Liverpool’s shoddy Spirit of Shankly group have been fighting against their owners, Hick and Gillett, after they put the club in £273m worth of debt and didn’t fulfil promises to replace Anfield with a new stadium.
Whilst MUST are still working to get rid of our owners, the Glazers, and talk of a summer takeover bid by the Red Knights gains momentum, SoS will be able to claim a victory, of sorts, with news that their owners are putting the club for sale.
It is not quite the victory they intended though, as the new chairman put in place is a season ticket holding Chelsea fan.
Martin Broughton, who is also Chairman of British Airways, was brought up within walking distance of Stamford Bridge and has a season ticket in the Matthew Harding Stand.
“Yes, I am a Chelsea fan, but first and foremost I am a very keen football fan,” he said. “Football is a passion. Liverpool is an institution, it’s been a great club, it needs to be a great club and that’s what I’m committed to.”
Broughton’s job primarily will be to find a buyer for Liverpool FC for Hicks and Gillett, who don’t get along.
In a statement, Hicks and Gillett said: “Owning Liverpool Football Club over these past three years has been a rewarding and exciting experience for us and our families. Having grown the club this far we have now decided together to look to sell the club to owners committed to take the club through its next level of growth and development.”
They bought the club half way through the 2006-2007 season. The season before Liverpool finished 3rd, one point behind 2nd placed United, and won the FA Cup. At the end of the 2007 Liverpool finished 3rd, 15 points behind 2nd placed Chelsea. The following season they finished 4th, 7 points behind 3rd placed Arsenal. The following season they finished 2nd, 4 points behind 1st place United. This season, they are currently 6th (although if Villa win their game in hand, will be 7th) and they didn’t get through the group stages of the Champions League.
It’s hard to argue that there has been much growth or development in this time. If Liverpool do finish 7th this season, it will be their worst position since 1998/1999 when they were 7th, 25 points behind United at the top.
Of course, this can’t all be put on the doorstep of the owners. Their mental manager has some questions to answer, not that the fans will ask, given their unwavering support for a man clearly out of his depth.
In Hicks and Gillett’s first summer, they forked out £70m, bringing in players like Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel, Martin Skrtel and Emiliano Insua. They made £30m from the sales of players like Sissoko, Bellamy and Cisse.
The following summer they gave Benitez another £40m to spend on the likes of Robbie Keane, David Ngog, Andrea Dossena and Alberto Riera. But again, they had brought in money from the sales of Crouch, Carsson, Finan and a few months in to the season, Robbie Keane.
The following year Benitez spent £35m on Glen Johnson and Alberto Aquilani, blowing the £30m transfer fee of vitally important Xabi Alonso, who looked for a move away from the club after Rafa oddly made it known he rated Gareth Barry more highly.
Regardless, Liverpool’s situation is now is a far cry from where they should be, based on the promises and hopes the Americans brought with them.
“This is great for Liverpool, our supporters and the shareholders – it is the beginning of a new era for the club,” said then chief executive Rick Parry when the takeover was announced in February 2007. “They are bringing to the table tremendous and relevant experience, a passion for sport, real resources and a strong commitment to the traditions of Liverpool. We know that George and Tom want a long-term relationship with Liverpool and that they also understand the importance of investing in our success both on and off the field. They have made clear their intention to move as quickly as practicable on the financing and construction of our proposed new stadium at Stanley Park and also to support investment in the playing squad.”
Still, Liverpool fans are a step closer to achieving their target of getting rid of their current owners, something we strive for ourselves, but will the future be brighter? The man making the decisions for them at the moment is a Chelsea fan, and let’s be honest, the two clubs haven’t had the greatest of relationships over recent years.
But what has all this got to do with us? Well, the comparisons have been drawn between the two clubs for a long time, in terms of trophies won and brilliant managers, but our situation with foreign owners who have plunged our clubs in to debt is also comparable.
I’m reluctant to use the phrase “better the devil you know” because I don’t want to say there’s anything better about being under Glazer ownership, but we do need to be wary about what our future can hold. Let’s get rid of the Glazers, we’re agreed on that, but then what? Have a Liverpool season ticket holder as our chairman? A City fan? An Arsenal fan?
It can be a case of out of the frying pan and in to the fire, as SoS are learning, and we need to have our wits about us.
If the Red Knights make the option for a golden share available, then that puts us in a much healthier position, and that would certainly make their bid more appealing, but Liverpool’s current predicament should be sobering for us all of us.