Liverpool fans skeptical of another American owner
The message regularly written on scarves, flags, blogs and fan
forums of die-hard Liverpool supporters the past two seasons was
simple: ”Thanks but no Yanks.”
So it came as no surprise – given the recent abuse directed
toward co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. – that news of a
possible takeover by another group of Americans was greeted with
reservation by the Reds faithful.
”I don’t think they will be given a chance. We don’t trust the
Yanks any more,” Paul Tremarco, a Liverpool season-ticket holder
and manager of The Arkles pub near the Reds’ stadium, said
”They’re making us look like a laughing stock. We really wanted
a rich Arab from the United Arab Emirates.”
Liverpool’s prospective new owner, New England Sports Ventures,
had a 300-million pound ($477 million) bid accepted by the club’s
board on Tuesday. Hicks and Gillett are resisting the sale,
claiming it ”dramatically undervalues” the 18-time English
champions, and tried to oust two members of the board just before
the NESV offer was accepted.
So legal action will be needed to force the existing American
owners out and push through the sale to NESV, which owns the Boston
Red Sox. The deal will also need the approval of the Premier
But there is concern among supporters that the club is simply
being shifted from one set of unsafe hands to another.
”We have done a lot of research into NESV, but it’ll still be
important that these people come out and engage with supporters and
tell us what their intentions are,” said James McKenna, spokesman
for the Spirit of Shankly fans’ group.
”Supporters are understandably going to be cautiously
optimistic about what these people are like and we are going to
want a lot more than what we got from Tom Hicks and George
NESV, whose portfolio of companies also includes New England
Sports Network, Fenway Sports Group and Rousch Fenway Racing,
pledged to clear Liverpool’s debt – which currently stands at 285
million pounds ($453 million) – when it takes over.
”Our objective is to stabilize the club and ultimately return
Liverpool FC to its rightful place in English and European
football, successfully competing for and winning trophies,” a
statement by NESV said Wednesday.
”NESV wants to bring back the culture of winning to Liverpool
Liverpool has stumbled at the start of this season, dropping
into the relegation zone of the Premier League after an
embarrassing 2-1 home loss to promoted Blackpool on Sunday. It is
the Reds’ worst start to a season since 1953.
They were knocked out of the League Cup by fourth-tier
Northampton two weeks ago, one of the lowest points of the club’s
proud history that includes an English-record five European
”This whole takeover saga will take quite a while, if it indeed
goes through,” McKenna said. ”Supporters hope it can have an
impact on the pitch and a bit of positivity through the club.
”It’s been an absolute nightmare having someone like Tom Hicks
and George Gillett in charge. Until we finally see the back of
them, the supporters are still skeptical and cynical that they will
try to pull something out of the bag.”
Hicks wants to sell for about 600 million pounds ($952 million)
– an ambitious figure that has deterred many potential buyers. He
and Gillett bought the club for 174 million pounds ($276 million),
taking on 44.8 million pounds ($71.1 million) of liabilities, and
say their inflated asking price reflects the amount of money they
had since invested in the team.
”We’ve never been happy with these two,” Tremarco said.
”They’ve sold us down the river.
”They told us they were going to build a new ground – they
never did. They told us they were going to give us money for major
players. They’ve bought one – Fernando Torres. That’s it. We have
lost some of our best players to pay debts off.”
The Liverpool board says it’s impressed with the NESV’s vision
for the club and its history of success with the Red Sox, who ended
an 86-year drought with a World Series title in 2004 before winning
the championship again in 2007.
Fans will want to see a similar revival at Liverpool, which was
a dominant force in English and European soccer in the 1970s and
1980s but has not won a domestic league title since 1990. The club
did claim the Champions League title, the biggest prize in European
soccer, in 2005.
”Liverpool fans are the best supporters in the country. They
know their football,” said 45-year-old Noel O’Reilly, who lives
next to Anfield stadium.
”They applaud opposition off if they’ve played better football
than their own club. You don’t see that anywhere else in England.
The club is the heart and soul of the city.”