06 October 2010

Xenophobia... think less but see it grow

So, it's been an eventful 24 hours. For those living in a cave, a quick summary.

• The junta of Broughton, Purslow, and Ayre seized control of the website yesterday, putting out a hilarious statement after Hicks and Gillett attempted to sack Purslow and Ayre. Unsurprisingly, the offers that the three wanted to accept weren't big enough for George and Tommy. Maybe Broughton and Purslow weren't as evil as we thought, at least when it comes to off-the-pitch matters.
• Those three outvoted Hicks and Gillett, accepting the takeover proposal from New England Sports Ventures.
• There will be a legal challenge, but given the terms of Hicks and Gillett's most recent refinance, the UK board members are apparently on solid ground, and Broughton's already giving self-satisfied interviews. (LFC.tv Q&A, BBC News video)

Two American owners ran the club into the ground, and now we're getting an American consortium instead. Some understandably see it as out of the frying pan and into the fire, while others are simply happy that the long nightmare seems to be coming to a close. And as an American, it puts me in a strange place. It's not often I feel the need to (or want to, for that matter) defend my countrymen.

Surprisingly, Broughton summed it up well in his Sky Sports interview.
"First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being American. Ask Sunderland, Ellis Short is a great owner there. There’s nothing wrong with being American. Leverage is a problem in a football club."
Spirit of Shankly thankfully said similar:
"The identity and nationality of any owners of Liverpool Football Club is irrelevant. How they act as custodians is the most important thing and we have seen previously that initial announcements and promises made by new owners and the checks and due diligence made by those entrusted with that role on our behalf have all been left wanting."
'Once bitten, twice shy' is a good maxim. NESV will be held to their statements, and the fans are far more clued up than they were three years ago. But holding the prospective new owners' accountable cannot descend into out-and-out anti-Americanism, as is already happening in various corners of the internet. Thankfully, it's been a minority so far.

Didn't we blame xenophobia for some of Rafa's treatment by the British press? How is this different? Why is nationality important? In this case, past does not necessarily equal precedent, and Americans aren't all alike. Again, thankfully.

Deep-pocketed "philanthropists" weren't lining up to put in offers, whether from China, Hong Kong, or the Middle East. A similar situation to what Manchester City fell into was never on the cards or it would have manifested by now. And because of UEFA's impending financial fair play regulations, the days of free spending City and Chelsea are soon coming to a close.

Any new owners need to clear the debt and either build a new stadium or renovate Anfield. Broughton's already claiming that's been agreed. Because of commercial revenue, if the club's put on a solid financial footing, it can be run in the vein of Arsenal: making a small profit while reinvesting in the team as need be. That's the goal. Not being beholden to a Sheikh Mansour or Abramovich.

As I wrote in the comments yesterday, I'm not familiar with the intricacies of the Red Sox. Baseball is fucking boring. I've read opinions from a fair few Boston LFC fans that Henry/NESV are excellent owners (keeping an eye on LFC Boston's twitter account may not be a bad idea), and for balance, later today I hope to have a summary of Henry's tenure from a friend who's a Yankees fan that lived in Boston during the Red Sox's World Series seasons. But what I do know is that the ownership group provided a platform to "reverse the curse" (God, I hate that phrase) and walked a tightrope in renovating Fenway Park (a new stadium was even less feasible than on Merseyside because of sentimental attachments to that ballpark's history) while maximizing revenue.

No owner's coming in as a charity case. They will expect to make money off of Liverpool. That's football these days; sport is business. If the on-field product is good, something's done about the stadium, and Liverpool's debt is manageable, they'll make their profit and the club will be sustainable into the future. Whether that will actually be the case still remains to be seen.

By all means, be skeptical. But judge any new owners on their business plan, not their nationality. Anything else is irrational, reactionary, unfair, and unhelpful.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nate

Fare point, It was just a knee jerk reaction simply because o what's continuously going on right now in the EPL..

It appears it gonna be alright though,


Carlos

Lola said...

Well said.

Not 100% sold on the new owners yet, but Red Sox supporting friends and everything I've read about the group seems to say that these guys have done for the Red Sox what we all want for LFC.

They paid off the debt, respected the traditions but made the necessary changes to turn the team into a revenue generation. Not to mention that winning the World Series thing which wasn't far off a miracle after all those years.

It's not Americans who screwed over Liverpool, it's two chancers who happen to be American. Big difference, and I hope fans realise that. I'd rather a smart buyout like the one being proposed than some sugar daddy who can drop us on a whim.

Anonymous said...

Actually they have, very well said Lola. They created a red sox "nation" that is globally recognized.

Its just the thought of hearing the bostonians saying "Fahnahndo Fackin' Touris" that scares me. Pawk the Cahhhhh


Hopefully they come through with their promises.

Carlos

amfm said...

Well said, nate. I think it's easy to generalize about "Americans" as a group, considering our PR for the last, oh, two decades or so hasn't been so stellar. That doesn't make it right, but it does make it easy.

As for Henry/NESV, I can say as a lifelong Red Sox fan, born in Boston, living here for both series wins, the owners are excellent. They invest in solid, long-term players who are (for the most part) incredibly loyal to the club. There is rarely a mercenary-Man City type situation. They listened to overwhelming protests against tearing down Fenway and instead have renovated it in some creative ways, and sell out pretty much every game. This season was absolutely terrible in terms of injuries, but no one panicked. We called up pretty much everyone from our farm system, but the owners were open to the possibility of buying someone if necessary (even if it was rumored to be Judas himself, Johnny Damon).

Was John Henry personally responsible for reversing the curse? I don't know. But I am cautiously optimistic about what his tenure at Liverpool would mean. And ANYTHING is better than the Rachel Phelps-esque owners we've been stuck with.

P.S: Don't hate. "Reverse the curse" is an awesome phrase...

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear there isn't anti-Americanism growing in the ranks. I'm an American and a long time Liverpool fan, and very happy to Hicks and Gillett go. I am a baseball fan, and I can tell you, there are few clubs with as much history and tradition than the Red Sox. I just hope that NESV can do Liverpool justice, and if they treat Liverpool like they've treated the Red Sox, I think it's going to be good.

But we'll see. You never know.

Anonymous said...

I would hope people realize that the problem with Hicks and Gillette weren't that they were American, it's that they were idiots without enough money.

Matt said...

I love baseball and the Yankees, and hate the Red Sox, but certainly admire Henry's group for the ways they've strengthened what was once a floundering franchise, made investments on and and off the field to build the brand and all those investments seem centered on one thing - the fans. Good omen.

I live in San Francisco and 7 years ago a Red Sox cap, sticker, or tee was a rare thing 'round here. Now they're everywhere. And this year, in a season of injuries, they hung around for a playoff spot - the organization-wide investments (not just in the GM, manager, and players) are the keystone for that kind of resilience in a "down" year.

Wouldn't that be nice for LFC?

TimC said...

Two possible areas to worry about from a Red Sox fan, assuming this takeover goes through.

First, in the past several years Red Sox ownership has done an excellent job of renovating the park and increasing revenue streams. This has come at the expense of the atmosphere at Fenway Park thanks to the pricing out of loyal fans in exchange for those with gobs of cash. Fenway is not the stronghold it once was and as the quality of team fell this season the fans that bought the overpriced tickets stopped coming. The "task" of sucking the life out of Anfield is a much tougher task than the sucking the life out of Fenway but I do worry a little bit on this front, especially given some of the recent results at Anfield over the past couple of seasons.

Two, ownership has clashed with the manager and GM, very publicly. Upon taking over, they publicly vouched for then manager Grady Little but fired him after the 2003 season for refusing to embrace their statistical philosophies. A couple of years later, a spat with GM Theo Epstein led to his temporary departure during which they made a very bone-headed Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett swap (perhaps the equivalent to swapping, in 2006, a young Messi for, say, a Kuyt). The fact that ownership would oust the man in charge of building the team and then make their own move was unsettling and ultimately backfired. I guess the point of this comment is that I can see the potential for clashes with a strong manager and the ownership.

Still, that fact that this happened with the Red Sox does not mean it will with Liverpool. The 'addition by subtraction' component of any sale is the most important and finding Hicks and Gillette the first flight back to the states is the number one thing. Hopefully the positive direction a sale would indicate will help the team find its footing on the field and perhaps allow either Hodgson or a new manager the support and stability from above to rebuild the team into a perennial contender.