I never thought I would use the words demise and Liverpool Football Club in the same sentence.
Perhaps I am a little too gloomy in talking about the demise of a once great football club. Gloomy is par for the course this season (with notable exceptions Chelsea, Manchester City and Southampton – all away) as the results are grim. Some of the performances have been grimmer.
Liverpool Football Club One of the Big Four
To use a cliche – no team has a God-given right to win anything but the way Liverpool FC have slumped into mid-table mediocrity is alarming. We used to be one of the “Big Four”. Now we are being undone by the likes of West Ham, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Watford. We can only look up the table and marvel what is happening at Leicester City.
I have tried to put my finger on the problem as my brain tells me a major factor is the severe lack of quality in the present squad but my intuition tells me there must be a deep underlying reason for this poor squad. Before anyone leaps up to shout what about Coutinho, Firmino or a handful of other names, I shout loudly where are the likes of Gerrard, Suarez, Alonso or Torres? Not to mention Dalglish, Rush, Barnes – the list is endless.
The answer to the demise lies in the formation of the Premier League. I’m serious – hear me out.
It’s not that we haven’t won the Premier League since it was formed in 1992. Of course, that hurts but the truth is that the club was too slow to react to the rapidly changing world of football brought about by the English Premier League. When David Moores eventually sanctioned the deal to sell to the mavericks Hicks and Gillet we were playing catch-up.
The essential truth is that overseas investors saw Premier League clubs as a guaranteed revenue stream. Some of those investors have turned around the fortunes of say Chelsea and Manchester City. Liverpool has been left in the slipstream. Both of those clubs have invested in world-class stars of football. One of our greats, Steven Gerrard, came close to joining Chelsea.
But money alone does not guarantee success on the pitch. Manchester City’s successes have largely been brought about by the ex-Barcelona duo Txiki Begiristain (Director of Football) and Ferran Soriano (Chief Executive) who built Barcelona before and signed fantastic players to make Barcelona one of the best clubs in the world. They are undoubtedly responsible for Pep Guardiola’s summer arrival to replace Pellegrini.
Liverpool Football Club Under FSG
Compare and contrast that with the situation at Anfield. Firstly, John Henry and Fenway Sports Group (FSG) has nowhere near the same financial clout as the sheiks at Man City. Secondly, they know nothing about football. Neither do the sheiks but were prudent enough to recruit the Barca double act.
Who has FSG put in control of the playing side of the club? No one knows. Tom Werner is the FSG man in charge but he knows nothing about football. Who is responsible for the players that we sign? No one knows as it is all down to some mysterious collective process otherwise known as the transfer committee.
FSG know about baseball and NASCAR. They know how to make money in sports. This is what Forbes magazine had to say:
As corporations go, the Boston Red Sox are no more–they are but a cog (with Liverpool and the Nascar team as the other cornerstone assets) in the Fenway Sports Group, the most sophisticated, synergistic player in the coming age of international sports conglomerates.
This is what Tom Werner had to say in the same article:
“We wake up every day and think about how to increase revenues because we think that is the best way to fuel a winning product,”
Kurt Badenhausen who wrote the article concluded:
But as any conglomerate CEO will tell you, success depends on integration, making the whole operate as more than the sum of the parts. “Winning is the most important goal,” says Werner. And they plan to do a lot more of it, on and off the field.
In an earlier piece Bloomberg chipped in with this:
As chairman of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), Werner, along with his partner John Henry, took control of Liverpool in October 2010 for a cut-rate price after paying off about $300 million worth of the club’s debt. Henry concedes they knew “virtually nothing” about the Premier League, or soccer for that matter, before buying the club, but recognizing the global reach and moneymaking potential of the sport didn’t require much expertise. The U.S., soccer-resistant for so long, is now home to the owners of five of the 20 clubs in the English Premier League. Manchester United, owned by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Glazer family, is the most valuable sports team in the world, according to a Forbes estimate. Arsenal, controlled by St. Louis Rams’ Stan Kroenke, is the fourth-richest club. Liverpool is the eighth.
The “moneymaking potential” is why FSG have Liverpool Football Club as part of its portfolio. Don’t believe for one minute they are there for any other reason. Witness the recent furore over the issue of the £77 match day ticket. Yes, they backed down but I don’t believe everything they said in the press release.
They are in it for the money. In my recent article about local Philippines football, I made a plea for Liverpool to send Robbie Fowler or Ian Rush here to hold a coaching clinic. I was naive.
Liverpool Football Club International Academies
FSG has even monetized Liverpool FC international academies. I find it sad that only a wealthy benefactor can fork out the money to establish a Liverpool FC Academy in the Philippines or elsewhere.
I don’t have a problem with FSG making money. I do have a problem with them using our club as an experiment. It’s clear that they adopted the Moneyball technique to the LFC transfer policy. They identified young players with promise and bought them at the right price. Those who made the grade would undoubtedly be sold on at a vast profit.
Our problems are on the pitch. We are not winning. We are in the main not playing well enough. Our home record is appalling. The new Main Stand (sans £77 tickets) will be half empty if things don’t improve.
FSG need to address the player recruitment issue. Jurgen Klopp’s judgement needs to be backed. We are probably four or five players short of being a good squad. But those recruits need to be star quality and able to fit in with both the demands of Klopp and the pace of the English game.
Will FSG spend the money? Your guess is as good as mine. I hope so as I don’t like the word “demise” in juxtaposition to the name of the club I love.