Football should be played on the pitch, not in the High Court


It is becoming increasingly difficult to make sense out of the complex mess of a situation that the once unstoppable force of Liverpool Football Club currently finds itself in. At the time of writing, the club has two groups of international investors battling to buy it while the current owners are taking the chairman to court for encouraging the sale, with a view to sacking him. On top of all of this, the club owes the Royal Bank of Scotland £240 million. Understandably, they are not hugely pleased by this, and they too are taking the current co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, to the High Court. If they can’t pay the bank back, or if the bids to buy the club fail, Liverpool will fall into administration and receive the customary nine point deduction that ensues. If you believe the League will make an exception, just go and have a chat with a Portsmouth fan.

The Liverpool Red Sox’s go through their paces. — Photo by Nicholas Macgowan

There are so many different things going wrong at the club at the minute that it would take a whole copy of SCAN to talk about them.

All this might go some way to explain their very poor start to the season – their worst for 57 years. A team with such world class quality as Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, and Joe Cole should be picking up more than one point at home to Sunderland, and certainly taking something from Blackpool at Anfield. They have won in the league once this season – narrowly against West Bromwich Albion back in August. That is simply not good enough.

But it is hard to believe that the instability is completely to blame. Some pundits and commentators have derided their play; the BBC’s Phil McNulty said recently: “Liverpool’s style of play has been unadventurous, borderline dull, and at time clueless”. For a team with the quality everyone knows it has, and a manager as internationally respected as Roy Hodgson, that is a damning indictment.

For all the chants of Kenny Dalglish’s name from the Kop, sacking Hodgson is not the answer. The last Liverpool manager to take charge of less than 150 games was Ronnie Moran in 1991 – and he only filled the role as a caretaker. Quick fire reactionary sackings are not the Liverpool way. Hodgson is fortunate for the international break, and must use the time to ensure they get a result against Everton in the next fixture. At least that would get the Kop back on-side for now.

As for Hicks and Gillett, they currently stand to lose around £144 million if the sale to New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox, goes through. I’m sure the Kop will find it hard to sympathize, but this should be a lesson to both of them and a lesson to the legions of investors who think they can make a quick buck from the Premier League.

Liverpool will not get relegated, but will have a far from successful season where a top half finish will be an achievement. Bearing in mind when Hicks and Gillett arrived Liverpool were sitting in third place and on their way to a second consecutive Champions League final, the whole football industry should take a long, hard look at what has happened and commit it to memory. Investors should not be able to buy a club, regardless of nationality, based entirely on debt.

Football clubs are somehow able to paradoxically turn over hundreds of millions of pounds while being on the brink of insolvency at the same time. This is a disgraceful situation. Our clubs should do battle on the football pitch in front of us supporters, not in the High Court in front of Mr Justice Floyd. It is sad to see the majority of the media being forced to report on the fiscal side of the club rather than what is happening out on the field.

All that said, I would still take William Hill’s 100/1 for Liverpool to change their name to the Liverpool Red Sox. You heard it here first.

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