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Everton listener considers leaving, raising questions over club funding

Everton Football Club’s auditor is considering stepping down from his role as signing the club’s accounts, raising questions about its funding and ownership, sources say.

The Guardian understands accountancy firm BDO told Everton it would not carry out the work, a move which sources said was linked to Farhad Moshiri’s ownership of the Premier League side. The firm had audited the club’s financial accounts for the previous two years, but the Merseyside club are now said to be looking for a replacement.

Moshiri – who was worth £1.7billion in the latest Sunday Times rich list – has been widely reported as putting the club up for sale. Moshiri says he is not looking for a buyer.

Everton and Moshiri said BDO remained the club’s auditor. A spokesperson for Moshiri said: “Your claims [about BDO] are based on nothing more than their refusal to discuss a client matter with a third-party reporter.

“In accordance with company best practices, we follow the rotation of audits. However, BDO remains our auditors and has not resigned.

BDO declined to confirm it would audit Everton’s latest accounts, which cover the year to the end of June 2022. However, two confidential sources with inside knowledge of events told the Guardian that BDO had pulled out of informal way of the audit and was not conducting work. on the accounts, although Everton did not file notice of them with Companies House.

By law, all UK businesses are required to have their accounts audited, unless they are small enough to qualify for an exemption. With a turnover of £193m and net assets of £49.7m, Everton have to have their accounts signed by an auditor. It is unusual for an auditing firm to let a client scramble to find a replacement.

Everton’s annual report is to be published by March 31, 2023, according to Companies House, giving the club around five months to resolve the situation or find a replacement auditor. Lenders, investors and potential buyers of the club will require audited accounts before doing business with the club. Premier League rules also state that clubs must submit audited accounts to the league board in March of each season.

The club’s finances have been in the spotlight since international governments imposed sanctions on Alisher Usmanov – the billionaire oligarch and longtime Moshiri business partner – following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. .

Usmanov’s USM Holdings began a five-year sponsorship of Everton’s training ground worth around £12m a year in 2017 and paid £30m for a first rights option of naming on the club’s new stadium, which is currently under construction at Liverpool’s Bramley Moore Quay. MegaFon, which is owned by USMand Russian smartphone company Yota, part of the MegaFon group, sponsored Everton Women.

The club suspended all sponsorship deals with Russian companies backed by the billionaire oligarch when he was placed under sanctions in March.

Moshiri’s spokesperson added, “[Moshiri] was a minority shareholder in USM Group, a former sponsor of the club and of which Mr Moshiri had been chairman before resigning and breaking all ties following the Ukrainian invasion. Any commercial or sponsorship relationship with USM was terminated at the same time. These were later replaced by other sponsors.

In the last financial year to the end of June 2021, the club lost £120.9million, on top of the £139.9million it lost the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House.

The club is also trying to raise funds to complete the construction of the new stadium. Its costs have risen and its price is set to hit £500million, according to the most recent estimate.

BDO became Everton’s auditor for the financial year ending June 2020, taking over from ‘big four’ accountancy firm Deloitte.

Until Moshiri bought Everton, he co-owned Arsenal shares with Usmanov. He first bought 49.9% of Everton in March 2016, using the proceeds from a sale of his Arsenal stake to Usmanov. He has since increased his stake in Everton to 94%.

The club have struggled to make an impression on the pitch in recent years, finishing just two places above the Premier League relegation zone last season – despite failing to win a major trophy since lifting the FA Cup in 1995. However, Everton are one of the most historic clubs in the country, as a founding member of the Football League and having played more seasons in English football’s top flight than any other team.

Moshiri insisted the club’s finances remain strong. His spokesperson said: “The club is not for sale. We have spoken about this publicly. Finding investors to complete the funding for the stadium and strengthen the squad is the only objective.

After his assets were frozen in March as part of European Union sanctions, Usmanov said in a statement: “I believe that such a decision is unfair and the reasons given for the sanctions are a set of false and defamatory allegations affecting my honor. , dignity and reputation of the company. I will use all legal means to protect my honor and reputation.

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