Written By: Danny Corcoran (@calcio_danny)
This isn’t an article that should have to be written. Unfortunately, though, here we are. Fenway Sports Group bought a club on the brink of bankruptcy for £300M back in 2010. John W. Henry has turned Liverpool from a painfully average Premier League team into one of Europe’s strongest forces. There have been loud minorities that have led calls for “#FSGOUT” on social media, but the consensus of the fans is that on a sporting level, there are few better owners out there.On a sporting level there can be little complaints.
However, a football club is not just the eleven players that walk out on to the pitch. A football club is the kitchen staff that cook the meals for the players. A football club is the cleaners that have worked tirelessly to meet COVID regulations. A football club is the supporters that spend thousands following their team. A football club is an integral part of the community in which it is situated. Without these, a football club is nothing. Without these, Liverpool Football Club is nothing. This is where Fenway Sports Group need to do better.
Issues with Staff
After the PR disaster of trying to furlough staff during the initial lockdown in the England, Liverpool and FSG were dealt another blow this week. A post was uploaded on popular forum website Reddit titled ‘LFC Staff using charities to survive lockdown’. The post detailed how the club had started sending out the shifts for casual staff (the majority being in employed in tours and museum) on a daily basis, with most employees not receiving any work at all. It then explained that the feeling of the staff that because of the lack of visitors due to anxieties of COVID, that tours and the museum should be closed until further notice. However, the club have resisted doing this. If they did this, they would then start having to compensate staff while they cannot work, instead they opt for the financially viable option of reducing staff to next to no shifts.
This has left staff neglected, scrambling for food and money in a world where there is already so much worry. As ever with the people of Merseyside, they have pulled together in tough times. Some members of the staff have set up an inhouse charity, leaving both food and money so that staff in need are able to take what they need – no questions asked. Several long-term personnel even have to rely on Universal Credit (a form of government benefit for low-income households).
This is not the only area in which Fenway Sports Group can improve. There have been rumours that John Henry & co have been looking for outside investment as the club looks to stay competitive with the endless pockets of oil rich clubs such as Manchester City and PSG, as well as the commercial behemoths of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United. Liverpool placed seventh in this year’s Deloitte Football Money League, behind those clubs previously mentioned and this year’s UCL Winners Bayern Munich. FSG have always ran a more financially stable ship than most elite European teams, but if Liverpool want to cement themselves as one of Europe’s top dogs for the foreseeable future (it’s easy to forget this was a club seconds away from liquidation less than ten years ago), more investment will be required.
However, this shouldn’t be an invitation for anyone with millions in their bank account to invest in the club. This is a situation that needs to be handled with carefulness and caution. Liverpool is not a football club that anyone can buy a stake in. Newcastle’s failed takeover by what appeared to be the Saudi Arabian government would not be as welcome on Merseyside, Man City’s controversial owners would be met with resistance by a substantial number of Reds. It is also important that any future investment does not have a major impact on how the club is run. Liverpool are a well-run machine that is thriving both on and off the pitch under the current management. Adding too many voices to the process can only cause friction. FSG need to ensure that they don’t just see the dollar signs when a potential investment comes along. They need to make sure that they have the best interests of the club and fans in any decision that is made.
For a football club that has pledged £200,000 to Liverpool North Food Bank after the British Government rejected Marcus Rashford’s heroic fight to get children in need free meals this winter, their own staff struggling to get by is not a good look at all for FSG. The pandemic has been tough on everyone. To not have peace of mind from your employer is unacceptable. Especially when that employer is Liverpool Football Club – an institution that is intertwined with the working-class people of the city it’s from.
For a club that posted a pre-tax profit of £42M back in February of this year, covering the wages of staff that depend on that income is nothing to the club – but it is vital to those families. The decision to make use of the furlough scheme back at the start of the lockdown was bad. The decision to limit staff’s shifts so they don’t have to pay them is much worse. Thankfully, FSG reversed the decision to furlough staff after intense pressure from the fanbase and local community. In a time where football fans are turning back on £15 to watch their team play in order to donate to food banks because a sickening amount of people need them to survive (an estimated 1.9 million people in the UK in 2019/20), Fenway Sports Group need to start embracing the ideals of the club that it owns.
So, John W. Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon and the rest, please start doing better. Please start by making sure that the staff that rely on the knowledge the club will pay them are taken care of. Please ensure that no member of staff is left behind. Please start doing better by the city of Liverpool.