October 06, 2010

Liverpool Football Club board agree sale: The board of Liverpool has agreed to sell the club to the US owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team despite protests from owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

posted by Ricardo to soccer at 06:15 AM - 24 comments

Thanks, but different Yanks!?

I, for one, welcome our new American overlords.

posted by Ricardo at 06:22 AM on October 06, 2010

Given what Henry has accomplished in Boston, I'd think Liverpool fans would be ecstatic to swap him for Hicks and Gillett.

posted by rcade at 07:00 AM on October 06, 2010

This is a good move for Liverpool.

posted by scully at 09:25 AM on October 06, 2010

So the Board can force a sale without the owners okay? That sounds like a protracted legal fight. What happens if 9 days pass without a sale?

posted by bperk at 10:29 AM on October 06, 2010

Well, they're "owners" in name only, aren't they? If I were that far upside down on my house or car, I'd have a tough time claiming I was the owner.

posted by yerfatma at 11:06 AM on October 06, 2010

One thing I do not understand is why a lot of the vitriol directed to Hicks and Gillett focuses on (or at least references) them being Americans. Is England so xenophobic that even their (generally superior) cousins from across the ocean are in for that level of hatred? How about they are just really poor owners who have put the club in distress, irrespective of nationality?

We obviously do not have the same level of foreign ownership in the top levels of US sport, although I believe it is coming. But I do not recall seeing Mariners fans blaming the Japanese for the team's losing ways of late or Dodgers fans during the Murdoch/News Corp days highlighting the Aussieness of their ownership. Maybe Nets fans will take shots at the new oligarch owner for being Russian if/when they start to fail, but I would be surprised to see the same focus on, or fascination with, the nationality of the ownership. Maybe folks have some examples of fans making a big deal of the nationality of the ownership in American sport, but I am having trouble thinking of any.

Perhaps the English have a chip on their shoulder because (a) this is the game/sport they invented, (b) the EPL is the most profitable professional football league in the world, and (c) the economic imperialism of the rest of the world in England is a stark reminder of the fact that the days of the British empire are over and the former colonies are now the (economic) colonizers. How's that for some armchair psychologizing/sociologicizing?

posted by holden at 11:31 AM on October 06, 2010

I can name one fan who is, indeed, ecstatic to make this swap. I like to blame all my current woes as a Liverpool supporter on Hicks and Gillett. I'm sure others have played their part (Benitez, I'm looking at you for alienating the almighty Alonso), but not having the funds to buy a better class of player than Riera, Poulson or Maxi Rodriguez has certainly played its' part.

As for the xenophobia, I think that's just something to latch on to. I would be happy to exchange American owners as we are talking about here. Although, I'm a yank myself. But I just want the team to thrive and at least be fighting at the top of the table if not better.

I'm not sure, but I think other Americans, such as Randy Lerner, aren't reviled in the slightest. Plus, as a Liverpool supporter, I am enjoying the Glazers run of ownership. I wish them many more years at the helm.

posted by Ricardo at 11:34 AM on October 06, 2010

Perhaps the English have a chip on their shoulder

Perhaps the American model of "team ownership" is associated with the right to piss over a club's history and heritage, and move it to a new city when the money isn't forthcoming for a new stadium, or if the fans get chippy. It's not the nationality of the owners that matters, but the structural foundations of the "franchise" system that they're assumed to be bringing with them.

Remember, most people in the UK only got a proper glimpse of the NFL in the early 1980s, just before the Colts left Baltimore. The relocations of the following two decades shape the perception of American owners as mercenaries.

posted by etagloh at 12:35 PM on October 06, 2010

Especially as the franchise system has very negative connotations in English football.

one and two.

"[Wimbledon's owners] subsequently began to search for a new location for the club, and a consortium from Milton Keynes ... made it known that they would be prepared to build a new stadium for the club. The club approached the Football Association to sanction the move, and the relocation was authorised by an FA Commission ... despite over a year of fan protests against the idea. Days later, the majority of Wimbledon supporters broke from the club to form AFC Wimbledon.

Although there have been club relocations in the UK, there had never been such a relocation of a professional club within the English pyramid system, and this move attracted widespread criticism. ... At the behest of the Football Supporters Federation, the fans of other teams boycotted games against the club and crowds dwindled to non-League levels. On 5 June 2003, Wimbledon went into financial administration with debts of more than 20 million."

posted by Mr Bismarck at 12:53 PM on October 06, 2010

Holden - Mariners fans aren't blaming Nintendo for the mess at Safeco as they have the convenient figureheads Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong as the targets of their ire. That said there was certainly some talk about meddling Japanese owners as the final years of Jojhima's backended contract played out a few years back. The public perception is that Ichiro wouldn't be in Seattle if it wasn't for the Japanese ownership and that has been the biggest bright spot in the last 5 years.

I got the impression that a lot of the dissatisfaction with Hicks/Gillett at Liverpool was the ridiculous levels of debt they ran up. I'd think anyone who gutted the club that way would be pretty unpopular in the local pubs

posted by deflated at 12:56 PM on October 06, 2010

"A pair of useless yanks" - that statement is only one letter away from what I really think of them.

posted by JJ at 01:14 PM on October 06, 2010

Yeah, the debt-financed takeover model is the immediate concern associated with American ownership; the franchise model shapes the underlying suspicion.

(Admittedly, some of the fears long associated with "American-style" ownership are just silly -- e.g. the old NASL-influenced belief that you'd see mergers of city rivals into metropolitan megaclubs, or the official adoption of silly club nicknames and logos -- but those stereotypes are hard to shake off.)

As I've mentioned here before, the long-standing assumption for English professional clubs had been that a local millionaire who made his money doing something else would be prepared to piss it away on the club as a glorified hobby. But yerfatma's comment in that thread rightly notes that the Premier League still exists in a kind of transitional world, with American-franchise-sized balance sheets but a small-business operating mentality.

posted by etagloh at 01:25 PM on October 06, 2010

Count me among the folks who don't understand the resistance to American ownership. I know Randy Lerner's been held up as a "good" American owner, but that probably won't last the season if Villa doesn't make it into Europe. And there's an underlying tenor to the discussion that makes it sound like Yanks are the only folks interested in making a buck off these teams. The Guardian has posted a fairly even-handed (for Glendenning anyway) analysis of the move, but the title of the piece is inflammatory: 'They're only interested in making a huge profit'.

The full quotation, which you'd only get if you watch to the end, is that Henry, et al aren't interested in breaking even, they want to make money. Sounds ok to me. As a fan of a properly-owned English team, Everton, I'd take John Henry over local millionaire Bill Kenwright any day of the fortnight and twice on the two Sundays.

posted by yerfatma at 02:21 PM on October 06, 2010

The mercenary franchise argument rings true. It's overstated, but I understand why they'd feel that way.

But Henry has done some good things for Boston to say the least.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 03:35 PM on October 06, 2010

Ricardo, I think you will find John Henry and New England Sports Ventures (NESV) quite different owners than Hicks/Gillette. Henry is an astute investor who made his considerable pile by investing in stocks and businesses that would pay off. His management style became evident to the Boston sports fans when he purchased the Red Sox baseball team. One of his first acts was to hire some of the top baseball management people he could find. He gave them the authority to do what they needed to do, but also gave them a top line they could spend to do it. Since Henry took over the club, they have won 2 World Series, developed one of the top player development systems in baseball, put a highly profitable marketing system in place, and become an example of a model franchise. Henry is now doing the same in NASCAR auto racing, having a financial interest in the Ford team of Jack Roush and changing the name of the team to Roush-Fenway Racing.

etagloh, John Henry would be the last one to "piss over" anyone's history and move the club. The Red Sox have a long and storied history which Henry not only respected, but also used to more effectively promote the club and its merchandise. Look for the same in Liverpool.

Hey, maybe I'll become a Reds fan. I can't wait for Reds games to be broadcast on NESN, the TV arm of NESV.

posted by Howard_T at 03:46 PM on October 06, 2010

The full quotation, which you'd only get if you watch to the end, is that Henry, et al aren't interested in breaking even, they want to make money. Sounds ok to me.

Actually, I heard that as applying to Hicks and Gillett -- i.e., not only are they not looking to take a loss (which they will) or merely break even, they were looking to make a huge profit on the sale.

posted by holden at 04:24 PM on October 06, 2010

Howard_T: as a Red Sox fan (which dates from watching highlights of the '86 Series on World of Sport) I don't need any convincing about John Henry: he's not going to be proposing a merger with Everton and a rebranding as the Merseyside Marauders.

I was mainly responding to holden's suggestion that the gut opposition to American team owners comes out of some kind of kneejerk xenophobia or transatlantic economic spite. English fans with relatively little interest in NFL/NBA/MLB still know that ownership of an American team comes with the power to move it, and there's the pervasive fear, however irrational, that a handful of American owners would have sufficient influence to push the Premier League towards a franchise system, or get rid of promotion and relegation, or "Americanise" the league in other ways. (Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan? Inefficient! Say hello to the Lancashire Millers! Wolves, WBA, Villa and Blues? Inefficient! Give a warm welcome to the West Midland Vulcanisers!)

It's a fear built upon the belief that the top PL boards would quite like a structure that divvies out the TV money amongst themselves and permanently excludes smaller or less fashionable clubs. Again, somewhat irrational, but hard to refute.

posted by etagloh at 04:27 PM on October 06, 2010

[N]ot having the funds to buy a better class of player than Riera, Poulson or Maxi Rodriguez has certainly played its' part.

Those players cost significant money so I think this part of the anti-H&G argument is not true. I actually think Rafa Benitez is much more at fault for the current situation.

Here's a list of LFC player purchases I put together recently:

- Alberto Aquilani (nearly $30M)
- Ryan Babel (~$20M)
- Glenn Johnson (nearly $30M)
- Robbie Keane (well over $30M)
- Albert Riera (~$15M)
- Philipp Degen (free, but took a roster spot and contributed less than his fee!)
- Andrey Voronin (on a Free, but he flattered to deceive)
- Jermaine Pennant (~$10M)
- Luis Garcia (~$10M)
- Florent Sinama-Pongolle (~$5M, sold on for a small loss)
- Anthony Le Tallec (~$5M)
- Fernando Morientes (~$10M)
- Momo Sissoko (~$9M, though at least we got a decent fee (~$5M profit) from Juventus in turn)
- Mark Gonzalez (~$3M, not much but wasted a winger spot on the roster)

And why were these players sold?

- John Arne Riise, who is still doing the business at Roma
- Peter Crouch, who has never been replaced as a target forward
- Danny Guthrie/Stephen Warnock: one would have been a good replacement for Riise
- Yossi Benayoun: if Chelsea were willing to pay so much for him why would we let him go? He even said the only reason he wanted to leave was being fed up with Rafa.

Mascherano and Alonso forced their own departures but both were also big money buys under Benitez.

posted by billsaysthis at 04:28 PM on October 06, 2010

I was mainly responding to holden's suggestion that the gut opposition to American team owners comes out of some kind of kneejerk xenophobia or transatlantic economic spite.

etalgoh -- I did say that with tongue partially embedded in cheek, but fair point that there is at least some rational basis for being fearful for American owners qua Americans as opposed to just being kneejerk xenophobia or what have you. That said, it is irrational to think that a small minority of American owners could somehow push through structural changes to the way the EPL is run in order to make it a more American-style system, and the signs highlighting the nationality of the owners and the flag burning strike me as a bit much and something that cannot be explained away by merely some understanding of the philosophical/economic differences between how American sports are organized and how the EPL is organized. While some more well-informed fans and commentators surely understand these differences, my guess is that a lot of Scousers get riled up about this as a result of an appeal to more base instincts and prejudices.

posted by holden at 04:48 PM on October 06, 2010

Actually, I heard that as applying to Hicks and Gillett

Ah, my bad for not listening more closely. That's even more inflammatory than the headline, but about par for the course for the author.

posted by yerfatma at 05:25 PM on October 06, 2010

I didn't realize Riera was a 15M pound signing but Maxi was a free and Poulsen was only 4M I think.

posted by Ricardo at 09:54 PM on October 06, 2010

My point is that there's been money, including recently, and Rafa wasn't a smart shopper.

posted by billsaysthis at 12:23 AM on October 07, 2010

Hey, Liverpool fans, check out The Tomkins Times for some great analysis by a passionate Reds fan. Just found it today and was pleasantly surprised by the excellent quality of the writing, depth of research and original thinking, and fan's dedication without fanaticism. There's a bit of pay wall stuff, too, but enough good stuff for free.

posted by worldcup2002 at 03:00 AM on October 07, 2010

Thanks, WC!

posted by billsaysthis at 10:53 PM on October 07, 2010

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