Saturday, 16 October 2010

Liverpool FC - The Ownership Saga

I've sort of avoided making any real comment about this on my blog, partially because I've been a bit busy but mostly because I thought there was a lot of smoke and mirrors going on, and despite the heavy media coverage I wanted to wait until things were sorted out and the dust had settled before making any real comment. Plus I'd have only jinxed things anyway.

So the club is now owned by New England Sports Ventures, parent company of the Boston Red Sox. For a large part I'm still fairly sceptical of American ownership, if only for the reason that the franchise system of sport in America is completely unlike how things work over here, but I'd like to think that these guys can at least give a fair bit of stability if not some transfer funds and a new stadium. At the very least we've narrowly avoided the loans defaulting and a nine point penalty in the league.

A point of note is that John Henry, principle owner of NESV, hasn't pledged a mass of transfer funds and he hasn't pledged that they'll fund the new stadium either. Basically he's just said that it's too early to tell for anything like that. On the one hand that's potentially a little unsettling as far as putting the club back on the top of the table, but at least it shows he's being down to earth with how he's handling things. He's not promising a huge transfer kitty and a new stadium and the all the rest of the standard spiel to win the fans over. Which is nice, because there's been enough bullshit over the last couple of years.

I'm almost certainly going against the grain for saying this, but I do feel that Gillett and Hicks have been victimised a little bit in all of this. They did make promises at the start of their reign which they have since completely failed to deliver upon, but they still did spend a fair amount of money on transfers, and there was very little they could have done to anticipate the economic crash, which is most of the reason they couldn't finance a new stadium. It is utterly retarded that they bought the club with debt and then held the debt on the club's books, but leveraged buyouts aren't that rare and I'm led to believe that they usually don't go quite so badly. At the very least G&H didn't buy the club with the intention to throw it into financial turmoil and rip the money and assets out from it, as happened with Alex Hamilton and Wrexham a few years ago.

Even with the bullshit on Thursday with the Texas court injunction, it's hard to really lay that much hate on G&H for it, as much as it did potentially jeopardise the club. They've lost a fuckload of money over the last few years into the club, and while their valuation of £600m was totally retarded and they were never going to get an offer for it, you can't blame them for wanting the highest offer on the table to be considered. £340m compared to £300m doesn't seem like a huge increase, but when there's 40 million pounds at stake it's not that crazy that they tried everything they could in courts to get what they wanted.

I think the fundamental root of the problem was that these guys were not the likes of Roman Abramovic or Sheik Mansour, with near-limitless funds to pour into the club. At the same time, they also weren't the likes of Bill Kenwright either, and weren't really in things for the long-haul. They wanted to buy the club, put in a new stadium, win a few trophies, increase the value and ultimately sell it on for profit in a handful of years. They weren't billionaires or lovers of the club, they were just two businessmen trying to make a profit from an investment at a point in time when the economy died and pretty much all investment sources and banks folded. Arguably if it hadn't been for the recession things could have ended up completely different.

I have no sympathy for the two of them, as risk is a fundamental part of investing, and personally I think they made some pretty stupid decisions and to a huge extent totally didn't understand the nature of the club, or its fans. I'd also say that trying to make a short-term profit from a football club is a retarded idea anyway, because things don't really work like that, and English football clubs don't work under a franchise system for a damn good reason. That said I do think they've been excessively victimised and I don't think they're the evil villainous maniacs that the likes of Spirit of Shankly would attempt to make out they are. They're just fairly incompetent businessmen and they've paid a price of hundreds of millions of pounds for that.

Either way, things are hopefully settled now, and really the crisis point should switch from being off the pitch to on the pitch. Now that I'm no longer focused on who is going to own the club and the threat of administration, I look back at the league table and remember that we're in 18th place. While it's still early on in the season and we're only in reality a few wins away from being back near the top of the table, there still needs to be better results on the pitch, because being in the relegation zone isn't something you can really dismiss for that long when you're meant to be challenging for the top four. The Merseyside derby is tomorrow, and really fingers crossed we'll win it and spark a decent run of form. If nothing else it'd be a great way to cap off a pretty tumultuous week.

Also lol at Man Utd for throwing away a two goal lead for the fourth time so far in the league this season.

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