Everton have agreed a £30 million naming rights option for their proposed new stadium with former Arsenal shareholder Alisher Usmanov, the club has announced.
Usmanov has paid the fee and already agreed terms on the annual value of stadium sponsorship when the arena on Liverpool’s docklands is built, scheduled for 2023.
The arrangement further extends the interest of Usmanov at Everton, where his company USM is already a major commercial partner and sponsors the club’s training ground, Finch Farm.
There is no guarantee the stadium will be called the ‘USM Arena’ as a result of the deal, but Usmanov is now in prime position to push ahead with the exclusive agreement ahead of any rival interest. Everton have not said how much naming rights will be worth per season, but it is thought to be below the £25m a year Tottenham Hotspur are believed to be seeking for their stadium naming rights.
Usmanov – a close friend of Farhad Moshiri – has not disguised his growing influence at the Merseyside club having sold his Arsenal shares in August 2018. His significant financial support is proving crucial to Moshiri after the board confirmed record losses of £111.9m in its most recent accounting period, covering 13 months between May 31 and June 30, 2019.
Speaking last week, Usmanov hinted at the next stage of his involvement.
“They are going to build a new stadium. Why not the USM Arena?” he said in an interview in The Financial Times. “I am thinking about my investment in this club.”
Everton shareholders were informed of the latest deal by chief finance and commercial officer Alexander Ryazantsev at Tuesday’s General Meeting. It has proved timely.
Moshiri’s investment into Everton stands at £350m – that is aside from his initial purchase in 2016 – but he is yet to see a meaningful return for these eye-watering sums as signings have failed to impress and a succession of managers have been sacked.
Most recently, Everton incurred further costs by dismissing Marco Silva and his staff and hiring Carlo Ancelotti. Those costs are not reflected in the latest accounting period.
Despite the record losses, Moshiri significantly reduced the club’s debt with a £50m repayment in 2019, and Everton continue to function within the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play rules.
That cannot disguise a challenging period, especially as they push on with a stadium project currently worth £500m.
Everton confirmed debt agreements with two banks to fund up to 70 per cent of the cost – American financiers JP Morgan and Japan’s Mitsubishi United Financial Group providing funds. They are among several options still under consideration.
Everton submitted a planning application for their stadium in December and hope to get the green light to begin construction this year.
Addressing shareholders at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, Everton’s chief executive Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale acknowledged the enduring challenges of realising lofty ambitions.
“It is important to re-emphasise the club is going through one of the most significant periods of transition and investments in its history and we understood there would naturally be short-term setbacks in this process,” said Barrett-Baxendale.
“No club has gone through such a significant change without them. However, what is important is our response to setbacks and our continued commitment and focus to deliver against our long-term plan.
“We want to challenge at the very top of the game but in the modern Premier League-era it is extremely difficult to permanently break the virtuous cycle enjoyed by the richest teams in our league without this period of investment.
“We remain committed to operating in a financially stable manner.”