Takeover is not imminent says Parry

The two main stories on the TV news last night will have had Liverpool supporters pricking up their ears. The BBC’s Panorama programme exposing “bungs” and tapping up in English football was explosive enough to be top story on at least the BBC’s news programmes, but thankfully the names featured involved clubs like Bolton, Portsmouth and Chelsea. One name that did stand out in that programme was Peter Harrison, the Newcastle based agent that Liverpool would have been speaking to towards the end of the transfer window, as he represents Blackburn’s Lucas Neill. Obviously that story has a long way to run yet.

The other story was regarding the military coup in Thailand, where the Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown in his absence. Shinawatra was one of the many names mentioned in recent years as a potential investor in Liverpool FC. Whether he’d have got close enough to actually buy any part of the club will never be known, but an outcry in his own country about the fact he seemed to be planning to use public money for his plan soon brought it all to an end. Obviously he’s got far more important things on his mind now than buying a football club, which is just as well really from Liverpool’s point of view.

Whether it was just a coincidence or not I’m not sure, but no sooner had Shinawatra been ousted by his own people than the local newspaper in Liverpool was doing a big feature on investment at Anfield. In fact they were heralding big things happening this week at the club, hinting than an Anfield takeover was imminent.

The printed version of the Daily Post, like the electronic version, had a headline that screamed: “Millionaires battle to takeover Liverpool FC”. The suggestion was that things really had started to move, and there were numerous reports supporting this.

Then this afternoon the sister paper to the Post, the evening paper The
Liverpool Echo, was damping it all down with an interview with Rick
Parry. “Rick Parry: The truth on Anfield” was the headline, and like so
many times before the Chief Executive of the club was explaining
patiently how the sensationalism was a little premature.

Larry Neild was one of those reporting, “exclusively” on events at the
club. His story started “Directors of Liverpool Football Club have been
summoned to an urgent meeting tomorrow to debate three potential bids
to take over the club.” He linked this with another of those
non-deadlines we keep hearing about: “The meeting at Anfield comes just
24 hours before the club must deliver details of its package to fund
the new £180m 60,000-seater stadium at Stanley Park.”

Neild said that there were three bids about to be put to the board,
including one from former Redrow owner Steve Morgan. The other two
bidders’ names were “shrouded in secrecy” but he said it was thought
they were “possibly from the US or Far East.”

At that stage in the story I’d already started to wonder if this story
was a storm in a tea cup. To know that Steve Morgan is involved, but
not to even know which continent the other two came from seemed a
little too much like an example of the local paper being manipulated to
suit the agenda of someone else. The Liverpool Echo, and sometimes the
Post, are excellent resources to look to when someone wants to find out
what’s happening at the club, but when the story is investment the
political issues always seem to cloud the facts.
Neild speculated at the cost of the investment to whoever makes those
bids: “Any offer would almost certainly need to value LFC at at least
£200m to be taken seriously. The last major investment in the club was
in 1999 when Granada paid £22m for a 9.9% stake.”

As ever a “source close to Liverpool FC” was on hand to provide a
quote. “There are definitely two or three parties involved in the
ownership of the club, but it would be wide of the mark to say the club
will be sold on Thursday. It will take longer for arrangements to be

The Post were also trying to get Liverpool’s Head of Press, Ian Cotton,
to talk about the developments, but he wasn’t going to answer any
questions at all: “We have no comment to make,” he said.

The paper was clearly proud of its scoop, and added that it understood
“private investors are ready with funding to help pay for the new
stadium”, but also went on: “The outcome of tomorrow's meeting,
possibly one of the most crucial in the club's 114-year history, will
probably decide the fate of the controversial stadium plan that has
already won planning permission from Liverpool City Council.” 

Clearly the current hierarchy at Anfield know how long they can wait to
make decisions about how the new stadium is funded and they feel
they’ve got no need to hurry. Outsiders, including more often than not
certain members of the council, seem to feel it’s a lot more urgent
than Parry and Moores make out.

The Post article is full of references to the various deadlines that
the club have so far allowed to pass. Some people are angry at the way
the club seem to be acting so blasé about things, but nobody ever seems
willing to accept that the club are acting this way because there’s
really nothing to worry about. The article talks about the
999-year-lease we were granted on the part of Stanley Park we’ll use
for the new stadium, and the “vital” £18m funding package from the
Merseyside Objective One committee and the Northwest Regional
Development Agency.

The Post also claimed to be speaking to a “senior source close to the
negotiations”, who told them: “The next few days will be crucial in
deciding the future of the new stadium plan. By next week the picture
will be clear.”

It was inevitable that there would be a quote from Liverpool city
councillor Flo Clucas. She is the Chair of the Objective One Committee
and has been telling anyone who’ll listen for weeks now that Liverpool
FC need to pull their finger out. She’s made many ultimatums and
imposed many deadlines, but all of them have been ignored by the club
who seem happier to work to official deadlines rather than those
spouted to the press. She told the Post of her latest ultimatum and
latest deadline: “We have told the club that to release European
funding, I will need to see evidence by Friday or the weekend at the
very latest that the club has the financial means to fund the ground.
The final decision will be made on Thursday, September 28.” Maybe this
deadline will be for real, but it does seem to be one of many that has
been shifted in the past few years from one committee or organisation
or another.

Laughably, the possibility of ground sharing is still being dreamed
about by some. The article ends: “It is also likely that the NWDA will
want to determine the attitude of a new owner towards sharing a stadium
with Everton FC.”

Then there’s more to be added from one of the Post and Echo’s most
well-known reporters Len Capeling. Building it up even further than his
colleague, he talks about the meeting as if it really is going to be
something Liverpool fans will never forget: “David Moores’ ocean-deep
love for Liverpool will ensure that he makes the right decision for the
club and its famous fans at Anfield tomorrow night. Before him and his
fellow directors will be three bids for ownership of one of football's
most illustrious names. They are bids that will put Liverpool on an
exciting expansionist trip whose riches will include a new £200m
super-stadium within a mis-hit goal kick of the old faithful arena.”

He also says that the long-running saga of who will be the next owner
of England’s most successful club has long-since exceeded its sell-by
date: “Their search for a saviour has dragged on far too long,
infuriating easily-fretted fans and frustrating the best intentions –
and I think they have been best intentions – of chairman Moores and his
able chief executive, Rick Parry.”

There was also a quote from Les Lawson, the secretary of the official
Liverpool Supporters Club: “This has come completely out of the blue.
The situation has been going on for nearly three years and it is about
time a line was drawn under it. Either David Moores says he is not
prepared to sell his shares or they accept a takeover bid.” Like
probably all Liverpool fans, Les says that we shouldn’t be owned by
just anyone: “It has to be the right person – it should not just be
about money. We believe this is a special club and we would prefer a
Liverpool supporter, someone who has a feeling for the club. But it has
got to come to a head soon.”
Finally the afternoon came and with it the Liverpool Echo. The reporter
in charge of bringing us all the facts about the club we love for that
particular paper, Chris Bascombe, was ready to put the record straight,
from the official point of view of the club. He’d spoken to Rick Parry.

So, had an urgent board meeting been unexpectedly called by the board
for tomorrow? Er, no it hadn’t actually – but there was a routine one
planned, for the day after. He did confirm that the meeting was
expected to be told about progress on the investment front though, but
nothing particularly ground-breaking.

Parry said: “We have a board meeting on Friday. It's our regular
meeting, not specially arranged. We're not expecting it to be a
momentous occasion."

It also seems that the club are working hard behind the scenes with
their funding efforts, and that they had hoped to have already had it
sorted in the summer. This didn’t happen, but the claims of the club
having until midnight tomorrow to prove their funding is lined up are
wrong. Parry continued: “We have been speaking to the council every
day, will continue to do so and will be speaking to them again after
the board meeting on Friday. We are confident we are going to get
funding for the stadium and we're continuing to work hard to proceed
with our plans.”

So another storm in a teacup seems about to pass us by again.

(For the original articles in full, see the Post and Echo website at http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0500liverpoolfc).