — could rescue Everton from mounting off-field pressures, but 777’s track record is becoming an increasing cause for concern.
Context: It’s near-unanimously agreed that the sale of Everton is long overdue. We reported on the club's woes at length 18 months ago, and have done so sporadically since. In that first piece, we honed in on the huge sums of money wasted under owner Farhad Moshiri. Since he arrived in 2016, more than £750 million has been spent, with very little to show for it. Moshiri has proved deeply unpopular and has been the subject of numerous protests, with few Everton fans wanting him to stay.
Nonetheless, his proposed replacements could prove equally unpopular. Josh Wander, one of the two names in charge of 777, is an interesting character. Despite his own insistence about his seriousness (“Is there anyone in the world that's been more serious about buying football clubs in history than Josh Wander?” he asks) others are concerned by his attitude towards the clubs he acquires.
777 have rapidly picked up a number of clubs across Europe and South America. These include Hertha Berlin (Germany), Standard Liège (Belgium), Vasco da Gama (Brazil), and Red Star FC (France), the supporters of whom have all staged protests against 777 since it started building its football portfolio. Vasco De Gama also recently defaulted on a number of transfer payments. Most of these clubs, like Everton, had found themselves in a desperate position, but have wound up with an owner who largely views football clubs as a vehicle to sell other products. It’s an attitude summarised by this quote, given by Wander to the Financial Times:
“One day we're not selling hot dogs and beers to our customers; we're selling insurance or financial services or whatever…Fans are so obsessive that they want to be monetised.”
Wander was described in a very revealing recent Daily Mail piece as “the very worst manifestation of the chancers now alighting on British football…picking over what they see as a carcass.” That piece also noted that his business partner, Steven Pasko (whose “only business successes have come in insurance and handling the payments of lawsuit defendants”) has equally questionable credentials.
Meanwhile, Josimar, an investigative news outlet, looked into Wander over lawsuits relating to leased aeroplanes (and his 2003 arrest for attempting to smuggle 31 grams of cocaine into America). Wander claimed this was merely “haters trying to destroy you with things that are meaningless.” The city region’s metro mayor Steve Rotheram will meet with 777 for a “frank and open” discussion, in his words, including to receive assurances that the ongoing Bramley-Moore Dock stadium would be completed under their custodianship.
The club is clearly in a bind. As The Guardian reported last week, if the proposed takeover doesn’t go through, Everton's financial future could be in serious jeopardy. They have outstanding loans totalling more than £350 million and existing cash flow issues have worsened since Moshiri stopped propping them up. If the Premier League, Football Association and the Financial Conduct Authority don’t give permission for the takeover to go through (and no suitable alternative emerges), things could get very sticky. As The Guardian reports:
“Everton’s ability to meet their current financial commitments will be in doubt. The club has posted losses of £417.3m over the past four years and needs a further £200m, approximately, to finish work on the new stadium.”
Wander and Pasko were in attendance for Everton’s 2-1 loss at home against newly-promoted Luton Town on Saturday. The club have won only one of their seven Premier League games this season. Evidently, something has to give. The only way to avoid short-term armageddon may be to throw their lot in with 777. In that context though, armageddon might suddenly sound appealing.
Your Post briefing
The bus driver who was killed alongside a 15-year-old girl after a crash on the M53 on Friday was “suffering medical issues” at the time, according to his family. Stephen Shrimpton, aged 40, was driving the bus carrying 58 people which hit a reservation while en route to Calday Grange and West Kirby grammar schools and lost his life. Jessica Baker, a talented climber, was also killed. Her family described the “massive void” caused by her death, and added: “She will be missed by many from not only school but also the climbing community across the country.” Shrimpton was described as a “loving father” who volunteered at a food bank. His family said in a GoFundMe fund-raiser for his funeral that he had suffered the medical issue while at the wheel. Four others were taken to hospital for treatment, including a 14-year-old boy with life-changing injuries.
Fresh off last week’s announcement from up the M62, the Liverpool City Region could become the second area outside of London to bring buses under public control since the 1980s. On Friday, proposals are expected to be signed off on a franchised Liverpool bus network, giving power back to the public sector to set bus fares and routes, enabling the combined authority to “coordinate the bus network based on what passengers need with the added power to reinvest any profit made back into improving services”. A recent consultation showed 70% support for the plans, with metro mayor Steve Rotheram calling the current system “broken”. He said: “For far too long, passengers in our area have been forced to contend with a second-class service that’s too confusing, too expensive, and too unreliable.”
Melodic Distraction will cease broadcasting after nine years. In a long statement, the internet radio station — which was nationally respected and considered one of the most exciting music projects in the city — cited "rising costs, fewer funding opportunities" and the effect of that struggle on staff mental health as their reasons for closing. After relocating to the Fabric District after being driven out of the Baltic by development, Melodic was intended to be a key player in the redevelopment of the Fabric District as a cultural area.
And some transfer news from outside the window: former Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert appears to have joined The People’s Resistance, a group of local conspiracy theorists. Lambert — who spent one season at Liverpool scoring three goals — recently claimed at a meeting outside Town Hall in Liverpool that governments are planning to “bring down everything”. The protest was predominantly against the council's (ultimately mundane) plans to split Liverpool into 13 districts, which Lambert and co see as an attempt to control citizens. “I’m here to protest against the 13 zones, which we all know will be initialised for 15 minute cities and it is all under the guise of climate change, which is completely unacceptable, net zero is totally unacceptable,” he said. We also hung out at a similar protest recently, with one protester explaining to The Post: “It’s a global Satanic plot to destroy everything created in God’s image.”
Home of the week
Not everyone can say they enjoy their morning cornflakes with light pouring in through authentic stained-glass windows. This church conversion has original features, including ornate wooden carvings, stone pillars and high ceilings. And George Harrison was baptised there too. It’s going for £270,000.
😂 The Southport Comedy Festival kicks off its 12th year today, running for two weeks. It’s being held in Victoria Park (in a luxury marquee) and features the likes of prankster Simon Brodkin and iconoclast Mark Steel. You can choose your acts here.
🗣️ Trace the remarkable life of author and poet Malik Al Nassir, from the brutality of growing up in the care system of 1970s Liverpool to finding salvation through the mentorship of Gil Scott-Heron. He’ll be appearing as part of Writing on the Wall’s Black History Month. Book tickets here.
🎸 Alternatively, if “contemporary shoegaze heavyweights” are more your speed, head over over to Birkenhead, as Future Yard hosts BDRMM. The Hull quartet recently released their second album — I Don’t Know — described as a “glorious cacophony of noise.” £15 general admission.
🎶 Or maybe you just prefer the classics. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic is hosting a Magic of Motown party on Sunday, with songs from Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Supremes and many more. Tickets are selling fast.
Our favourite reads
The Royal Court’s Boys from the Blackstuff is a hit. Using Alan Bleasdale’s iconic source material, playwright James Graham crafts a work that is “funny, incendiary and humane” according to this four star review in The Guardian. Take the funeral scene for retired docker George Maline at the play’s culmination, where “Graham overlays the liturgy of the Catholic funeral mass with the banal call-and-response questions of the dole office.” The simple juxtaposition adds a whole new layer to what was already one of the most powerful scenes in the TV show. “Suddenly, the scriptures of church and state look as formulaic as each other.”
As Labour prepare to descend on Liverpool again this month for their 2023 conference, a piece in Unherd last year unpicks how the relationship between the party and the city is more fragile than many believe. “It was a backlash against the Tories, rather than their own merits, that solidified Labour’s hold on the city,” writes journalist and regional affairs expert Brian Groom, tracing the city’s political lineage back to the post-war days when Liverpool’s council could often be a Tory stronghold. Alternatively, if you prefer, revisit our review of last year’s conference (featuring a Jeremy Corbyn Post cameo).
Letters from readers
Everybody has a story of being insulted in Probe. In my case Pete Burns telling me that the Teardrops' Kilimanjaro was shit and that I should buy an album by his band — Nightmares in Wax — instead. As for Annie, she even managed to exert a sense of cool in her other role as plot manager for Sefton Park Allotments, ‘Come for the music, stay for the education: Annie, Geoff and Probe Records’, Dr Mark Fallon
Lovely article about Probe. I was one of the lucky ones who escaped the sharp tongue of Pete Burns. The one and only time I was served by him, he gave the seal of approval to my purchase, a John Cooper Clarke record, ‘Come for the music, stay for the education: Annie, Geoff and Probe Records’, Stevo