This week will go down in sporting history as the ‘48 hours where football nearly died.’
With the collapse of the ambitiously capitalist project of the European Super League (in which Liverpool were one of the clubs happily signing up for the elitist venture), Fenway Sports Group have apparently also rejected a take-over bid from a Middle Eastern potential buyer.
To put this breaking and latest news in context, we have to delve deep in to the history-books and appreciate how far the red half of Merseyside have come under FSG… unpopular opinion, I know.
On October 6th 2010, FSG bought Liverpool FC from the incapable hands of former and inept owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The club was no doubt on the verge of bankruptcy before John Henry et al. stepped in and bought the most successful club in English football for £300 million. To some degree, FSG saved Liverpool Football Club.
The American owners are not shy of owning sporting teams: their impressive CV boasts ownership deals over the Boston Red Sox, Salem Red Sox, Roush Fenway Racing and Liverpool FC. They have managed and overlooked success to all four of these sporting clubs and was the force behind the signing of Jurgen Klopp, who ultimately delivered not only the Champions League in 2019 (6th time), but also the holy grail of the Premier League in 2021, 30 years after Liverpool won their 18th top division title.
There has been of course, been a lot of controversy along the way and it has not been smooth sailing for the Boston based consortium.
In 2016, FSG attempted to increase ticket prices for matchdays, taking Liverpool FC to (what would have been) the highest priced ticket in the Premier League, charging the Anfield faithful £77 per game to sit in the Main Stand. FSG also increased the hospitality tickets by 1,000, priced at £175 per ticket while taking 1,000 tickets away from the humble and wanting ‘ordinary person’.
Following an exodus of an estimated 10,000 fans walking out of a 2-2 draw against Sunderland in 2016, FSG performed the first of many U-turns in their tenure and froze ticket prices amidst fan anarchy. Those prices have remained frozen still to this day. Who says fan power doesn’t exist?
Then in 2020, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, FSG decided to make the drastic and devilish decision to furlough some non-playing staff on temporary leave and have to make an apology to the fanbase and it’s employees. The ownership wanted to place certain staff members on to the government funded taxpayers job retention scheme, even though the club made a £42m profit in the previous year.
Former players were called in to action as Stan Collymore and Jamie Carragher vented their frustrations at the pure embarrassment of the original decision.
Liverpool are a team built on socialism, the great Bill Shankly will always remain the voice of Liverpool FC, although Jurgen Klopp isn’t far behind. Shankly, a philosopher at heart, once said ‘The socialism I believe in is everyone working hard for each other, everyone is having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life.’
Liverpool is a city based on socialism after being thrown to the wolves so many times in political eras. Margaret Thatcher was secretly urged to consider abandoning Liverpool to a fate of "managed decline" after the Toxteth riots in 1981. The current Prime Minster and conservative leader, Boris Johnson once accused the city of being in a state of ‘victim status’. The Liverpool fanbase have never had capitalism in their hearts, nor shall they ever.
Let’s not even start on the fact FSG even tried to trademark the Liverbird (unsuccessfully) which has watched over the city since King John founded the borough of Liverpool by royal charter in 1207.
However, the misgivings of FSG can be somewhat be calmed and contained. They are the ones who delivered us Jurgen Klopp, and therefore the company who delivered a Champions League title (number six, thank you very much), a Premier League (number 19) and the full revival to aiding Liverpool FC to sit back atop of their perch once again as England’s most successful football club. Where’s Sir Alex when you need him?
Although in honesty, for FSG at least, the European Super League made sense from a business standpoint. They were guaranteed to pocket at least £300m (their initial investment), from the absurd exploits of JP Morgan; remember, these American’s are businessmen.
For the rich, it only makes sense to get richer.
By signing away the rights to a make way for a new Champions League with less games and guaranteed placement in the competition, it was a no brainer.
Take Liverpool FC right now, in the midst of a Champions League qualification slug fest, and accelerate that into the Super League plan. Liverpool would be a sure-fire team who would be in Europe’s elite competition each year, bankrolling millions of pounds each season via the Disney, Amazon, Sky, DAZN TV deals alone.
The Liverpool faithful have been crying out for years to compete with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and even local rivals Everton in the spending sprees of past transfer windows. Links to Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho are regular requests from the fans to take Liverpool from Premier League challengers, to Premier League Champions.
However, FSG do not operate in that way, they are based on a net spend/sell to buy franchise (see Philippe Coutinho/Alisson Becker/Virgil van Dijk spends).
The only way we will see Mbappe, Haaland or Sancho and world class talents amongst our ranks would be to sell a Liverpool legend first. Players such as Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane would likely have to be sold to bankroll a vast and enormous signing the Liverpool fans crave. Like I said, from a business standpoint, to make Liverpool hit the next level in terms of personnel, the Super League made sense. We seemingly can’t have our cake at eat it…
Today, it has been announced that FSG rejected an offer from the Middle East prior to the Super League announcement on Sunday night. Despite lost revenue in excess of £100m at Anfield as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the offer to buy the club was rejected by the Liverpool owners.
However, The Mirror (who broke the news earlier today) claim that following the anger aimed at FSG in the wake of the failed Super League plot there are other potential buyers waiting to see how the LFC owners react to the onslaught of abuse they are rightly receiving.
Perhaps it was a bold and brave move by the Boston billionaires; they are simply waiting for a higher bid. If they were to accept the offer presented to them, FSG would cash in a cool £2.7bn profit on their original investment. On April 14th, Forbes valued Liverpool FC at £2.96bn prior to the Super League plans.
To separate the topic somewhat, there is no doubt that UEFA cannot simply wash their hands with this whole despicable debacle either. It is worth noting that it was indeed UEFA that demanded the conspiring teams within the Super League alliance be booted from their domestic leagues; this was not the decision of the Liverpool board. FSG never wanted a breakaway deal, the simply wanted a better format of the Champions League.
Jurgen Klopp himself has spoken about his discontent surrounding the illogical and incongruous new format of the Champions League presented by UEFA, somewhat a watered-down version of the Super League where domestic qualification isn’t actually necessary, so long as you rank high enough in the co-efficient. There is also the factor of an additional 100 games to comprehend (money talks) and the ridiculous league format where teams play each other in terms of ability, rather than the ‘luck of the draw’.
Financially the winner of the Champions League stands to win anywhere in the region of £80-100m, based on TV revenue; participation alone in the Super League will pocket £300m, and as I have mentioned, these American’s aren’t football fans, they’re businessmen.
One last consideration of where FSG/LFC end up, is the recent investment from RedBird, who acquired an 11% stake (amounting to £538m) in all FSG ownership.
Gerry Cardinale’s brand are another mouthpiece in whatever future FSG and Liverpool FC have together. They are newly invested and will surely want to keep the Premier League champions close to their chest, especially if the bids keep coming.
Fenway Sports Group have been a period of Jekyll and Hyde for Liverpool. They have delivered glory and allowed our wildest dreams to come true, but at what cost of the club’s rich and honourable history?
Rival fans have mocked and degraded the Liverpool fanbase in recent years, taking the higher ground too often for the likings of pure socialist Scousers. I even have West Ham and Newcastle fans trolling me on Twitter; the shame!
In a world where a global pandemic has made currency scant and sparse, perhaps FSG are here to stay after the recent rejection. There is no doubt that FSG have elevated Liverpool from the doldrums of previous eras; but the cost and embarrassment they have caused, may be too much to stomach.
FSGIN, or FSGOUT?