Liverpool CEO Rick Parry was interviewed on the radio as planned this morning, on BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme, and anyone hoping for some news on a resolution to the continuing ownership impasse would have been disappointed.
First of all he was asked how he felt about Liverpool’s start to the season, in which they remain unbeaten in all competitions, second only on goal difference to Chelsea at the top of the Premier League: “Yes, very pleased indeed,” he said. “Certainly in the Champions League; to be six points clear after two games is a new experience for us and one we’re delighted with.” Liverpool have never won both of their two opening group games before.
Parry pointed out that the good start shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise: “We’ve done some decent business in the transfer market, we’ve got a very good manager, a very good squad and it’s nice to be focussing on what happens on the pitch.”
Asked if Liverpool could finally make this season the one where they put a real title challenge together, Parry was cautiously optimistic: “I think we’ve been getting stronger every year. You know that we will not make rash or false predictions. It’s been a case of strengthening the squad in depth year on year; I think in the past we’ve been in the position where our best eleven has been very good, but perhaps we haven’t had the depth in the squad.
“I think we’re now in a position where we’ve got some very, very real strength when you look at the quality we have on the bench most weeks. That gives great cause for confidence given the number of names we’ve got coming up.
“It’s all about strengthening year on year and I think we’re happy that we’re stronger than we’ve been for some time.”
Added to the strength of the squad seems to be strength in confidence: “There’s a sense of self-belief, plus a sense of determination – let’s see what happens.”
And onto the questions everyone was waiting for, and Parry was asked if anything was happening with the ownership, given that everything has been so quiet of late: “I think everyone is delighted it’s gone quiet,” he said. “The focus at Liverpool should only ever be on the football.”
Parry claims to be unaware of anything happening in terms of any change of ownership: “At this moment in time all is relatively stable, I’m not aware of anything that’s happening regarding the sale of the club at this moment in time. My focus is just on the day-to-day and making sure we deliver.”
Parry was asked if Gillett and Hicks had given up on selling the club. Hicks has still never admitted he wants to sell his stake in the club, although “Dubai” will often claim the opposite. Gillett is unable to sell up without Hicks’ blessing; it seems unlikely he’d stick around for long if Hicks offered him the green light to sell. But Parry didn’t really want to comment on any plans they have to sell, suggesting he’s keeping out of it now: “To be honest I am not sure, that’s a question best directed to them. As far as I am concerned we are just focusing on things that we can control. We are trying to do the very best in terms of producing a team that performs.”
The host of the show suggested that with the markets as they are now, the club would practically have to be given away rather than sold. Parry was taken aback: “It’s highly unlikely it would be given away! I don’t see that, it’s clearly a club that has a huge history and a great value.”
Of course the value is meaningless unless somebody has the means and the will to meet that valuation, and Parry seems to think there won’t be many who can: “How many buyers with that degree of wealth available really are out there. Who knows?”
Some observers feel that Dubai are now making out they are losing interest in buying the club as a way of persuading Hicks that he’d better accept their offer before it goes for good, but it seems odd to imagine that people involved in investing billions of pounds of money would use the rumour-mill to speed a deal along. This of course assumes the commonly-held belief is true – that Hicks really does want to sell, and is waiting to see how far he can push Dubai’s price up.
The finance is believed to have already been extended until next summer, so there really isn’t a mad rush for either owner to sell – apart from any urgency they might feel about wishing to end their working relationship. They can’t carry on forever without the new stadium, because although they can make a profit out of LFC without it, they can’t make as much as they’d like for the amount they’ve got tied up in loan guarantees.
The markets won’t be like this forever and sooner or later they’ll be able to get the money for the stadium on the terms that suit them. Ever since the stadium move was first announced, long before the Americans took over, we’ve had revised estimates of cost showing a sharp increase every few months. The turmoil in the markets means that such rises may no longer be the case, in fact by the time the club is in a position to try again for finance the costs may even have fallen.
A ground-share with Everton keeps being raised; sometimes it seems to stir up trouble, other times it’s perhaps wishful thinking on the part of Everton-supporting council members. One thing for sure is that Everton don’t have any money to put into such a project. Whereas Liverpool are looking at somehow finding the £300m to build a ground, there’s no chance at all that Everton could split that cost with Liverpool and stump up £150m. Parry was asked anyway if it was something the owners would consider: “No I don’t think so,” he replied.
He emphasised that in his view the delay was nothing more than the owners and the club waiting until the markets settled down, which he believed they would in the end, making the new ground the right move for the club: “With the financial markets in the turmoil that they are, starting any major construction project at this moment in time is difficult, and risky.
“It is a case of a delay while things settle down, it is still a very, very good long term project. The economics of it still make underlying sense.
“I do not see any change in direction or any change in the plans, and certainly ground share is not back on the agenda.
“The point is, right at this moment in time it is not the most sensible time to be borrowing huge amounts of money with the markets in turmoil. That will settle down again, the cost of money will come down, the availability of money will increase, and the underlying economics of the project still make long term sense. It’s the supply of money that’s an issue at the moment, and that will correct itself in time.”
Parry was speaking ahead of today’s 3-2 win over Manchester City, and he was asked what the general feeling was about their new ownership structure, and what it might mean: “Wait and see!” he said. “My view is let’s not leap to any conclusions either way. Clearly we’ve seen what happened with Chelsea and what they’ve been able to achieve, but it’s easy to buy players. Building a winning team is rather more challenging. But let’s not make any comments about what city are going to achieve until they’ve actually got there.”
For Parry it could just make it all the more challenging: “We can all try to anticipate and make smack judgements but it’ll be another challenge. The game is ever changing and becoming ever more difficult, but let’s wait and see.”
You can hear the interview in full here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00ds9cy/b00ds9bz/ – starting a couple of minutes in.