06 February 2007

Last (foreseeable) takeover post

Okay, time to step back and make a few points. Hopefully this will elucidate where I stand on this and why, and will be the last of it for a while.

- As said earlier, the new owners have said all the right things. Whether it’s about the fans, Liverpool's tradition and legacy, how they are only “custodians” of the club, the status of Parry, Benitez, and Moores, or the new stadium. The verbal gaffes, calling Liverpool a franchise or getting the positions wrong only comes with a lack of familiarity with the sport and culture, which both men will readily admit anyway. But they appear to want to learn, and meeting with Rafa, Gerrard, and Carra before the deal was finalized demonstrates that. We’ll see if words match actions, but I will say I was impressed with both the press conference and interviews.

- Financially, it was the best deal for the club. It’s one of the least of my concerns, but it bears mentioning. They were offering more per share, and Gillett also claims they’ve put no debt onto the club with this purchase. That’s important, and in contrast to the way Glazer leveraged the United takeover. The new owners refused to say if the stadium would be funded in a similar manner, but even then, that's the way Arsenal funded the Emirates and it hasn’t turned out wrong so far.

- Let’s also not forget who the other parties involved were. The earlier suitors ranged from downright frightening (former Thai PM) to never getting off the ground (Kraft, Jefferies). And the way DIC dithered, never proved they were in it for the long haul, and ultimately had the temerity to give Liverpool ultimatums makes them look awful in comparison after the fact. And I don’t believe it’s the fault of Parry or Moores that these were the only other suitors. While it’s frustrating that Liverpool fans were forced to wait three years for this, it’s not as if serious investors with the actual capability to take Liverpool to the next level fall out of trees. I’m willing to give both the Chairman and Chief Exec the benefit of the doubt here.

Of course I’m worried it could all go ass up. I’m skeptical of PR speak, and gents described as “hard-nosed businessmen” in general. As an American, I’m also afraid of incurring animus from Liverpudlians, who I’m certain are skeptical of foreign investment, and rightfully so given the heritage of this club. For some reason, the fact it’s Americans seemingly makes it worse, whether it’s because of Glazer or the fact that some of us (especially those in power) seem to think we’re the end-all be-all of the world.

And as an American, the last thing I want to do is appear to disrespect those concerns or the traditions of the club. As always, there’s a fine line commenting on the Premiership from across the ocean, even more so when the party involved is a Yank.

But the fact remains that foreign investment was an inevitability. And while there’s a lot to be proven over time, and we should all hold off final judgment until then, I’m cautiously optimistic that this was the right deal.

Huge thanks to Moores for all he's done for the club, duly rewarded with a position as honorary President for life, and thanks as well Parry for all the work that went into the takeover. Now we watch.


Manton said...

Do you think foreign ownership, specifically in America, opens the game up to more fans? While the Brits aren't really warming up to the notion (and at this point, why would they?), could this force more soccer stateside? More coverage on sportscenter, more games on US cable, etc?

nate said...

With all the talk the new owners have had about capitalizing on the club's marketing potential, one would think that the likelihood of more more more Liverpool in the states is the best part of the new owners (sorry, "custodians") nationality. Whether it's TV (i believe Hicks owns FSC in latin america), jerseys, other wares.

And best case scenario, in some time, american ownership of liverpool and other clubs will spill over into more appearances in places like sportscenter and a greater awareness of the prem.

But that's my selfish side. I'm still much more concerned whether they're the correct caretakers for the club.