Heroes & Villains of the Ownership Saga

Posted: October 20, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Business, Finance, Liverpool FC
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last week was an absolute rollercoaster ride, with many fans struggling to catch their breath at times. As we stumbled from one court case to another even John Henry admitted he was unsure how the saga would end. Hicks quite obviously took every devious step available in a bid to retain control of the club, or feed his apparent incessant greed. But it’s done now, finally.

So as NESV get their feet under the table. I thought it would do no harm to say a thank you to the top 5 heroes who helped during and in bringing Hicks and Gillett’s tenure to an end. While also taking an opportunity to shake our heads at the top 5 villains, who didn’t cover themselves in glory during the Hicks and Gillett era. In fact let’s shake our heads first.

The Villains

1. Tom Hicks

Topping the list has to be the greedy Texan. Who continues to plead that he is the one who was hard-done by, declaring that everyone is part of the ‘epic swindle’ conspiracy against him. Yes, we’re all wrong and he’s still right. We’ve hurt him and his family according to his latest ranting phone call on Sky Sports News. Well, just how many of our family have you hurt Tom? Do you still not realise how you took our great club, kicking and screaming through a media storm, to the edge of financial oblivion?

Even putting the financial aspects to one side he, together with his partner in crime, completely changed the entire culture of the club. Long gone was the ways in which the club conducted its business behind closed doors; replaced with rants, e-mails and more column inches than ever before. Whether that damage done can ever be repaired is to be seen, but Hicks in particular has left NESV an uphill battle to climb.

2. George Gillett

Of course the second spot can only go to George Gillett, to which most of the above applies. He wasn’t as loud or belligerent as his partner but he was the one who uttered those words ‘a shovel in the ground within 60 days’. George became even quieter in the final months of his tenure. Whether he knew he was beat or whether it was down to the reported loss of his shareholding to Mill Financial we don’t know. There was some definite distancing happening though.

3. Apathy

Apathy was a continuing trend within large sections of the fan base. Undoubtedly the numbers of those willing to take action rose significantly in the final months. It was however still nowhere near the level of unity which could be reasonably expected in my opinion. There were those who simply couldn’t see what was wrong, and others who just left it to everyone else to get on with things. It seemed for every fan willing to boycott the new shirt there were a thousand heading to the club store or JJB to get hold of one.

I hope that should the need ever arise again, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t, the fans will unite quicker and form a single voice.

4. Mill Financial

A late scurry from Tom Hicks and Mill Financial very nearly put a spanner in the works of NESV’s takeover. Mill appeared impervious to the e-mail battering other financial institutions had received, which in itself was an ominous sign. It remains unclear whether they were aiming to retain control or simply be the middle man in moving the club on. Either option would have been daunting to many fans given Mill had ignored 1,000’s of e-mails asking them not to help Tom Hicks; much like Tom Hicks they just didn’t appear to care.

5. Christian Purslow

I have battled hard with myself over this decision. But too many things don’t add up in my mind with Mr. Purslow. For someone who I hoped would be our salvation in the ownership saga he quickly lost credibility. The Spirit of Shankly minutes, his PR moves, a failure to secure investment, his continuing assertion that all money raised for players sales is used for acquisition and his hand in the removal of Rafa have all left a bitter taste in the mouth. I simply do not trust the guy.

To be fair it should be accepted that he had been dealt a very difficult hand to bluff with. But that is what it feels like, that he continually tried to bluff us. I for one don’t fall for it and his ‘bluffing’ leads me to believe that he should leave the club. It is a fresh start after all.

Note: I was posting this just as news of Purslow’s resignation as Managing Director broke. My initial reaction is that by keeping him on board as a non executive director the owners have pulled off a very shrewd move. They’re listening but they’re not going to buckle to every request.

The Heroes

1. Spirit of Shankly, Save Liverpool FC, Share Liverpool, RAWK, This is Anfield, YNWA etc.

There are too many to list on here but I think you get the picture. Tom Hicks calls them internet terrorists and yet, to me, they are the heroes in all of this. They are the people who organised and kept the pressure on time after time, the ones who would not give up. Thousands of e-mails arriving with financial institutions, protests and protest T-shirts all formed a part of our fight back. Had this fight continued I have no doubt that the energy levels of these associations and forums would have continued to rise. We were taking our club off Hicks and Gillett no matter what, but only with a planned and concerted effort from these organisations.

2. The Fans

Excluding those (a)pathetic ones it is in times of adversity that you realise what a special club we have. We’ve all seen the thousands of e-mails which have been sent as part of the ‘internet terrorism’ campaign. These in themselves should not be under-valued and made Tom Hicks the leper of the financial colonies. But then there were demonstrations of fans in their thousands, protest t-shirts worn proudly and an unrelenting energy to get the owners out. Which no doubt has sent a very clear message to NESV for the future.

There are also the blogging fans who kept up pressure and even just those who commented when they saw ridiculous articles from a plethora of journalists or anti- bloggers.

3. Martin Broughton

Possibly a questionable decision in some eyes but I’m going to give Mr. Broughton the benefit of the doubt over that Chelsea party. There is no doubt the astute chairman of BA took his time and methodically planned the sale of the club. It was so well thought out that he overcame two courts in two different countries. If there had been any doubt about any of Mr. Broughton’s paperwork then this could have dragged on for months. He did what others in America tried and tried, but failed. He beat Tom Hicks and he even beat him in his own back yard.

It remains early days and yet there is a rising sense that NESV were actually the best owners for our club. Time will tell whether that is true, but they are certainly making all of the right noises at this moment in time.

4. John W Henry (NESV)

A businessman and one who no doubt plans to make money out of Liverpool FC. But as long as that money is in the overall value of the club, rather than any payment of dividends etc., we shouldn’t be too worried. If he can put Liverpool FC back where it belongs while increasing the value of his investment then that’s a win-win in my eyes. That certainly seems to be the approach taken at the Red Sox and I remain cautiously optimistic about the future of our club under the new custodians.

5. Rafael Benitez

Now before any of you start getting all ‘Kanwar’ on me I want you to ask yourself something. Where would we be now had the club installed Roy Hodgson one or two seasons earlier? You may say that wouldn’t have happened as it was on the back of his progress with Fulham, really? Hodgson was still selected, in my mind, as a quiet pair of safe hands. So far that seems to have back-fired. And then some!

Rightly or wrongly Rafa got himself embroiled in some of the board room shenanigans. However, he is the only person within the club who I believe was always fighting for us. Sure, he had a self interest in wanting the club to do well. But this trade off relationship was one of synergy rather than the ‘be all’. He created a relationship with the fans which is rarely seen and while 7th place was below expectation (expectations he built) and an underperformance (by two league places – based on squad value) he had over performed during every other season. To my mind Rafa Benitez was genuinely the biggest difference between us and Leeds.

So, thank you. Thank you to all those heroes who really made a difference. Every fan and every fan association who took part should be rightly proud of themselves. As a fan, I thank you all.

Thank you to John Henry and his team at NESV for buying us. I hope you realise what a valuable jewel you have bought, and treat it with respect, always. You have bought tradition and success together with a very special culture. It is in your hands now to repair the damage done by the previous owners. Early reports indicate you are listening. Always an important first step, but you will be judged by the fans on your actions. We’re not always going to agree (I assure you) but we will respect you and your decisions, as long as you respect us and ‘the Liverpool way’. We have lost so much over the past three years, only you can get it back for us.

Thank you to Rafa for keeping us competitive. For always fighting our corner, you are a true legend. In fact you’re one of us.

Finally, Martin Broughton. I have left you till last as I have personally questioned you and your motives and I have often considered you as being at the same level, with the same motives as Christian Purslow. You did what he couldn’t though. I very much doubt this deal would have been done without your extreme diligence. You arrived in a very difficult situation and barring a couple of minor (in the scheme of things) negative situations you have done an incredible job. Thank you.

  1. TomD says:

    I agree completely with you excellently penned article. Your comments on Purslow and Rafa are particularly apposite. Well done.

  2. Karl Evang says:

    Rafa a hero? Rubbish. Rafa loves one thing and that’s Rafa Benitez. He loved to manage Liverpool FC because a bunch of mongs over here also loved him to a sick extent. Purslow deserves a medal for getting rid.

  3. Sam Wanjere says:

    Totally with you on this one. CPs a snake, pure and simple. He only sided with Broughton and Ayre because they faced a common enemy, G & H. Very opportunistic. However, he sacked Rafa and initially was lukewarm to cold regarding the fan groups. He’s the Jekyll and Hyde in this matter. His role in our mess, the few triumphs like changing owners notwithstanding, will remain debatable.

    Rafa continually spoke up for LFC even when the fans didn’t really understand what was really going on. Without Rafa’s support, the unions would not have gained in strength and awareness of the club’s dirty linen would not have come out as it did.

    Your breakdown of players is spot on to me.

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