The Liverpool FC soap opera; Finished or just starting?

Dragged through the mud and courtroomsFinally the Liverpool Football Club takeover has come to a dramatic end.

The soap opera that saw the club embroiled in court room battles, injunctions, £1 billion lawsuits claims and counter claims, personal accusations, and the very serious the threat of the club going into administration loomed large.

The Hicks and Gillet years will always be remembered as the leadership that had brought one of English Football brightest institutions steeped in success and tradition to its crumbling knees.

A grim outlook that has been replicated on the pitch with the humbling defeats to lowly League 2 outfit Northampton in the Carling Cup, and Premier League new boys Blackpool respectively. It could be easy to remark on what has occurred and pick the bones over the whole sorry episode, but for this article a different direction is going to be taken.

With this post I am going to refer to something I wrote almost four years ago during my Masters studies in a discussion forum over the state of English football, and to a degree the sport as a whole and what it represents in the early 21st Century. Also reviewed was the worrying and increasing dependency of finance within the game.

The reference to the proposed Liverpool takeover at the time in the piece was that of two suitors, Dubai International Capital, and what proved to be the sucessful bid from Tom Hicks and George Gillett. With the consistent talk of Manchester United’s financial situation and visible protests, the literal transformation  of  the Manchester City’s fortunes, and Portsmouth being the first Premier League club to go in to administration  within this four year timeframe, I pose this question once read, has much changed regarding the sport and the highlighted issues mentioned?

Like always enjoy folks….

From my perspective the current trend that seems to be taking place in English football regarding club ownership, is quite a delicate and complicated situation that is not easy to unravel.  Liverpool FC is the most recent club to be the subject of a takeover bid. Arguably this would present an instant short-term resolution and a bright rosy future for the club but I have my reservations.

As a fan of the club without doubt the initial appeal of the proposed takeover would place the club in a stronger position where they could compete with the present market setter’s Chelsea in terms of economic resources off the pitch and naturally on-pitch by attracting the big-name star players. Although this may not guarantee an immediate change of Liverpool’s fortunes on the playing field from possible title-contenders to actual annual champions, without question it would put the club on par if not surpass some of the world’s top clubs. Clearly all this talk of Premiership clubs being taken over is not a coincidence but clearly a direct relation to what has occurred at Chelsea FC, and their resulting dominance.

Despite waning public standing amongst football fans of Chelsea, what cannot be disputed is Roman Abramovich’s commitment to the club, and presenting him as a genuine football fan. Which introduces the question how or what makes a genuine football fan? Is it merely because a person states that they follow a particular team, buy the clubs memorabilia, or regularly attend matches no matter the distance or cost?

Well whatever the basis maybe, Abramovich may forward his case stating he brought the club outright. In doing so he instantly wrote off the club’s pending £80 million debt, and has spent heavily on attaining the best human resources available be it players, management and administrative staff. If that’s not enough we the football viewing public regularly see him on our television screens always watching his prestigious acquisition every time they play.

Aside from Chelsea, recent reports have suggested that Abramovich now plans to commit £20 million to his native Russia and its national football team in developing state-of-the-art facilities in which current players will use and help develop talent in future players. It could be said that this gives evidence to Abramovich’s keen interest in football. Perhaps Chelsea’s benefactor is an isolated case, but this brings me to my initial concern with the sudden interest of such individuals and Premiership clubs. Do these people really have a genuine interest in football and the well being of the clubs they are proposing to buy?

As a Liverpool fan I am not that bothered what nationality is stated in the passport of the owner now or in the future, all that concerns me is are they going to do right by the club. The Premiership has a rich cosmopolitan flavour with many players, managers and their nationalities represented in the league. I feel that this has heightened the playing standard set in England so in theory why can’t the same be said of overseas owners and investors?

My fear is that we might have a situation where such grouped individuals are merely looking to strip the tenuous but prosperous investments some clubs may retain, just to line their own pockets or any other drastic act that is detrimental to the clubs future. I suppose I say this because my worry is that football is our national game and although globally popular I am always concerned do these individuals recognise what these clubs mean to people. Due to the fact they do not live or have not grown following a club and the English football culture.

I understand that the way the game is at present, it is no longer just a game. A statement that which brings me to reference the article ‘Play Element In Contemporary Sport’ by Johann Huizinga. In which he refers to the loss in free spirit play displayed in sport. This sentiment is a suitable description trend appearing in English football. Top-level soccer is no longer about playing the game; it is big-time business on all fronts with mere participation was sidestepped long ago and winning and losing is now taking a back seat. But is the imminent future and success of clubs pending on finding a rich individual, overseas or over wise? Is the league table going to resemble a financial rich list with the wealthiest owner at the top in an ascending order? Time will tell…

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