Angry Hicks claims Liverpool ‘swindle’

On Friday, New England Sports Ventures completed the

£300million takeover of the club following a frenetic week

that had seen the matter go before the High Court in London. Hicks,

however, has warned that the already protracted saga is not over

and voiced his anger at the manner with which he lost control of

the club, calling it “an organised conspiracy”. Asked how he felt

about the sale, Hicks told Sky Sports News: “(I’m) Shocked.

Devastated. Frustrated. I’m very disappointed. “It’s hurt my family

tremendously. This is a very valuable asset that was swindled away

from me in an epic swindle. “I’m very angry about it.” Hicks hit

out at club chairman Martin Broughton and creditors Royal Bank of

Scotland, claiming they had breached his trust. “This has been an

organised conspiracy over many months,” he claimed on Sky Sports

News. “[Liverpool independent chairman] Martin Broughton wanted a

good PR event in his life and be seen as the guy that got rid of

those Americans – and he sold to another group of Americans. “I

can’t go into the details but I can confirm the funds were

available to pay off Royal Bank of Scotland entirely but between

Royal Bank of Scotland, the chairman and the employees that

conspired against us, they would not let us. “They were people I

thought were our friends, people I thought were loyal, and I was

wrong.” Former manager Rafael Benitez also came under fire as Hicks

defended himself and fellow owner George Gillett against claims

that they had not provided the necessary financial support. “We

spent £300million on players, £150million net – I think

it’s the second or third highest in the English Premier League,” he

said. “You never read about that in the media. “I read a very

interesting article in which Alex Ferguson said ‘Rafa had more

money to spend than the rest of us, he just bought bad players’.

“Rafa lost the club. We didn’t finish at the top – that’s not the

fault of the owners, we spent good money. Rafa has to take

accountability for his own results. “When we finished second the

year before, people weren’t nearly as angry. Liverpool fans are

just unbelievably strong supporters and they want to win. “I’m not

a novice, I’ve been in sport for almost 15 years. Whether it’s

hockey or baseball in the US or soccer fans in Liverpool, people

want to win.” Hicks said that he had identified a buyer he felt

would be better to take Liverpool forward, but claimed his attempts

to broker a deal had been undermined by people inside the club. “My

family members and I have been working very hard to solve the

issue,” he added. “We know there are better owners out there for

the Liverpool Football Club than the Boston Red Sox group. “We knew

who they were. We were just frustrated that every time we had

conversations with them we had people in our own organisation who

somehow had those things not work out. “They conspired against us.

They were people I thought were our friends, people I thought were

loyal, and I was wrong.” He added: “The process was continually

frustrated by chatter about financial distress coming out of RBS.

“The interested buyers that we knew would be the right type of

buyers for the club – look what’s happened to Manchester City now

with their new ownership – that’s the kind of buyer we were trying

to find for Liverpool and those people were scared off by the

distress chatter and the organised internet terrorism campaign that

was directed against people involved. “I just want the truth to

come out in the courts. “Our desire was to get Liverpool into the

hands of an owner who would be able to build a stadium and make

Liverpool the top club in the world they deserve to be.” The

64-year-old Texan admitted that the debt he and Gillett had saddled

on the club was “a little too much”, but he hit out at the Royal

Bank of Scotland for attempting to drive through a sale too

quickly. Hicks added on Sky Sports News: “Liverpool is a very

healthy performing club which covers its interest fine. It has a

little bit too much debt, no question. But we were going to fix

that and we were frustrated by others.” Hicks also conceded that

his struggle to communicate with the fans since he took over in

March 2007 had conspired to the bitterness surrounding his

departure. “I accept that fact that something went wrong in my

ability to communicate with the fans and I’m saddened by it,” he

added. “I wish more people had the accurate information. “It (the

debt figures) have been a millstone because of the fans’ reaction

to it. “There’s been so many inaccurate numbers about what our

interest bill is – we’ve had plenty of operating income to cover

our interest payments with a lot of room to spare. “We’ve invested.

George and I put in 270 million dollars into the club. We’ve spent

nearly 300 million dollars gross on players. About 150 million

dollars net on players and you never hear that in the media. “That

disappears in all the noise and anger.” The delay over the building

of a new stadium for the club was yet another subject to exercise

fans’ ire. Gillett claimed after taking over that “the shovel has

to be in the ground within 60 days”. “George said that because that

was our plan,” Hicks told Sky Sports News. “The design was done 10

years ago, we thought we were going to build it and planned to get

that going in the first couple of months. “When we presented the

new stadium plans in August 2007, that fans who came up to the

stadium liked them. “The people that wanted to be angry at Gillett

and Hicks, that’s one thing they picked up on. They didn’t talk

about the reality. “We had the chance to build a world-class

stadium in Liverpool and I hope the group that took the club today

builds that stadium.”