Born in Glasgow and educated at Waterloo Grammar School, Philip Carter (b.1927), came to Liverpool with his family as a two-year-old and never left. He first visited Goodison when he was four and was immediately cast by its spell. During the war he served with the Fleet Air Arm as a pilot, and in 1948 joined the retailing division of Littlewoods, John Moores’ pools and shopping conglomerate. Carter was a successful careerist within the corporation, rising to store manager, chief buyer and eventually, in 1976, managing director.
In 1973 Carter was made an Everton director and in 1978 became chairman, succeeding T.H.W. Scott. It followed a tradition set by his mentor John Moores, who led both Littlewoods and Everton at the same time. It was a position he held for the next 13 years, before stepping down in the summer of 1991, to be succeeded by Dr David Marsh.
Carter has become synonymous with Everton’s mid-1980s glory years and, in particular, the decision not to sack Howard Kendall in 1983 when there was fierce pressure for him to do so.
EVERTON HAD MANAGED just seven goals in the opening ten fixtures of the 1983/84 season, and at the end of their tenth game, a 1-0 win over Watford, Carter delivered a vote of confidence in Kendall. ‘We are not complacent about our present problems – we are most concerned – but let us state unequivocally that our manager Howard Kendall has the absolute support of the board,’ he said. ‘This is not just a club chairman trotting out a hackneyed phrase; I am stating that categorically.’ Even when leaflets were distributed by fans calling for his and the manager’s removal,he held firm. Six months later, Everton lifted the FA Cup and the rest is history.
Carter took early retirement from Littlewoods in 1983, allowing him to focus on Everton and an extraordinary range of other interests. He became President of the Football League in 1986, a Vice President of the Football Association, a member of the Merseyside Development Corporation and an influential figure for a score of charities. As chairman of the Merseyside Tourism Board he oversaw Liverpool’s rise as a popular tourist destination.
In his role at the Football League, Carter was a controversial figure. Unlike his eleven predecessors as president he had never served on the league’s management committee, immediately casting him a maverick outsider among some of his contemporaries. This was heightened when he led the so-called ‘big five’ clubs – Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham – to negotiate more money and power within the league’s structure. Rather than protecting the league, this breakaway movement eventually, in the early-1990s, led to the break-up of the 104-year-old league and the creation of the Premier League. Carter is credited as being one of the Premier League’s key architects.
As a Tory grandee – he was chairman of the Liverpool Conservative Association at the height of Thatcherism – at the time of Merseyside’s economic nadir, Carter was not always going to be a popular figure among Evertonians. Some supporters have since accused him of not sufficiently building upon the club’s mid-1980s successes. Other criticisms have focused on his role in creating the Premier League, in which Everton have fared badly.
AS CHAIRMAN, Carter always backed his managers to the best of his ability. Twice Gordon Lee broke the Everton transfer record, Howard Kendall did so three times and Colin Harvey broke the British transfer record with the £2.2million signing of Tony Cottee. Even when Everton were in terrible financial health in the early 1980s, Carter changed Everton’s bankers to one that would sanction the £60,000 overdraft needed to purchase Peter Reid.
As chairman his managerial appointments – Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey and David Moyes – have either been inspired or, as in Harvey’s case, satisfied supporter’s demands.
Carter made a dramatic return to the Everton boardroom as chairman in December 1998, following the resignation of Peter Johnson. Everton were in disarray at the time and Carter was seen as the sort of safe pair of hands needed to guide the club out of the mess. Yet his deputy chairman Bill Kenwright was seen as the prime mover in the boardroom, particularly after he became the club’s majority shareholder a year later.
Although the direct role Carter played in the day-to-day running of the club in his second spell as chairman was never quite clear, what followed over the next six years on and off the pitch was one of the most tumultuous in the club’s history.
During this time, Everton lurched from crisis to crisis off the pitch. In 2000 a massive media deal with the cable company NTL fell through at the last minute, after the board had sanctioned a summer spending spree. The club’s crippling financial situation forced Everton to mortgage their future season-ticket sales against a £25million loan from Bear Stearns. A proposed move to an iconic stadium at Kings Dock fell through because Everton could not come up with the necessary cash. A succession of Everton’s best players – Olivier Dacourt, Marco Materazzi, Nick Barmby, Michael Ball and Francis Jeffers – were sold, while the wheels were already in motion on the transfer that saw Wayne Rooney leave for Manchester United when Carter stepped down from the board. On the pitch – notwithstanding the exhilarating 2002/03 season – the football was dire, with relegation flirtations a regular feature.
In June 2004 Kenwright succeeded Carter as chairman, and the 78-year-old was made Life President of the club. He returned to the Everton boardroom again in August 2008, more than three decades after his first appointment as a director. As of April 2012 he remains Everton’s fifth largest private shareholder with a 2 per cent stake in the club.