New Liverpool chairman asks for patience

It’s still far too early to work out whether today’s announcement is good or bad news for Liverpool fans. Perhaps it’s safest to say this news is a mixture of both.

If it was all good news would Martin Broughton restrict his interviews the way he has? No press conference to announce his arrival suggests he knows he might be asked some very difficult questions. He’s not – so far – agreed to talk to the types of reporter that might drill down into his answers to see what the truth might really be.

When George Gillett and Tom Hicks arrived at the club they sat in front of a mass of journalists and answered questions about how good they were going to be and how glad they were to be here. Either that was supreme confidence that they could wing it or they genuinely thought they’d be able to sort out the finances and get the vital new stadium built.

Along came the credit crunch and a massive disagreement between the two partners. There were no press conferences when their finance was finally renewed in January 2008. There were no press conferences when they exercised an option to extend that finance by six-months a year later. Hicks spoke – on the whole – to reporters he knew would hold back on the difficult questions. Gillett didn’t speak for ages, and then restricted it to one particular radio presenter. They only seemed to speak to attack their partner or defend themselves against comments made by their partner.

When the finance was extended again in the summer of 2009 it wasn’t even announced. The press just got told off the record that it had been extended. No details were released.

Christian Purslow was working for the club, or at the club, or with the club, back in March of last year if we are to believe one of his own comments: “The most important aspect of the football club I was involved in in my first week in the job was securing Rafa for another five years.” Benítez signed his new deal on March 18th and Purslow was spotted sitting with the owners in the director’s box shortly after.

But the announcement of his appointment as MD wasn’t made until three months later on June 22nd.

Another three months on and he’d seemingly forgotten that first three months at the club. It was now mid-September, six months after his work on “securing Rafa”, and he told the Echo: “The job satisfaction I have felt in my first three months every day to go home from work, where unlike most normal jobs, satisfaction comes from maybe doing a good job.” He said it twice: “I feel a huge responsibility to all of our fans because until three months ago that’s all I was – just a fan.”

Why the secrecy for the first three months? It’s just one aspect that raises suspicions about his appointment and the true reasons behind it. It’s just one contradiction that comes up when comparing various statements and comments attributed to Purslow.

But secrecy isn’t new under the current ownership. Ian Ayre and Philip Nash were appointed to the board in December 2009 – but the announcement wasn’t made until January, and only then because an ill-advised email from Tom Hicks Junior saw him resign from the board. The appointment of Casey Coffman was made at the same time as the two appointments that had actually been made some weeks before.

Today’s announcement was less secretive, and although Martin Broughton was likely to know he’d not get any difficult questions from those speaking to him today, it does suggest that maybe there will be some good news in there somewhere.

In an interview on the official club website he was asked about the future of manager Rafael Benítez. He said: “Rafa is a good manager, we want him to stay, he’s contracted to stay, so I’m assuming he’s staying.” But the follow-on question to that would surely be: “What about the transfer budget?”

Something needs to be done to make up for having less to spend than came in from sales last year. And whatever happens there needs to be some honesty – we don’t want to be told that £20m net was spent on players when it was quite clearly nothing of the sort.

Speaking in an interview televised by Sky Sports, Broughton spoke about why this time the sale of the club might actually take place: “There have been lots of expressions of interest in the past but this is first time really the whole club has been available for sale on a structured basis.

“So there’s been ad-hoc interest, it’s been for sort of partial pieces and things like that.

“So as far as we’re concerned some of those who have expressed interest in the past may well be reinvigorated by this process, the whole of the club is available. We think there are others out there who will now be interested.”

“There’s been interest, but it’s been ad-hoc, this is now going to be structured I think there’ll be lots of interest.

Asked if he expected to find a buyer before the end of the year he appeared confident: “Oh yes absolutely. Oh yes. Months, a matter of months.”

In another interview, with the Liverpool Echo, he made it clear that he wasn’t going to be at the club full time and that Christian Purslow would continue “running” the club: “I am not an executive chairman – Christian Purslow, Ian Ayre and Philip Nash are the key players.

“It is a great team running the club and they will continue to run the club. I’m coming in as chairman with the principal responsibility to oversee a sale.”

Last summer there is little doubt that the transfer budget was cut as the summer went on. Benitez had spoken after the signing of Johnson of being able to bring another player in without having to sell anyone. Yet the transfers that went through after that saw him bring in at least £15m more than went out. Not only did he not get that £15m to spend, Purslow told the press that Rafa had been given an additional £20m on top of sales to spend on players.  Even if you allow Purslow to redefine transfer spending by adding in pay-rises for players getting new contracts, it doesn’t explain that £35m discrepancy.

To this day he’s not explained that discrepancy, and it seems he won’t have to: “Christian will be running the club and it is his field to deal with the issues there,” said Broughton. “All I would say is that for the players as well as the fans, this is a fresh start.”

Although the new chairman won’t be based as far away as the previous co-chairmen, he still doesn’t intend to be in Liverpool too often, “maybe” one day a week: “I’ll be involved as much as I need to be. Involved a couple of days a week and physically at Anfield maybe one day a week. But the sale process is more likely to be based in London.

He made it clear he wouldn’t make any official statements about how the sale of the club is moving forward, he said he wouldn’t be naming any bidders: “Over the next few months I’m going to make no statements about who and how anything is progressing. I’m sure there will be lots of press coverage as the media try to find out, but there will be no statements from me.”

No statements – but will there be any leaks?

As for his status as a Chelsea season ticket holder: “I am a lifelong Chelsea fan, but most of all I’m a sports fan and a football fan. Liverpool FC is a wonderful football institution and the Premier League is a wonderful institution. My role is to make sure Liverpool is successful in the future.”

Of course Broughton won’t reveal where his priorities lie, but he must know he will have to make decisions that upset at least one party who has an interest in Liverpool’s future. The current owners still want their profit, the banks still want to make money out of the club, and the fans want the club to go back to being a successful side on the pitch. Can Broughton keep all of those people happy and still attract a buyer, who will of course want to make their own money out of this deal.

And for that reason there really can’t be any reassurance from the following statement: “It is now very important that we find the right owner – not just a new owner.” Right for who?

The whole reason David Moores sold “the family silver” was so that Liverpool FC could get a new stadium, a stadium that would bring in extra money to invest in the club and in the team and keep the club competitive. Despite Gillett’s infamous talk of shovels in ground within 60 days that stadium has still not happened. Broughton suggested that any new owners would have to make that stadium a reality if they were to be able to make their takeover a success: “I think taking the stadium plan forward has to be in everyone’s interests. I think when you look at the financial logic, it has to happen. It’s inescapable that any new owner would not go ahead with the new project.”

Broughton had a message for supporters: “I ask for patience from the fans. They want to get what I want to get – not just the highest bidder but the best bidder in the long term.”

He confirmed that the club would almost certainly have debt to service following a takeover, but suggested it should be at an appropriate level: “It has to be the right owners and also the right financial structure – no more than a reasonable amount of debt that you would expect in any organisation of this size.”

“My message to the fans is this: have a little bit of patience and in a little bit of time I’ll deliver.”

We’d have far more patience with him if he was willing to talk to someone who might ask the more difficult questions.

9 thoughts on “New Liverpool chairman asks for patience”

  1. Jim to be fair, I was on the discussion with John Thompson from Echo today and he said he had spoke to Broughton earlierthat day. He said he didn’t want to give the fans unrealistic optimism and that was the reason he was being very candid about what he said of the air, the other reason he said he was saying nothing was because he was keeping his cards closed to his chest. I know this don’t mean nothing, but what you have to remember this guy is only here to sell the club, the day to day running of the club has nothing whatsoever to do with him. He will be in Liverpool once a week and will work the rest of the time from London. This is good news for the club as this guy wont get done like Parry and Moores did by the two yanks, this guy is a hardball business man.

  2. I think we’ve got to be open minded but totally on our guard.

    If Broughton gets three similar offers what will he do to choose? Highest bidder? Least use of debt? Background of the buyer? Football knowledge of the buyer?

    What we want, the owners want and the banks want won’t match – will Broughton compromise and try to make everyone a little bit happy, or will he do what’s best for just one of those three groups? And which group will it be?

  3. I think you have every right to be wary about the motives of all parties involved. In truth after the 3 year long nightmare we have just endured every single Liverpool fan should look upon this latest twist with complete scrutiny.

    As far as Hicks and Gillett are concerned this has to be the end. I don’t think they could go back on this decision even if both parties found the levels of finance needed, so to see the back of these two is the first major step required.

    As for who Broughton will be looking to most appease ; surely he will be after an investor of a certain magnitude and proven financial outlay necessary to please the yanks, the banks and the fans. Lets be honest here to take Liverpool to where it belongs we will need to attract an investor or consortium of investors to surpass the spending being done at both Chelsea and Man City. The days of multi millionaires buying a club like Liverpool and then using the club to secure vast sums of money from the banks are gone.

    I look forward to the coming months with cautious optimism

  4. For a start Jim I am not happy that you have changed my name in the above post but you can keep it like that if you wish.

    Anyway, I the way you have to look at this is simple, Brooughton has been bought in by the owners not the bank. The owners aren’t being forced to sell by the bank they have just accepted that they arent going to do anything more to the club than bring it even more to it’s knee’s.

    I think that what should also be brought to mind is the fact that the two owners can’t expect a profit like they would have got pre credit crunch. I do think though that the owners will go for the highest bidder which may not really be a bad thing, as it could mean that a lot of interest is out there for the club. Then again it could just mean that we have another chancer like these two.

    One thing I think we can take comfort in is the fact that banks aren’t lending money to people who can’t afford to either pay back or keep promises. So this means that if a prospective buyer says they want to build a stadium and take the club forward then the banks will actually check to make sure they are in a position to do this before giving them the money, which weasn’t the case before. I also think that as well as the bank being caustious about who gets money loned to them, we must also take heart in the fact the Aire and Purslow are also going to be vetting the prospective new owners and from what I can gather these have more balls than did Parry and Moores.

    I do think that who ever comes in will be a better custodian than these two but it depends on how much the yanks are preparing to let the club go for as they aren’t obliged to sell. If the yanks want 500 million then in total it will be 1 billion as a new stadium needs to be built. But I was listening to the we guy who does the football financing and he said that football clubs sell for 1.5 – 2 times their annual turnover. Which in Liverpools case is between £280 million – 372 million (approx give or take a few million).

  5. Haha! I had to change the name Mr F – I thought you using “Jimmy Boardman” as a name for that comment might have caused some confusion. What name did you used to use?

    The banks are more cautious than in 2007, exactly, but I’d say Moores and Parry cared for the club far more than Hicks, Gillett and Martin Broughton do. And I’m not entirely certain that Purslow and Ayre will get a say in who the club’s sold to anyway.

    This might turn out to be one of the best days in the club’s history when we look back in years to come, I’d hope Broughton will care enough about his own reputation to take an approach that suits us. But it could turn out to be a ploy on the part of the owners to squeeze more time out of the banks, or even a chance for someone far more ruthless to come in and squeeze every penny out of the club.

    As I say, we’ve got to be cautious, we’ve got to be on our guard, but we’ve got to be reasonable too.

  6. John Thompson from the Echo said that they would also be invloved in finding would be suitors.

    With regards to people caring for the club that is maybe where Parry and Moores went wrong, maybe they allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into a sale by some sweet talk without looking at cold hard facts. Broughton is a man with excellent business pedigree, this man is on the board of BA, and I think this will work in our favour. This guy is obviously going to be well paid for this and in order for him to be well paid then he mus have a good reputation that he will want to keep.

    I think that it will be a good thing as I don’t see how things can be allowed to get any worse than they where with Hicks and Gillette.

    I also think it’s very funny how TexasDawg doesn’t put an appearance in when things aren’t going well at Anfield.

  7. As I have said elsewhere regarding his comments that he want to make 4x what he put in then he is more than welcome to it.

    Here is the maths:

    4 * 0 = 0

    So you see as he has put fuck all in the club then he cannot claim to take anything more than zero out of the club.

    But seriously though, if he thinks that someone is going to give him £800 millionand then be expected to spend £380 million on a stadium then he has been sniffing the oil fumes in Texas for far too long.

    United is selling for between £800 – £1 billion, they have a stadium, are in the Champions League amd earn about £60 million more than us.

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