Liverpool supporters need to be careful in the coming weeks that they don’t fall for the PR spin that will undoubtedly be served up by Tom Hicks as he aims to get Liverpool supporters falling for his stories and promises once again.
He’ll use the promise of a fancy stadium and the so-called £17m signing of Javier Mascherano to boost his claims that he cares about the club, hoping that we soon forget the lies and deceit of the past few months in particular, but that have been there since the day he first spoke of his plans for the club nearly a year ago.
He’s also keen to try and play on Liverpool supporters’ mistrust of the press, a mistrust that stems back at least to 1989 when The Sun lied about Liverpool supporters and what they had done to their dying and dead fellow supporters on the day of the Hillsborough disaster. Those lies were deeply upsetting, and the ‘newspaper’ was soon boycotted. For a paper that sells over 3 million copies in the UK, it now sells just 12,000 in the Liverpool area – where it used to sell around a quarter of a million.
In deflecting the blame and trying to deny claims about him yesterday, Hicks used the word “tabloid” three times, unprompted, to try and convince listeners that he was the victim of more tabloid lies. But the stories and allegations haven’t just come from the tabloids. The broadsheets have covered the stories, as has the BBC – the whole of the media is in on the truth about Hicks. Using our mistrust of the tabloids won’t work, not for most of us anyway. He even denied having spoken to DIC yesterday, before admitting that he had after all, dismissing it as unimportant because it was “months ago”. It still happened, so denying it is still a lie! And according to more reports, he was still speaking to them last week.
Liverpool supporters certainly gave Hicks the benefit of the doubt, even when the evidence was mounting against him. Where he came unstuck was when Jurgen Klinsmann was offered the job at Bayern and more weight was added to the claims he’d been offered Rafa’s job by the owners. The minute Hicks admitted that any doubters saw the light. Hicks has not been honest. And as soon as they have seen one subject where they were wrong to trust Hicks, they started to question other subjects.
But some supporters are still far too trusting. They already falling for the words Hicks used in his statements on Friday and his interview yesterday and have started to think maybe he’s not so bad after all.
That’s a dangerous approach to take. Hicks does not deserve the benefit of the doubt any longer. Even yesterday he lied about having had contact with DIC, before admitting the truth. The best way he had of getting back the trust of the majority of the Liverpool supporters was to show that the lies were now all in the past. But that’s not how he sees it. He thinks he can still lie to supporters, that they’ll fall for it all again.
So it’s important that we don’t. Listen carefully to what he says. And make sure any supporters you know who don’t have access to the internet are also careful to read and listen carefully.
One subject Hicks will use in the coming days is the signature of Javier Mascherano. Arguably the best holding midfielder in the world – (and if he isn’t now then he soon will be) the Argentinean is currently on an 18-month loan deal at Anfield, which expires in the summer. It’s no secret that there is a £17m agreement in place to see the player stay at Anfield for five more years after that.
Hicks has now told the press that he will allow the signing to go ahead – after he’d blocked it back in October when he told Rafa to shut up and coach.
So, surely, if Hicks is willing to find £17m from somewhere he must have the club’s best interests at heart? Not exactly. But he’ll be happy to see the headlines make it look that way. He will be happy to see the tabloids work for him in this instance. Except the deal isn’t quite what it sounds.
This was rumoured some time ago, but The Liverpool Way fanzine say they’ve now had confirmation that it’s true. The £17m covers everything – the fees to the owners of the player, and the player’s wages – for five years. It doesn’t even have to be paid up-front. The whole amount can be spread over five years, at a rate of under £3.5m per year. Mascherano’s owners will get a fee of a few million – at most £4m if Mascherano’s wages are £50k per week.
With the departure of Momo Sissoko looking close to happening, if not now then in the summer, the club will in effect be better off. They’ll save on Momo’s wages, and they’ll get around £9m in from his transfer. If it all works out then it’s going to be quite a deal, but not because of the generosity of Hicks, purely because of how Rafa will have exchanged Momo for Mascherano, and with change left over.
The same website have also got wind of how a big chunk of money has been spent with little to show for it. £15m has been spent on getting four different sets of plans drawn up for the stadium, and also on the services so far of a consultancy firm who’ll be liaising between the club, the architects and the builders. All that money spent, a third of the amount the club was in debt by prior to the takeover, and nothing more to show for it than some admittedly impressive drawings of a stadium that still can’t be built. There’s going to be another long process needed now to get the various permissions in place, which if successful will mean some work can finally start on building – but not too much, because very little of the required finance is in place for that. The club still need to get a £300m loan before they can finish the stadium, which is already going to be a finished a year later than promised at takeover.
So whilst it seems money is no object when it comes to getting drawings done, there are still issues with Hicks over just how his policy on transfers stands up to scrutiny. Last summer’s spending should not have required any borrowing, the club having brought in more than in previous seasons, and having spent much the same as in previous seasons. The Champions League income alone was higher than the net spending on transfers.
Martin Skrtel’s signature came in January, and is used by Hicks as a pointer to his intentions, to somehow prove that he’s now fully supportive of the boss. Skrtel’s fee was slightly less than Rafa had left over in his budget from the summer after the Gabriel Heinze move fell through, and will be paid in instalments over the next few seasons. The first payment for Javier Mascherano won’t be due until the summer, and in any case it doesn’t take much to work out that Momo Sissoko’s sale (£9m) would be enough to pay for both Mascherano’s first year (£3.4m), and Skrtel’s full fee (£5.6m).
Of course Skrtel’s fee doesn’t have to be paid in full just yet, and with Rafa interested in signing Pablo Aimar, a player he worked with at Valencia from Real Zaragoza, part of the Momo money could be used for the Argentinean playmaker. Whether or not this deal can go through in the last couple of days of the transfer window remains to be seen, if it does then perhaps it will work out that a little investment in the squad has finally been forthcoming, although of course that can soon be cancelled out by sales in the summer.
The big problem here is that we are talking of relatively small amounts of investment in the team after prize money and sales have been taken off. Investment of literally just a few million pounds, when the club is going to have to pay the interest on a massive total of £350m in loans.
Before the takeover we had our eyes on a new stadium and we had debt of around £45m, we also needed investment in the playing squad to allow us to compete with our rivals. A year later and we are now in debt, directly and indirectly, of £350m, and that’s before the stadium costs are included.
This loan has just bought them time, it only lasts for 18 months, and seeing as it’s already taken them 12 months to come up with a set of stadium plans that they think they will be able to afford then it’s easy to see just how short that time is. It took them nearly six months to get this interim loan, how long will it take to get the funding for the stadium. And Hicks refused to speak about the debt when interviewed by Five Live – and so we don’t know what rate of interest this finance has been taken out at. What was Hicks hiding? Where is George Gillett, if the deal is as good as Hicks says?
So please, don’t fall for the Hicks spin, and do all you can to warn fellow supporters, with or without the internet, that the battle mustn’t be allowed to fizzle out now. Hicks is not to be trusted – and even though he asks to be judged on actions instead of other people’s words, his own words are also something he can be judged on. His own words feature lies and broken promises. His actions have seen us lose ground in the battle to be a contender for the title and very little else.
On Thursday night there’s a meeting of various people involved in LFC websites, fanzines, associations, clubs and so on to discuss what can be done to continue putting the pressure on the owners. I’m hoping to be there too. If you’ve got any ideas on showing the owners that this battle goes on, that we won’t be lied to, that we want our club back, if not completely then at least in the hands of owners who think winning might be more important than “fan affinity”, then please either leave them as a comment under this article, or post them on one of the forums of the sites supporting the LFC Supporters Network.
Remember, no matter how much you want to trust Mr Hicks, his past actions have shown that we’ve never got to take his word for it on any issue, at the very, very least we’ve got to let him know that we’re watching his every step. Please don’t let yourselves fall for the spin.