Last Friday Anfield Road ran a poll asking Liverpool supporters to answer a question about the future of the club.
We asked: “With the Broughton/BarCap sale process failing and c£300m RBS debt almost due, LFC and its fans are faced with two distinct possibilities. What’s your preference?”
There were two choices for an answer:
“1) Hicks and Gillett retain control via refinance or RBS extension.”
“2) RBS take temporary control of the club on the proviso the club is passed on, as soon as practicable, to a responsible owner (this carries with it the possibility of LFC being placed into administration and a 9pt penalty being imposed by the Premier League).”
3188 votes were received. Just 2.4% voted for Hicks and Gillett to get more time.
97.6% said they would rather see that risk of a nine point deduction than let Hicks and Gillett spend another second in control of the club.
Fans have shown through protests at Anfield and all manner of other campaigns just what they think of the owners. The owners know they are not wanted.
But up until now the owners have always been backed by RBS. It might have had strings attached, but time and time again they have been given the green light by RBS to continue their reign.
In January 2008 the conditions included not putting the purchase debt directly onto the club and the inclusion of around £40m of cash or guarantees from the owners.
In summer 2009 the finance was extended again, but the conditions this time included a further £100m of cash being put in. Also, it is believed, the extension was conditional on the appointment of Christian Purslow and for him to find £100m of third party investment. The finance would be extended on short term basis, repeatedly, until spring 2010.
The search for investment failed and in April 2010 RBS once again extended – but once again imposed some strong conditions, including severe penalty fees that have mounted up to somewhere between £50m and £60m in the past six months.
There was no more money left for Hicks and Gillett to put in, so the conditions this time included the appointment of a new independent chairman – Martin Broughton – and the commencement of a process designed to find a new outright owner for the club.
It is clear that this process has also failed and with the six months extension coming to an end next month RBS have to decide what to do.
They know the owners can’t afford to put any more cash in. They know that the search for third-party investment failed. They know the search for an outright buyer at a price anywhere near the price demanded by the owners failed too.
It’s not even like the sales process failed narrowly. It’s not like there were a queue of interested buyers, with the means to pay, who just felt the price was a touch on the high side.
At this moment in time there isn’t even an offer there for the owners to accept.
Extending more time to Hicks and Gillett would just see RBS increasing the size of that mountain of debt. In summer 2009 they felt the debt was too high so they demanded £100m be paid off it. Now they’ve added half of that back on with their various charges. How much longer are they willing to keep extending? How much more will they add to that already massive bill?
It’s time for all concerned to draw a line under it. Time to stop throwing good money after bad.
And if RBS were concerned at a backlash should their next move result in Liverpool losing nine points, they can put that concern to one side.
Liverpool supporters are sick of uncertainty, sick of waiting week by week to see what might happen next. We want a decision we can move forward from.
We want RBS to take the club away from its current owners. We will live with the nine point deduction if that is what it comes to. 97.6% of us said so.
And the sooner RBS act the better.
We’ve had enough.