March 28, 2008

Liverpool Co-Owner: Fans Hate Tom Hicks: American billionaire George Gillett is kicking himself for buying Liverpool FC with fellow Yank Tom Hicks. Since Hicks scuttled a deal by a Dubai group that wants to buy out Gillett's 50 percent, the owners have gotten an enormous amount of hate mail and calls from angry fans, according to his co-owner. "The thing that angers fans the most is the prospect I might sell even one share of my stock to my partner," Gillett said in a radio interview. "They do not want him to have any controlling interest in this club -- they do not even want him to have any ownership in the club. As a result of that -- and it's been very difficult for my wife with the amount that I travel -- we receive many phone calls in the middle of the night threatening our lives -- death threats."

posted by rcade to soccer at 06:43 PM - 14 comments

Americans have no business sticking their noses in English football. It's a sport they do not understand. They see the numbers and their eyes open up wide with greed. I have no love for the Glazers, but at least they're leaving the football team to people who know the game. I do not condone death threats, but I must say that Liverpool's situation does not look good. They need stability to challenge for the Premiership, not being tossed around like a hot potato. Even scousers deserve better than that! Come on you reds! (devils) A cheeky goal from Ronaldo!

posted by georgieB at 12:36 PM on March 29, 2008

If it's any consolation, I live in Dallas, and the fans here don't think too much of Tom Hicks either. The Rangers continue to be one of the worst teams in the league, and they have done nothing to make the team better going into this season. Yet, somehow, ticket prices went up again...I'll be watching minor league ball again this year.

posted by dviking at 05:38 PM on March 29, 2008

Americans have no business sticking their noses in English football. It's a sport they do not understand. Blah blah blah. Canadians said the same thing about hockey when he purchased the Montreal Canadiens -- yet now they are one of the best teams in the league. You don't have to understand the nuances of the sport to own a team, you just hire people that do.

posted by mkn at 11:07 PM on March 29, 2008

I'm not going to go as far as georgieB, but there's certainly a predisposition against American franchise owners who look across the pond. There might be scaremongering and xenophobia at the fringes, but when you take away the waggish stuff about bigger goals and TV timeouts, the supporters' resistance focuses on demonstrable aspects of North American sport, like the blackmailing of local government to underwrite stadiums, and the franchise mentality that treats a club's home town as constantly subject to renegotiation. As the pundits often say, most managers would love to have a chairman like Middlesbrough's Steve Gibson, who has said on multiple occasions that he doesn't regard the club as a goose that lays golden eggs: "I am a businessman when I am at my business and Iím a football fan when Iím at the football club. We do not run MFC as a business, we run it for sport and glory." Fans are quite happy to have their billionaire sugar daddies making their money elsewhere, then pouring it into the club -- in some cases, they'll just la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you if it's suggested that the source of their new owner's income is, let's say, subject to investigation. In that context, it's nigh-on impossible for an American team owner to come in and not be considered a mercenary. If an American billionaire were to come in with no overriding interest in running a club as an American sporting business -- a Sir Paul Getty for the Premier League -- that would be different.

posted by etagloh at 12:08 AM on March 30, 2008

It's not true that no Americans understand football. It's also not true that all American owners are greed-heads. And yet, it is a generalization that is true more often than not, unfortunately. Some Americans do get it, though. The new owner of the USL Portland Timbers appears to understand footy fandom and what a football club is all about, from what I have read. He actually went on record stating (and I paraphrase from memory here) that owning a sports club is not like any other business, the owner is a temporary custodian of a tradition that truly belongs to the community and to the fans. If only more American sports owners "got it". Unfortunately, American sports did not develop that way, and this sort of owner is the rare exception that proves the rule. I'm an American fan of the game, and if, in the unlikely event that I suddenly became a billionaire, I was going to buy an English football club, I wouldn't do as the existing American owners have done and spend an enormous amount of money on one of the really big Premier League clubs. I'd buy one of the smaller clubs that have a "big club" mentality/tradition/history/reputation/desire but which have fallen on hard times, like a Leeds United or a Nottingham Forest, and I'd buy that club at a much cheaper price and pour my money into the club and earn promotion back up to the Premier League. That's the proper way to do things.

posted by dave2007 at 05:07 AM on March 30, 2008

I haven't read any serious complaints about the Glasers in some time now, nor any at all really about Randy Lerner since he took over Aston Villa. There are some bad owners in any top-flight sport league and it has nothing to do with being American or whatever, that some bad owners are American is simply coincidence. Of course as a Reds fan I'd really like this sorted, and soon.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:05 PM on March 31, 2008

Bill, you haven't read any serious complaints about the Glazers? There's a reason why we chant Ferguson's Red Army, and not Glazers Red Army. Take a walk around Old Trafford and you'll see how loved he is. We didn't need him. We weren't in any financial trouble. He barged in and put the club in debt. Mercenary? Hardly. It's more predatory. That's greed. I don't know if it's a coincidence that he's American. Speaking of Americans, how did you become a fan of Liverpool, Bill? Was it from watching the sparkling football they play? Someone buying a club because of his great love of the club is different. We'll have to see how much money Lerner is prepared to spend to improve the team next season. Did he also borrow money to buy Villa? Is he a lifetime Villan? Or did he think that it would be a good investement? So, Dave, in case you do become a billionaire, please do not buy Leeds United or Forest just because they're big clubs down on their luck right now. Buy them because you're a hardcore fan. Buy them because you have some extra cash to spend and you want to be able to attend every single game they play, either at the directors box or like that bloke in Newcastle, who watches with the fans in the stands. And for goodness sakes, please don't borrow money to buy them!

posted by georgieB at 04:40 AM on April 01, 2008

Considering the valuation of EPL clubs, expecting all of your future owners to be home-grown fans of the team who operate without debt seems a bit unrealistic to me.

posted by rcade at 07:07 AM on April 01, 2008

georgieB, you and I simply disagree. I see little in the way of facts behind your opinion of the Glazers, except of course they did take the loans, though I'm not interested in changing what you think or disputing your entitlement to feel how you do. However, the Red Devils did win the EPL last year and are likely to do so again this, with the Champions League a possibility as well so the financial maneuvering doesn't seem to have had on-field impact. Note that I'm not saying SAF isn't the most important factor in said success, nor am I saying he is. I would also point out that he's been given a transfer budget the last few years that only Abramovitch surpassed. Speaking of Chelsea's Russian owner, he doesn't attend all his team's home games--should he be forced to sell? As for how I came to be a Reds fan, what difference does it make? You're probably assuming it happened when they had all the success in the '70s and '80s and, yes, it was at that time, but not because of it. A college friend from England was a Liverpool fanatic and it was his influence which was the cause.

posted by billsaysthis at 06:16 PM on April 01, 2008

Bill, actually, I thought that you became a Liverpool fan because they sing You'll Never Walk Alone before their matches at Anfield. Didn't think you've been a fan for that long! My bad. I would think that United won the Premiership last year and challenging for more honours this year in spite of the Glazers, not because of them. One point I would not argue is that they took the club private. The huge debt the club faces now is indeed most unsettling. We fought off Sky when they tried to buy the club, but unfortunately failed to keep the Glazers out. Abramovich can do whatever he likes. He is a sugar daddy. He pays for everything. I don't know if he was a Chelsea fan before he bought the club, but with the amount of money he's spent, he can do whatever he feels like, including fire Mourinho. Chelsea hasn't made a profit since he took over, but they're still major players in the transfer market.

posted by georgieB at 04:13 PM on April 02, 2008

I would think that United won the Premiership last year and challenging for more honours this year in spite of the Glazers Think all you like, I'm not disputing your opinion and you may well be correct, but if you want to convince me (or others, I suspect) you need to back that up with real data. The Glazers have splashed out large quantities of cash for Tevez, Anderson, Nani and Hargreaves (not sure when Vidic came in), all without forcing SAF to sell any of the big contributors, which to me says they are not (only) running the club for financial gains. What do you see that's different?

posted by billsaysthis at 03:00 PM on April 03, 2008

Bill, Tevez is on loan. He cost us nothing (yet). Sir Alex had been after Hargreaves for a couple of years now. Glazers did not have to spend a single dollar for these players. It would be worth 50p anyway. Can't do much with 50p these days, you know. Anyway, if you REALLY want to know where the money for these players came from, here it is. Read it and weep. These figures are from United's website. Not something I thought of. United have announced record turnover and profits for the year ended 30 June 2007, underpinned by the Reds Premier League title success last season. The financial results confirm United's leading position in world sport based on the team's on-field success, Old Trafford's expansion and increased sponsorship revenue. The key factors in United's increased financial results are as follows: - Group turnover increased 27% to £210m (2006 - £165m) - Gross turnover (including sales from Nike merchandise and MUTV not consolidated in these results) rose 21% to £245m (2006 - £202m) - EBITDA rose 72% to £79.8m (2006 - £46.3m) - Profit before tax jumped 93% to £59.6m (2006 - £30.8m) - Matchday revenue up 30% to £92.6m, (2006 - £71.3m) reflecting successful expansion of Old Trafford, increasing capacity to over 76,000 - Media revenue up 35% to £61.5m (2006 - £45.5m) due to semi-final appearance in the UEFA Champions League, finalists in the FA Cup and winning the Barclays Premier League - Commercial revenues up 15% to £56.0m (2006 - £48.6m) due to the first year of the world record AIG shirt and accompanying financial services sponsorship deals, increase in the Nike contract and new platinum sponsors, Kumho Tires, Betfred and Hestiun - Wages to turnover ratio fell to 43.6% (2006 - 51.6%) comfortably within the Club's historic aim to keep the figure around 50% The Glazers might have a little to do with the shirt sponsorship United has now, but not much else. They're in there to make a quid (which is worth $2). I really should be going to bed. Goodnight, Billy.

posted by georgieB at 04:58 PM on April 03, 2008

Your facts do nothing to support your argument (IMO). For instance, the Glazers may not have (yet) paid a transfer fee for Tevez but they were behind a major court/PR case to get him onboard and are certainly paying him a decent wage and while SAF may have wanted Hargreaves, the previous owners couldn't get the deal done and the current ones did. What would show me the strength of your assertion is negative things that can be clearly laid at the owners' feet. Raising ticket prices might be the one thing that comes close, except that plenty of teams raise ticket prices, and Old Trafford is full every time I see ManU on TV. The club started selling players who were still making significant contributions without having a clear replacement on hand, dragging them all over the globe in the summer for exhibitions, requiring fans to buy Personal Seat Licenses*, all those would be signs of the apocalypse you seem to feel has already happened. Every team owner would like to make a profit, and for that matter a bigger one than last year. Since ManU are about the biggest club in the world I'm not surprised it can deliver on that desire. * see Raiders, Oakland, NFL, on their return from LA.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:44 PM on April 04, 2008

I don't believe in the apocalypse, I'm a Bhuddist. I have about 500 million reasons to lay at the Glazers' feet, though. United will have to be generating these kinds of profits every year just to service the loan. Profits that could be used for player acquisition. And we're not holding our breaths till the owners actually shell out their own money for anything at the club. They don't have to. United has gotten along without any financial help from anyone. Do you see the unnecessary pressure caused by the loan? A loan pushed upon the club by our new owners? United has really been doing well, that's why it's attracted the attention of people like Rupert Murdoch and the Glazers. Was there a court case in the Tevez loan saga? Funny, but I do not remember one. It was settled when his agent agreed to pay West Ham some money to buy out his contract. And if United wants good PR, they'll know better than to drag the Glazers along. You just don't get it, do you? The Glazers are not welcome . Old Trafford has always been full, even when we were in the old second division back in 1974/75. And no, we didn't move to another city like American sport franchises tend to do now and then. That's because you put profit before anything else. And there, Billy, is the difference between American owners. It sounds utopian, but United was self sufficient financially, playing exciting attacking football (since the days of Sir Matt Busby) and in no need for any new owners. Profits were ploughed back to the club for improvements. By the way, the previous owners were shareholders. United was a PLC.

posted by georgieB at 05:09 AM on April 05, 2008

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