November 06, 2008

George Gillett and Tom Hicks, the Americans whose ownership of Liverpool has been marked by strife and uncertainty, on Wednesday were sent an open letter urging them to sell the club to supporters' group Share Liverpool FC.

The group, spearheaded by football academic Rogan Taylor, has plans for a Barcelona-style buyout of the club, with supporters or groups of supporters each owning a stake.

Share Liverpool FC is backed by Anfield legends like John Barnes, Phil Thompson and John Aldridge, and has also established close working links with "fans union" the Spirit of Shankly.

The letter states that the supporters' group agree with the reported decision of the Americans, who took over the Reds almost two years ago, to sell the club -- though Gillett recently refused to be publicly drawn on claims that the pair have engaged the services of bankers Merrill Lynch to seek a deal on their behalf.

The co-owners' time in charge has been a rocky one, with many of their actions angering supporters and resulting in public protests on the Kop, the most notable being the very public falling-out between the pair, though their decision to attempt to replace manager Rafa Benitez with Jurgen Klinsmann also did not go down well with fans.

The open letter read:

"We understand you have decided to relinquish your ownership of Liverpool FC and are actively looking for a buyer. Along with the vast majority of Liverpool fans, we agree with your decision to withdraw.

"We would like to buy the club on behalf of the fans, and invite you to sit down with us to agree a deal. We are confident that if you're willing to sell to us for a fair price, we would have sufficient backing (either from the fans alone, or with a suitable partner).

"As you may know, ShareLiverpoolFC is an IPS -- effectively a 'co-operative' -- owned by single shareholding members (not unlike the Green Bay Packers). We are not motivated by making a profit from the commercial exploitation of Liverpool FC; all income would be directed towards the benefit of the club and the team itself.

"We want the club we love run solely in the best interests of a successful team, the fans and the community. We believe we represent a real opportunity for both of you to bring to an end a troubled period of ownership; an 'exit strategy' which would lead to admiration and respect from many.

"Doing the honourable thing and selling the club to the fans would return it to the values that made it the most successful football club in England and one of the best supported in the world.

"As you are no doubt now aware, the stewardship of a club like Liverpool cannot be separated from the interests of its fans and its community, and anyone thinking of bidding for the club will realise that the backing of the fans is essential to ensuring a harmonious and successful club.

"There is now a growing feeling across the sport and from the grassroots upwards, and even from our own government, that big clubs are in real danger of losing touch with their audience. You could help reverse this trend.

"We'd also like you to be able to leave with dignity. George, in an interview last March, you said, 'Our goal from the beginning was to add ... to the lustre (of Liverpool FC) ...' At this point you can only achieve this by doing the right thing -- and that is to offer the club to the fans."

Whatever happens, it would seem that the American involvement with one of England's most famous clubs will end sooner rather than later.

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