Kick Out the Yankee Bums II: FC Liverpool Edition

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/20/2010 12:01:00 AM
What would Bill Shankly (above) have made of the poor quality ownership at Liverpool FC? There isn't much for me to add here as it's largely the same story as the one concerning Manchester United: Yankee "owners" who have put in little of their own equity but a lot of debt into "their" respective clubs are much-reviled by local fans and the British public in general. The difference here, however, is that the owners of Liverpool FC are now seeking a way out of the debt-laden morass they've sunken that venerable club into as soon as possible. Really, it's so predictably late American gothic, a tale of debt and destruction. Call it the Goldman Sachsonization of football. Rod Liddle of the London Times has these Yankee bums figured out:
Would you buy Liverpool Football Club for £500m, if you had the money (or indeed, as per the usual process in the Premier League, if you certainly didn’t)? That’s the price put upon the club by the right-wing Yankee leveraged buyout monkeys and turkey stranglers Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who seem to loathe each other even more than the Scouse fans loathe them. That’s almost double what the pair “paid” for the club just three years ago, so one assumes that the Hicks-Gillett partnership is adopting the stance of a stallholder in a Marrakesh souk and one should immediately divide the starting price by 10.

Hicks and Gillett — who claim, hilariously, to have “grown” the club — will leave Liverpool with pretty catastrophic debts, and if anyone is stupid enough to accept their asking price, with an enormous profit for themselves — loads of money to plough back into their Nascar, baseball or turkey strangling interests.

The Liverpool of today is more burdened with debt — to the tune of £237m — and less successful, on the pitch, than the Liverpool of 2007. I wonder who will step up to the plate with the vague promise of finance? The sale is being overseen by Martin Broughton, the chairman of British Airways, and a season ticket holder at, um, Chelsea. They never really quite got Liverpool, did they, Hicks and Gillett? Just bought what they read was the world’s fourth most lucrative football club, ignored the fans and piled up the debts as a consequence.
The uprising here also involves a grassroots uprising of fans and the granddaughter of revered Liverpool coach Bill Shankly:
I wonder what effect the fans had; my suspicion is that it was rather more than the two American gentlemen are letting on. They might say that it is coincidence that the sale was announced shortly after Bill Shankly’s grand-daughter, Karen Gill, waded in wearing a pair of Bill’s steel-capped football boots and said: “During the three years, time and again, Tom Hicks and George Gillett have shown that they are not fit and proper custodians of the club that my grandfather loved and devoted 15 years of his life to...”

Karen Gill was brought gently into the fray by the excellent Spirit of Shankly campaign, which boasts 5,000 paid-up members and tens of thousands more offering less committed support from internet sites. And it is within here that might lie a glimmering of hope for football fans who feel estranged from the baroque economics of Premier League football and as a consequence alienated from clubs into which they have poured, over the years, rather more money than Hicks and Gillett poured into Liverpool.
I wonder if the mulled legislation limiting debt-fuelled buyouts of British concerns by foreigners (read: American debt fetishists) can be extended to football clubs. Clearly, there is market failure here. Like everyone else, American owners putting their own money into clubs and respecting their traditions are welcome. Think of Aston Villa's Randy Lerner who is well-respected by us Aston Villa fans. But Man U's Glazers or Liverpool's Tom Hicks and George Gillett? I think the UK should pass.