The Royal Blue Buck

Buck Passing

I have spent pretty much my entire career working in Sales; having to meet targets and being judged almost entirely on results. I have had some good bosses and some not so good; and I would like to think that, when I’ve been the boss, I have always been fair but tough and decisive. Every business needs a boss: a leader to inspire, empower, manage, motivate and, most importantly, to be accountable. The place where the buck stops.

Nowadays I work for myself, helping companies to improve their sales performance. It’s fun, believe it or not, and I’m the best boss I ever had. We agree targets and review performance, sometimes I tell myself off, but I take it on the chin.

I have a varied group of clients, but the first thing I always look at with any of them is structure. In order for any business to function effectively and efficiently, it needs a clear chain of command with clear division of responsibility (with accountability, John, of course). Every team within an organisation needs that structure too, with a leader ensuring there is discipline in working together to achieve a common goal.

Which brings me to Everton Football Club. Like many of you, I am sure, I have watched this season’s performances with a mixture of anxiety, confusion, disbelief and anger. I have watched a seemingly unstructured group of players whose only discernible pattern of play is “passing the buck”. Now tiki-taka rapid passing of the ball has won Leagues and even World Cups, but our “slow, slow, slow” game just seems to involve passing responsibility to the next guy. We apparently bought lots of leaders in the summer, but nobody, bar Rooney arguably, seems to want to lead and direct on the pitch. Where does the buck rest for this?

Our Manager (I’ll refer to him in the third person, as he does with the Club) has said once the players cross the white line it’s up to them, but has he given them the right structure? Does everyone know their role, like every Burnley player did on Sunday?

Everton-v-Burnley-Premier-League

For me this problem is endemic at Everton. When Farhad Moshiri arrived we really thought, and certainly hoped, that things would change. Over 18 months on, are we any clearer on who does what? It is my genuine belief that until this lack of structure is addressed off the pitch we will never progress on it.

Indeed I would go further, the insipid, disorganised, leaderless performances we have seen for some time, not just this season, culminating with Sunday’s humiliation by Burnley are a reflection of the Club off the pitch.

Leadership starts at the very top of any organisation, but with Everton it’s just not clear who that leader is?  This season we’ve played 7 League games and (forgetting the qualifiers) 2 Group matches in the Europa League. I would argue that we have only hit our target in two (Stoke, home, and City, away), we can debate Bournemouth where arguably we didn’t “deserve” to win.

If I had missed target 7 times out of 9 when I was employed I would expect to be under real pressure; answering stern questions and having to justify my own existence, coming up with a plan to improve. I would not expect to be told that we “expected to lose a few deals” and for my boss to offer me readymade excuses. I would not be allowed to blame others, I would be accountable for my own performance and that of my team.

Therein lies the problem. Who does the Manager report to and who, if anyone, sets his targets? Steve Walsh, Bill Kenwright or Farhad himself? We won’t even ask who is in charge of transfer dealings…..

JS84868662

This lack of clarity just facilitates buck passing. Amid the confusion, the Manager seems to “call out” the Board or Steve Walsh or both, then the Manager calls out the players (fair enough), then the players seem to call the Manager out on the pitch. It’s a shambles; is it any wonder the football is?

Without a clear structure you get anarchy, people do as they like. The Manager chooses to play golf on Transfer Deadline Day. The Chief Exec chooses to go and watch Rugby League rather than Everton in the Europa League. Rooney is arrested and found guilty of drink-driving. There is no discipline, no responsibility and no accountability.

Largest shareholder, Farhad Moshiri doesn’t sit on the Board, Chairman, Bill is not in the best of health, and, as we have said on EvertonBusinessMatters, it’s not clear how responsibilities are divided between Robert Elstone and Denise Barrett-Baxendale.

All we know is the team aren’t playing well, the fans are not happy. The fans deserve better for sure, they deserve better than the ham-fisted “unexpected loss” quote from Moshiri. Fans and shareholders deserve a clear structure, including a Chief Engagement Officer, who ensures that all stakeholders are involved to maximum effect and the Club can capitalise on this rapidly closing window of opportunity.

The buck must stop somewhere, however, and, if that means that we need to change the Manager, so be it. The leader, whoever that is, needs to be decisive and brave. Be under no illusion though that, until the Club addresses the off pitch structure and resources, until there is a real plan with clear targets and unity of purpose, any progress on the pitch will be severely hampered.

NSNO

@rodgerarmstrong

 

 

6 thoughts on “The Royal Blue Buck

  1. Written with feeling, passion, dare I say structure too ?

    You’re right Rodger, right now Everton appear to be stumbling from one crisis to another with apparent plan of how to avoid plunging headlong into total disarray.

    People are saying ‘we’re only seven games into the new season’ and whilst that is factually correct, by the end of October, we could be out of the Europa League, out of the Carabao Cup and fighting for our lives at the wrong end of the table.

    Mr Moshiri really needs to stamp his majority shareholding foot down and demand better from all concerned right now… because anything less than three points from Brighton will likely bring about a reaction from the fan base none of us really want to see.

    Evertonians are patient, well we’ve had to damn well learn to be haven’t we since 1995, but that patience is wearing dangerously thin.

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  2. I never noticed he talked about the club in third person, he does always come across a bit detached and I’m sure that rubs off on the players. But possibly isn’t any different to any other club, the modern game is impersonal.

    I think it’s going to take time to being a club that spends money on established players. It took City some time to fit the mould of a club that achieved what they spent and we’re so used to underspending and being the under dogs; suddenly spending big we’re expecing to just perform. As we all know, football doesn’t work like that. As you point out, no one really seems to be coming forward and taking ownership of their roles. I don’t really think giving him the boot at this stage is really going to help things but at the same time I think the board have to be clear whether they’re going to back him if at Christmas we’re still meandering in the bottom half and we’re out of Europe (both, real possibilities). Then perhaps they should make a decision earlier, if they really believe in him, then REALLY belive in him.

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  3. I agree with pretty much every word Rodger.

    The role of any Board in any business or any sport is to create the conditions for success. To state it simply they are expected to put in place the right structure, populate it with the right people, give them the right resources, get the big decisions right.

    The new Board structure with Denise Barrett Baxendale elevated and the creation of a Director of Football role seem designed to build on the twin strengths of EiTC and the academy. Unfortunately the roles created are unclear and have only complicated an already opaque situation between Farhad Moshiri (and his ‘man’), Bill Kenwright and Robert Elstone with much speculation on who has the real power over what. Add in a ‘manager’ with their own agenda and we get confusion.

    Consider major decisions like the new stadium, future use of Goodison, sponsorships or transfer decisions and you quickly stack up questions without answers. How do the new roles interact with the CEO? Who decides what? How does the DoF interact with the manager and Board? Does the DoF have real power? If so does their remit extend to ensuring consistent style of play and other integration between first team and academy? What is Bill’s role? What powers if any does Alex Ryzmantsev have and how does he operate? Does Moshiri only exert influence indirectly through him and/or via Bill and if so why?

    Lack of clarity always generates under-performance. The Board are not creating the conditions for success. Current on-pitch failures reflect this (not absolving the manager of his large share of blame). The first thing to address is the structure. Moshiri must join the Board. Roles must be clarified. Priorities must be set. Then we need to address the square pegs in round holes. Elstone, an adequate but unimaginative Finance guy as CEO. Walsh, a gifted scout, as DoF. Koeman a short-term thinking traditional manager as Head Coach in a ‘project’.

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