Indeed it looks like times are changing at Anfield in the not so distant future. And in a big way. Our owners, Fenway Sports Group, are either looking to sell off part of the club, or sell it all lock, stock and barrel. Whichever route they go down, either way, certainly times are changing. And of course, only time will tell, if these changes will be a good thing.
A quick look through the many, many articles, social media posts and forum comments will tell you that there seems to be plenty of options. And many experts – and not so expert – have had their say on what they think will happen. Either fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not what is called an ITK (In The Know). Nor do I profess to be an expert. But there are some things I do know. And in a nutshell, FSG’s tenure since they took over in October 2010 is a bit of a mixed bag.
Times Are Changing
Let me rephrase that a bit. Maybe not a mixed bag as such, as that sort of implies a fairly balanced observation of their ownership between either good points or bad points. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. Without a doubt, their ownership has been very much a successful one. A successful one with a few smatterings of wobbly bits. Who can remember the fans walk out in February 2016 in the match against Sunderland at Anfield in the 77th minute.
What was that all about? It was a protest against FSG’s suggested ticket price increase. In some cases tickets were to increase to £77. Hence the 77th minute walk out. I was at the game but must admit I didn’t walk out. Mind you, as we were 2-0 up in the 77th minute and ending up drawing 2-2, maybe that would have been a good idea!! Only kidding. One golden rule – don’t leave early.
And then of course, there was the failed (so far) introduction of the European Super League (ESL). FSG were very much at the forefront of such a plan.
What about looking to furlough some of the LFC staff during the Covid pandemic?
Yes, the three examples above were big own goals by FSG. But to their credit, they listened and they relented and these ideas didn’t go any further.
Times Are Changing – Keeping Up With The Clubs Owned By Oil State Owned Countries
The latest, quite heavy criticism of FSG, has been Liverpool’s perceived inability to keep up with state owned football clubs. But what is meant by keep up? As is very often the case, emotions run high in football circles and particularly with football fans. This season’s relatively poor start has seen fans point fingers at FSG and to criticise the club’s transfer policy. I must admit, at times it has been frustrating.
So, if it is fair to say, the club with their monetary policies, have struggled to keep up with other clubs spending then that may – and I stress may – be a potential negative. You probably know the clubs I mean. Clubs who have somehow, from somewhere managed to come up with some mind boggling sponsorship deals, seemingly out of nowhere. Finding sponsors who pay incredible amounts of money to clubs who are nowhere near as big a global footballing powerhouse like Liverpool. And managed to do it at the drop of a hat. And under the ‘watchful eye’ and scrutiny of the footballing authorities FFP rules. Anyway, enough talk of fairy tales.
In case you didn’t know by the way, FFP means “Financial Fair Play.” Which to even non financial experts, may well mean contracts entered into our done so at a fair value. There’s that word fair again.
Punching Above Our Weight
So, it could be said that we’ve often struggled to keep up with clubs when it comes to spending power in the transfer market. But that’s not to say we’ve penny pinched either. Just look at some of the fees we have paid for some of our players. Eye watering amounts to a lot of clubs. But all relative in the grand scheme of things. We have spent what we have earned. So, if we did pay, say, £35m for Luis Diaz, we bought him from wonga that we have earned. And by using simple maths, if you earn a lot, then you can spend a lot. FSG’s policy is that they don’t put their own money in to fund operational transactions like players transfers and players wages. Fair enough. We knew that from the start. Contrast that with some other clubs.
However, if it can be said that we struggle to keep up in terms of spending in the transfer market, then the same can’t be said about what has happened on the pitch. Nor can it be said when you take a look around Anfield on a match day. The regular improvements of the ground and the surrounding area has been magnificent.
But it is on the pitch where we can be said to have punched above our weight. If indeed you build in a correlation between financial spending clout and on the field achievements.
On Field Successes
What we have achieved during FSG’s tenure – mainly the last few years – on the field, quite honestly has been amazing at times. Apart from the trophies we have won, to amass 90+ points in the league and not win the title is incredible. Arsenal in their fantastic “Invincibles” season of 2003/04 achieved 90 points. That total would have seen them finish 3rd in the two seasons we failed to win it on 90+ points.
And yet some fans think it was best that Manchester City won it. Clearly football tribalism at its best. Not a rational view based on what might be best overall for the game. Just imagine if we hadn’t gone toe-to-toe with City in those seasons and they had romped to the title instead. What would these same fans think then? How many years on the bounce would City have won the title, and walked it in most of them, if we hadn’t have competed? Imagine how boring Sky Sports and BT Sports would have been from say, March or April onwards. But, nevertheless, tribal footballing instincts know best.
With such a City dominance we are almost looking at a near Scottish Premier League comparison for the last (apart from one) 10 or 11 years. Is that good for football? You decide. But try to keep tribalism out of the decision. But anyway, we did compete. And that is largely down to one man. Jurgen Klopp. And who appointed Jurgen Klopp?
Time Are Changing – Thanks For The Great Memories
When FSG appointed Jurgen Klopp on 8th October 2015, FSG pulled off a masterstroke. As it turns out, not only for Liverpool Football Club, but for the Premier League as a whole. Yes, there are those who don’t like Klopp. But as I said above, try to keep football tribalism out of the decision.
I like to think I’m fair minded enough to say that if Klopp had gone anywhere else other than Liverpool and achieved the same there, I would admire him for that. Obviously not in the same way of course as he has achieved what he has at our club. And for that we will be eternally grateful. And, just as importantly, eternally grateful to FSG for appointing him.
So, even though we can look back on the faux pas situations mentioned above during FSG’s reign, let us not forget the great things they have done. And I’m sure every fair minded Liverpool fan will do so. Yes, it’s been a team effort. But starting with the Klopp appointment, all the successes achieved by Jurgen and his squads of players and coaching staff, managed to put FSG in a better position to be able to spend whatever they could on improving the team. Whether that was in the way of transfer fees or wages. More money spent, more on field success. A winning combination.
As also already mentioned, the ground itself has been massively improved. And will continue to do so. Add to that the huge increase in fair valued sponsorship deals and we have, as fans, been so lucky to have been able to witness it all happening.
And let’s be honest, another huge thanks must go to FSG for saving us from Hicks and Gillette. Wow, I shudder to look back at those very, very dark days. Thanks FSG for that.
Times Are Changing – What Next?
My short answer is, I don’t know. But I think it’s fair to say that there will be much press coverage and speculation over the next few weeks or months. We, as fans, have our own ideas as to the new ‘ideal’ owners. But, to be honest, do such owners truly exist? Owners that tick every box you can think of. Plenty of available cash that they won’t saddle on to the club as debt; an unblemished human rights record; good business contacts; love football; passionate about on field success…etc….etc.
So, hold onto your hats folks. We may be in for a bit of a ride. The eventual outcome? One thing is for sure it will make our current owners very rich. From purchasing the club for something in the region of £300m in 2010 to today’s valuation of anything north of £3billion, then that’s a tidy return in anyone’s book. And why not. They’ve earned it.
What we as fans hope is that we are not sent plunging into another H&G situation. And many, if not all, will be keeping a close eye on things like human rights records. We all hope Jurgen and his chosen backroom team are also in for the long haul. Those are just a few factors. Yes, times are changing. Let’s hope for the better. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m off to get ready to pop along to this afternoon’s game against Southampton. To take my seat in The Kop in our magnificent stadium, vastly improved courtesy of FSG, our on field achievements and not forgetting, the fantastic support from all us fans.
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