Fans’ views wanted as LFC ownership war continues

Liverpool supporters fighting for their clubSupporters of Liverpool FC have spent as much time thinking about problems off the field as they have about anything happening on it in recent years. Even now, with the club stuck in the relegation zone, off-field events have found their way of eclipsing the on-field embarrassment.

There isn’t a single Reds fan who doesn’t want the nearly four years of ownership by Tom Hicks and George Gillett to come to an end. If there is they are keeping it quiet. And no wonder, it’s never a good idea to admit such insane thoughts.

But now, with the club on the verge of being sold to new owners, it isn’t a turn of events that is being universally greeted with excitement. For every fan saying it couldn’t possibly be any worse there is another who says this deal may still be some way short of what the club needs. For every fan delighted there is a fan in fear of what this next stage in the club’s life might lead to.

Martin Broughton lowered the demands he originally laid out for a new owner, specifically on the requirement that they agree to fund the new stadium. That might well be a change made for good reasons – but it could also be a massive compromise. And if it is a compromise, how many more were made?

Broughton and the club have built this deal up like it’s the best deal we ever could have asked for. The hype from the club this summer about a couple of Bosman signings and some early Europa Cup wins is perhaps worth remembering when listening to those descriptions.

At the same time the club hasn’t exactly been asking investors to form a queue. A so-called auction seems to have ended with two bids for the absolute bare minimum price – the price RBS demanded to pay off their debt.

So, is it time to be more resistant than ever about the decisions being made by the club’s board (assuming it still legally is the club’s board and isn’t ousted by actions of Tom Hicks about to be challenged in court)? Is it time to put all the worries to one side and open the door to these new owners?

If anything, going off past experience, it is probably best to be reserved, open-minded and vigilant, asking question after question until we have the answers we need to make a decision.

Meanwhile the Sunday Mirror got in touch with the Football Supporters’ Federation about a feature that will be in their paper this weekend. It’s a double-page spread on the current ownership issues and it will include an interview with James McKenna, spokesperson for Spirit of Shankly, a voice of the fans who has been heard regularly in the media, especially of late, trying to get the fans’ – and specifically SOS members’ – views across. Jim White of Sky will probably remember him for a long time to come.

Also to be featured in that article will be a supporters’ survey. FSF are asking fans to complete this survey in time for it to feature in Sunday’s paper.

To make your views known go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FSFLiverpool
.

Garreth Cummins of the FSF said: “As FSF members and Liverpool supporters we’d appreciate your views (which are anonymous), and it’ll take you no more than a minute to answer the four very simple questions.”

* The Football Supporters’ Federation is free to join and is the national supporters’ organisation representing more than 180,000 fans. The FSF campaigns on all sorts of issues, from safe standing and ticket pricing to policing and making sure supporters get a long overdue voice at football’s top tables.

Please take the time to do the survey.

35 thoughts on “Fans’ views wanted as LFC ownership war continues”

  1. “It couldn’t get any worse” is all I can think of, anyone who is willing to take on our club and clear it’s debt (without lying) is a god send. Even if we’re not back to Top 4 football straight away, the benefits of no debt means we will have more money for transfers for the next season.

    Hicks is a compulsive liar and is clinching at straws, he knows he is going to lose the battle.

    All I can say is have faith in NESV, unlike Tom and Jerry they have experience in sports teams that are well run, profitable and in zero debt. Whereas Hicks and Co already destroyed Corinthians with promises of new players and a new stadium, just like us, no new stadium and a sell to buy transfer budget.

    #dearmrhicks Get out of our club, get out of club. You lying b*****ds, get out of our club.

  2. I am extremely concerned that the people being brought in to invest in our club, are indeed a group of …investors ?!!!

    they have no interest in our club apart from ensuring their investment makes them money. which is exactly what H & G had hoped for, but unfortunately they just didnt have the class and understanding to make it truly work for them. also, they were greatly effected by the credit crunch. so thank feck to the credit crunch for 1 thing !!! lol

    anyways, i was totally deflated when Rafa was moved on and then had a terrible feeling when Woy was appointed his successor. I am now having bad feelings about this group aswell. maybe being wrong in 1 out of 3 would be good !! but unfortunately only time will tell.

    In Rafa i still trust. In Woy, ahhmmm ?? hes a nice guy.

  3. Darren,

    That’s a similar worry to mine. If there hadn’t been a credit crunch would we ever have had issues with H&G? We would have done eventually, but had they been able to extend their original finance as easily as they got it in the first place I doubt they would have made attempts to move it onto the club or to get unrealistic investment from the likes of DIC.

    When Hicks and Gillett bought the club they bought it with 100% debt – but none of it was on LFC. To all intents and purposes it didn’t matter how they got that money initially. A year later, had they been able to, they’d have probably kept it at 100% and kept it outside of the club.

    When/if NESV buy the club they might not be using debt – but what is to stop them from doing so in the years that follow? The day it becomes better for them to fund LFC with debt they will fund it with debt – if they can.

    A 17-strong consortium of people with absolutely no connection to LFC isn’t what we’d want in an ideal world.

    Doesn’t mean they’ll not be good, just means we’ve a long list of questions we need to ask.

    And we need to ask them soon, before it’s too late.

    As for Roy – a change of ownership, if it’s good ownership, should trigger the start of a process to move him on. He was never good enough, unless these new owners are also seeing us as a mid-table outfit.

  4. It is far too early to judge the “new owners”. Who said they are just investors? They certainly didn’t. Broughton certainly didn’t.

    We love the club. We support the players, however (what’s the right word?) “crap” they are playing right now. And Liverpool fans don’t assassinate managers the way they do at smaller clubs. Just because the owners have not been doing things the Liverpool way, that doesn’t mean that we have to lower our standards.

  5. Beggars can’t be choosers. I soppose you can’t force someone to want to buy a football club. So put you neck on the block Jim, Who do you want as manager??

  6. Dear Jim

    Rick Parry said ‘you can only sell the family silver once’. Well most of that priceless heirloom has been pawned off by now and what little that’s left is seriously tarnished. However it is still precious to me and thousands upon thousands of others too, so I’m very concerned that its new owner will look after it and return its lustre. The problem is this all seems a little like deja vu and already I’m smelling the stench of lies and misrepresentation.

    “This is a great day for Liverpool Football Club and the supporters. They understand winning on the field helps winning off the field and makes the investment an attractive investment and they have a track record to prove it.”

    That is a quote from Broughton 6th Oct 2010

    “This is great for Liverpool, our supporters and the shareholders – it is the beginning of a new era for the club. 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”

    That’s a quote from Rick Parry on the 6th Feb 2007

    Its hard to tell them apart at this stage. Now Henry & his NESV partners may very well be an exemplary baseball franchise owners who love sports, but I very much doubt they have any knowledge of football in general or affinity to Liverpool in particular. Although Henry is from Arkansas he may now love the Red Sox and its Bostonian history, but I wonder what is his motivation for buying LFC? Other than seeing an excellent business opportunity to acquire a new franchise asset in a distressed sale.

    Many baseball fans are telling us that Henry is a very different beast to Hicks. That may well be true. But in 2007 I read a lot, a real lot, of positive messages from Stars and Canadiens fans saying that they had good owners. Even some Rangers fans said Hicks was decent, but that was in 2007 prior to their spectacular financial fall from grace.

    Even if Henry’s intentions are reasonable is his knowledge of baseball and the relative successful of his franchise business model really transferable to Liverpool and the English premier league? His Red Sox team may have pioneered sabremetrics but starting from a position of complete ignorance about soccer as a sport and LFC as a franchise concerns me. By the time a sufficient knowledge base for appropriate analytics is acquired, many many mistakes could be made along the way

    My preference would be for an owner with knowledge and passion for football irrespective of his passport, a sound investment and business plan but also with expertise in a market that also truly loves and understands football. Despite the fact that US television is making positive noises about future broadcasting deals of EPL matches, the real emerging market is not the US and never will be.

    But my main concern is regarding the purchase price, investment and ongoing level of debt. We all remember that H&G assured us that “we have purchased the club with no debt on the club”. We know what a crock of Texan manure that turned out to be.

    Now I’m reading that Liverpool FC will have it’s debt removed. Dozens upon dozens of articles and websites are reporting this as a positive without mentioning that irritant phrase in the small print, ‘acquisition debt’. We need to get to the bottom of what this means.

    Reported figures are that LFC currently owe RBS £237 m and that the total sales price is £300m. Sounds promising but read on…

    The deal will involve the banks being repaid £200m, does this equate to the initial acquisition debt? Remember the initial valuation in 2007 was £174.1m, and along with the club’s £44.8m debt it reached a value of £218.9m

    NESV will also pay a further £40m going to cover other liabilities, does this equate to the £44.8m pre 2007 sale debt?

    NESV will also pay a £60m clearing debt relating to the proposed new ground in Stanley Park. This seems to match the staggering amount that the Texan Two Hats have wasted on the most expensive architect’s drawing in the history of civilisation. Unless the price of spades has rocketed.

    And so, according to the Grauniad that will leave a £37m working overdraft with RBS.

    So, far from clarifying that all the debt is removed this now seriously worries me. If NESV are only removing the initial acquistion debt of £174.1m does that mean that remaining debt, close to £163m will remain on the club? Now a £37m working overdraft seems reasonable and practicable for business cash flow, but will the remaining £125.9m that NESV are paying eventually have to be paid back by the club as a loan? If so will it accrue interest along the way? Sounds familiar if true.

    Such curiously ambiguous figures beg the next question. If H&G have sunk £120m of personal liability in, as an inter company loan (which with interest has risen to £144m), and as Broughton has said, they are set to lose this money. Where the sweet f*** did it go? Did it go on the artichect’s fees? Evidently not. We know that the debt levels rose as they were refinanced and interest was compounded to the rising debt level, but we also know that the club itself has been hamstrung by paying the interest directly. At least £180m as of 2009. So what gives?

    Maybe I don’t understand the figures quoted correctly, but I’m only trying to piece together a ramshackle of various quotes and tidbits, and I’m no forensic accountant. A lot of rigorous questions need to be asked with honest and full answers in return, and this must be done now before it’s too late. Jay McKenna, of SOS, has cautioned of “jumping from the frying pan and into the fire” and i think this caution is entirely justified.

  7. i made a typo earlier, i think that as of 2009 the club has paid £80m in debt interest and not £180m as I mistyped

  8. @al
    Wouldn’t we all love such an ideal owner. How do you suggest we get one of those type of owners. There’s not many of them out there. I’t can be a very thankless business owning a football club & trying to please thankless fans who all feel that they shoulc have a say in who the manager is & who is bought & sold etc. You would need deep deep pockets & a hard neck. The reality is that there was no sheik out there wanting to piss his money away on us. I should be up to the Premier league to ensure no owners can leverage a clud past 1/3 of their net worth. Maybe we’d get Jim on the new board to keep an eye on them.

  9. @Todd

    Evidently there aren’t that many prospective buyers out there. I only outlined what I personally would prefer which would be my interpretation of the ideal candidate that Broughton outlined at the start of the sales process. Such a buyer may not exist or doesn’t want to get involved. As far as i’m aware the second ‘excellent’ buyer and the details of their bid have not been made public, whether they are closer to what I would like or not, is therefore unknown.

    So as we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and choice is evident by its absence, it is of particularly importance that we understand the buyer who is in front of us and that we ask the right questions now before its too late. At least we only have one buyer to ask so it shouldn’t be too difficult. We can then see how close or how far short Broughton has matched his own criteria.

  10. So what does it matter? This a business whatever you say it’s an opportunity to make a profit….if done in the right way.

    It’s a bit different from LBO so before anybody jumps to conclusions just accept the situation as it stands.Broughton probably has a lot more to lose if this all goes pear-shaped and his reputation will be shot forever.He seems to have kept his powder dry in the face of fierce criticism to reveal what was going on and now seems quite open about the negotiations.

    And sold off in an auction? Well,what would you do considering that sooner or later there would be a time when the price would drop bearing in mind that they were running out of re- finance options?

    I’m no financier or international banker but I think even I could work that one out!

  11. @al
    No buyer is in it for the love of the club or the fans. You need wealthy young sheik for that. Football clubs have got very expensive and as such only a certain type of person can own them and they are usually the type that like to make money off their investments. I don’t think we can change that no matter what questions we ask. I’m not that confident myself, I’m not racist against americans but I just don’t think they understand football or how it works. The word franchise belongs in fast food stores not football clubs. I’d like to know who the other bidder was and if they were real but we will probably never know. Hopefully we are all wrong and it will be brilliant.

  12. According to some reports this fella will stay quietly in the background and employ the best in the business to run the club, this is how he has supposedly run the brs. if thats the case allowing the club to run self sufficently we could afford the new stadium and invest on the field, and if he does get the best the board and roy will be gone. who knows the rafa to come back. If the above were to come true i think we could all be happy again and worry about the team and not what the D*******S in the boardroom are doing. BUT I WONT HOLD MY BREATH.

  13. Song for the derby if mr henry has the club because the whole world will be watching and both sets of supporters can join in just to let the world know and more importantly let mr henry know how we feel before the groundshare K***HEADS fill his head with any stupid ideas.
    RED or blue if you care about your history, tradition and identity sing this song LONG LOUD AND PROUD.
    YOU CAN STICK YOUR F***ING GROUNDSHARE UP YOUR AR£E.
    Pass this on to all REDS and blues going to the game, because if they get up a head of steam on this we will all be sorry.

  14. And so it begins…a trip down paranoia lane.

    @ Todd – do you really think Mansoor loves Man City and its fans? Do me a favour! It’s just his latest vulgar play thing. The latest must have accessory.

    I feel I need to level the weights here a little – I am very positive about NESV. Sure we were given promises last time by H&G. But they lied. They are bad, very unsuccessful business men. This saga proves that.

    NESV are in a different league to those two muppets. The Red Sox are without question one of the top three sports sides in the US. They are traditional, historical and their fans are amongst the most pasionate and militant in the whole world. They don’t suffer fools those Bostonians. Similar to us really.

    I was on the Red Sox site a couple of days ago and there was a letter to the fans from the owners, thanking them for their support during a difficult season…injuries galore. They have been promised a better run next year, with player investment etc.

    It could be bulls**t. Or it could be genuine passion for sport. Personally, I’m looking forward to giving these guys a chance.

  15. Ditto WhiteHorseRed, I’m also looking forward to giving these guys a chance. I can’t wait for Hicks to get lost.

  16. I’m of the opinion that surely no one can be worse than Hicks.

    Similarly, I’m also of the opinion John Henry’s consortium deserves all the scrutiny it gets from fans before being welcomed without reservation.

    Let’s not kid ourselves here, there’s simply no sheik or Abramovich or ultra-rich Scouser out there willing to splash cash crazily like Chelski or Man Shitty does, and I would hate to see Liverpool become some arrogant noveau-rich like those two clubs have become, already my City-supporting colleague is behaving like an arsehole.

    Besides, UEFA has rules that require clubs to have break-even accounts by 2012, so gone will be the days of crazy transfer markets. Surely that must form part of Broughton’s consideration when deciding to sell to NESV. (He knows fuck all about football, and is partly responsible for Rafa’s removal, but you got to give him credit where it’s due for standing up to G+H and outmanuevering them)

    The way NESV are willing to accept short-term loss by ploughing money for player transfer for long-term success is what appeals them to me, unlike Hicks “sit and do nothing while waiting for fat paycheque” mismanagement style.

    So I will be realistic and accept that as long as NESV don’t fuck around with us like those two idiots are doing right now, I will give their Red Sox management model a shot. If you think about it, this management style is a perfect match for Rafa, though he will no longer be there to reap that potential benefit – Support from the board.

  17. jim,

    totally agree that roy should see out the season and then be off. i really do hope that NESV are smart enough to realize how little respect LFC supporters have for Cecil and get rid of him post haste.

    i do find the irony of LFC getting some actual Yank owners (as opposed to the Texand Hicks and Coloradan or something Gillett, neither of whom are “yanks” at all), to be almost too much. the mindless anti-americanism of a certain block of Liverpool supporters was almost starting to bother me as much as the anti-rafa brigades did. though i guess both are getting their poetic justice in the end.

    anyway, lets hope hicks and gillett and then cecil and soon roy are all off for good. but never underestimate lawyers ability to screw it all up.

  18. Hopefully either Jim or someone from SOS will get Purlsows place on the new board. That’s what Liverpool needs right now, real supporters ruining the club, not traitors like Purslow.

  19. Jim I am actually quite optimistic with the way they aren’t saying they are going to move the world for us.

    They have said judge them by their actions not their words, and that is the type of thing I would rather hear than loads of well intentioned promises that amount to nothing.

    We do also have to get real Jim, LFC is a faded force, and we have to stop living in the past. we need an owner who will be good for the club, and provided they are good for the club then thats all we can ask. When they said judge them by their actions Ihope they mean they are planning on being good for the club, and that will do me.

  20. Does no one else want to get to the bottom of what ‘acquisition debt’ actually means? And will proof of funds show that it is real cash, their own money, rather than loans from elsewhere? I don’t want to see Liverpool run on the never never again.

  21. They have my preleminary support provided I don’t hear the term groundshare being mentioned

  22. Kevin,

    Your dad finds you a tutor, your mom likes your tutor, you do poorly in school and your dad fires your tutor, and what happens? Your mom calls your dad a traitor for doing what he thinks is best for you.

    Wake up, it’s nothing personal, it’s the intent behind that is more important.

  23. Thanks Kevin but I don’t think I’d be any good on the LFC board.

    And I don’t think Purslow would either.

    I’d rather not get into the reasons for that this morning, would take a bit too long to get it across without it being misconstrued, but even without those reasons I don’t think anyone can describe him as universally popular and universally trusted.

    As good as these owners might be, they’re not sugar daddies and so there will be times when they have to manage our expectations by lowering them, or times when they’ll have bad news for us. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact of life and something we’ve all got to face up to.

    If Christian Purslow is given the task of passing that kind of information on it won’t end well at all. And that’s because too many fans have no trust in him.

    We need honesty going forward. We need trust. We need understanding and patience. We need an end to the in-fighting.

    He doesn’t have to drummed out of the place or put into the stocks, he doesn’t deserve an open-top bus ride around the city either. He needs to quietly pack his things and move onto his next job, back in the world of LBOs and private equity.

  24. Jim there are 17 backers involved in NESV, so the fact that the leader (only) has £500 is not relavent, but yes it is true we aren’t going to be bank rolled.

    We are however going to be back to the debt levels pre H&G, so with the added income that the club is generating we should be much better off.

    Like you said Jim we need owners who are honest with the fans, and we also need them to be on the level with us. I don’t think LFC fans expect them to plough millions iinto the club to make us overnight conenders for the prem,but they do expect respect from the owners.

    As I stated previously Iam cautiosly optimistic about the new owners,so so I just hope that H&G lose the court case.

  25. I’m looking forward to having all Tom Hicks’ dirty dealings and lies laid out in open court, there’s a lot more to this case than just the validity of the current board. I’m sure Martin Broughton and the lawyers have got all bases covered (whoops !). If it all goes the way we hope its Mr B who deserves an open bus tour, I think he has been outstanding and its a pity he can’t stay on as chairman.
    This is end of leaveraged buy outs in English football but not for United, their problems are just beginning. I wouldn’t wish what’s happened to Liverpool to happen to any other club and that includes them.

  26. Of course I’d love for this deal to be done and dusted by now. Seeing photos on the backpages of handshakes and red scarfs held aloft, but we’re Liverpool (and for whatever reason) refuse to do things the easy way. Hick’s is just stalling for time and the faint hope of a bit more money. He hopes another bidder will come out of hiding and offer a bit more than 300mil, but he knows he’s done for and it’s only a matter of time. If Mr. Broughton (ex-chairman of BA) says he knows he’s in the right then I’ll believe him over Hicks and day of the week. So I’m not worried about the sale.

    Whether the new owners will be any better in the long run remains to be seen, and I don’t think anyone can blame us for being a standoffish. At the very least New England Sports Ventures have a pretty good track record, while I don’t think they’ll be plowing cash into club like some Arab playboy, they will at least be realistic about our needs and our passion for winning.

    The two things I want to know are

    1. How is NESV paying for our club? More loans against our worth?
    2. Do they intend to have a supporter representative appointed to the board?

  27. My one big hope is that the Chairman has absolute proof, i.e. a written, signed document by H&G that only the Chairman had the authority to change the Board also, in writing that H&G could not frustrate any sale at any price. Anything less than this and the Chairman and the 2 other Directors will not have a leg to stand.on.

    All the broken promises on the part of H&G is not a legal basis for getting rid of them (mores the pity) but, lets us face it, the Chairman has been very brave and acted superbly in the manner he has stood up to the bully that is Hicks, now it remains to see how some indipendent Judge will view the EVIDENCE, as it is the written evidence that will determine the decision.

    Like everyone I just want the matter to be over and hope for a new dawn.

  28. “Noise we’re dealing with” –
    Tom Hicks referring to Liverpool fans quoted in today’s NOTW.
    Should go down well in the High Court, apparently he made it writing as part of an outline refinancing package.

  29. Dear All kopites.

    After this long drawn out disgraceful ownership saga, the worst thing in the whole history of this great club.

    I am far too tired to even think about the new owners, if any, when and if the club is rid of the current cancer that is hicks and gillett, their name just sends me into fits of rage! they are a pair of troubled souls and need to die, i for one hope that they both get whats coming to them, the last thing they done is to have a go at us, the fans and in turn the people of liverpool, its a disgrace to the club, the fans, the history and the city of liverpool ” the noise he is dealing with”,,,, what a disgrace, i tell you when he deals with us fans outside the court case, that will be fun.
    i want the best for this great city and club but i cant even think about what next until they have been long gone. god bless liverpool and its fans and people.

    ynwa.

    sam

  30. Jofrad,

    It was first mentioned on ESPN as being from leaked meeting minutes. That would have been a potential own goal if brought up in the hearing. It doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know about his attitude, but it would show the board potentially in a bad light in the sense that leaking confidential info isn’t exactly what is expected of them.

    If it’s from a refinancing effort it’s easier to deny any knowledge of how it got out.

  31. Aw come on Jim, if Tom Hicks has taught us anything its to fight dirty. Leaks have been characteristic of the Liverpool board ever since Hicks became a member.
    Glad to have Lord Grabiner on board its going to be an interesting few days. I expect at least one more desperate move from the rattlesnake but I think he may have met his match in Broughton (& Grabiner ) – and thats not just wishful thinking.

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