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Liverpool saga rumbles on and our heads hurt

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

The Liverpool saga rumbles on and our heads hurt. The ownership of one of the greatest names in world football has descended to this – a complete and utter shambles. And, as with Portsmouth, the Premier League allowed it to develop right under their nose as they are “owner model neutral”.

With so much happening so quickly we’re guessing only the most agile minded Liverpool fan (with plenty of time on their hands) can keep up. But to sum up, and we’re aware that by the time we finish this sentence it could be out of date, it goes a little something like this.
Back in the mists of time (AKA last week) New England Sports Ventures (NESV) £300m takeover of Liverpool Football Club looked set to go ahead. The sale had been given the OK by the Liverpool board which voted 3-2 in its favour. The two opposing votes were those of Hicks and Gillett who wanted to squeeze even more money out the club, even trying to sack board members and replace them with stooges who would vote in their favour.

They took their complaint to the High Court which rejected it. They then took their case to a court in Texas which ruled in favour of Hicks and Gillett by granting an injunction blocking the sale. Thankfully the High Court stepped back in and ruled the Texan judgment had no validity in the UK. Keep up at the back.

But why did a Texan Court become involved? Because the ownership of one of British football’s most famous clubs has been sold off to a tangled web of holding companies based in Liverpool, the Cayman Islands and the US.

To further complicate matters it’s being reported today that Hicks is trying to cause problems by offloading his stake in the club to Mill Financial – a move which could yet hijack the sale to NESV.

There are also rumours galore over who exactly Mill Financial are. They’ve been variously described as a fictional company being used to start an auction, a company who own Reds’ shares from defaulted loans, a pseudonym for Hicks and Gillett, and a far east sovereign fund.

We’re not implying any of those are true, of course. In our experience it’s safest to believe nothing with regards ownership, until definitive proof emerges, otherwise you’d go mad. With most of these things there are two types of people – those who know what’s going on (not many people) and those who are willing to talk or write about it (everyone else). In that particular Venn Diagram the two circles never meet.

This total and utter lack of transparency in football cannot go on. The philosophy that it’s OK for clubs to be bought and sold with the sole intention of owners making a quick buck has had its day. We want our clubs back.

While the highest profile cases have emerged at Liverpool and Portsmouth clarity on ownership is a problem that runs throughout the game – look at the cases of Notts County and Chester City for the proof of that. There has to be something drastically wrong when the only sports body to show any concern over the purchase of Manchester United was the NFL; they were concerned that the Glazers would divert funds from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to United.

Football clubs thrive on the legacy of the towns and cities from which they come and should never have been allowed to become the play things of businessmen whose sole interest is making a quick buck.

The final word on this goes to FSF affiliate Spirit of Shankly: “Spirit of Shankly-ShareLiverpoolFC welcomes the likely end of Hicks and Gillett’s ownership of LFC, regardless of the current attempts to prolong this process. At this stage we remain open minded about any new ownership regime.

“However our long held view that supporter ownership is right for Liverpool Football Club remains unaltered. The aspiration amongst supporters to become part of the ownership of LFC by investing our own money and to have our interests represented in the running of the club, still very much exists.

“Recent experience has demonstrated that meaningful fan representation through democratic supporter ownership is the only fail-safe way that we can ensure that a reoccurrence of recent events never happens again.”

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