Football: Venables fears for his future at Tottenham: Spurs' chief executive suspects Alan Sugar of wanting to assume control at White Hart Lane while Everton appear ripe for takeover bid

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES could lose his position as chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur this morning at a board meeting.

It is believed that Alan Sugar, the club's major shareholder with 46 per cent to Venables's 23 per cent, is planning to oust the man with whom he formed an alliance to save the club two years ago. Venables, a former Spurs player who returned to the London club as manager in 1987, thinks the chairman of the Amstrad computer company intends to take over the club and bring in someone 'to handle the football affairs'.

The future ownership of another of the so-called Big Five clubs, Everton, was also in doubt last night following reports that the club's major shareholder, Sir John Moores, is about to sell his controlling interest.

Sugar, apparently now intent on taking sole control of Tottenham, became involved at White Hart Lane in 1991 when he joined forces with Venables to take over the club, which was then heavily in debt and was the subject of a bid from Robert Maxwell.

Venables said last night: 'There is no doubt in my mind that Sugar wants me out. But I won't let it die because when it comes to shares and money I will be the loser. My life is on the line here. I've invested everything and more in Tottenham.'

He said the meeting was unexpected and he had learned about it only two or three days ago. 'Sugar obviously believes he can completely take over the club and appoint someone to handle the football affairs. I don't understand any of this.

'Two years ago we were showing a loss of pounds 2.8m. This year we are in profit to pounds 2.8m. The team has more potential than at any time since the double team of the Sixties with some outstanding youngsters coming through. I must have been doing something right.'

Changes in the Everton boardroom also appear to be in the offing. The Liverpool Echo reported that the Moores family, who own the Littlewoods pools and shopping chain, want pounds 2.5m for their 50 per cent stake in the club, which is believed to be about pounds 4m in debt. The merchant bankers Hill Samuel are said to have been instructed to find a buyer and, if necessary, draw up plans for a public share issue or a bond scheme.

The report was immediately labelled as 'highly speculative' by Keith Tamlin, a director of the club who also acts as its solicitor and issued a statement on behalf of the club chairman, David Marsh. The statement read: 'The article in today's Liverpool Echo is of a highly speculative nature. The major shareholder in Everton Football Club has no intention of selling his shareholding.'

Tamlin confirmed Sir John is the major shareholder. Sir John was unavailable for comment, but a company spokesman said: 'He has no intention of selling his shares in Everton.'

Sir John bought half of the club's 2,500 shares in the early 1960s for just pounds 100,000. Now 97, Sir John is not in the best of health. His grandson David Moores, the chairman of Liverpool, is thought to own 15 shares in Everton, valued at pounds 2,500 each.

There is no doubt that Everton are a prime target for a takeover, but although pounds 2.5m could buy a controlling interest, the club is looking for an injection of funds. It would want a substantial sum to rebuild the struggling side, as well as expecting a buyer to reduce the debts. The club has been running on an average of gate of just 19,000 this season, and season ticket sales have declined sharply.

It is because of the desperate need to find cash quickly to arrest the decline and prevent a repeat of the disappointing season just finished, that an offer for the Moores' holdings might receive a favourable response.

Everton won the championship in 1987 but have since had only a losing appearance in the 1989 FA Cup final to sustain the Goodison faithful. Hopes were raised in 1990 when Howard Kendall, who guided Everton to two championships in the mid-1980s, returned as manager after a spell in Spain. However, Kendall has struggled to turn the side into title contenders, and they finished this season a disappointing 13th.

Cup final contrasts, page 32