A quick browse of Twitter the morning after reports of Liverpool’s majority owner, John W. Henry, considering the sale of the club, yielded some surprising results.
Whisper it quietly, but most fans seem to be pretty level-headed about the whole thing. The rumours have been rubbished by the club and the Fenway Sports Group themselves, a reassuring sentiment for most, as the general feeling is that they’ve been good for Liverpool in recent years. Success on the pitch (Belgrade aside, but we won’t mention that) will do that to a club, I suppose.
But still, there are some dissenting voices. There always will be with fans and their owners, granted, but you get the feeling that anyone who is firmly against FSG’s ownership really fails to grasp just how much worse off they could be.
Good news. They’ve done alot, but we need the man city PSG style growth at anfield. If the Sell the club and the new owners decide to go on a £250m war chest like we did last season, we might be unstoppable.
— E-THUGGG (@ephraimchizzy) November 9, 2018
In a time of absentee-owners stubbornly refusing to give their manager the funds they need to keep the team afloat, and tyrants driving clubs into the ground with failed investment after failed investment (just look at where Liverpool were prior to FSG for that one), you’d think a little perspective would be present.
FSG haven’t been perfect owners. They’ve been a long way from it at times. But managing a football club at boardroom level is far from easy, and whichever way you look at it, obvious progress has been made in almost every measurable respect in their seven year tenure. That, in itself, is enough reason to be content.
Firstly, from a financial perspective, things have been steadily, clearly improving. Testament to that is the £1.5bn asking price that Henry is rumoured to have placed on the club he bought for £300m.
Rumours and speculation aside, the Liverpool Echo did an admirable job of breaking down the Reds finances back in March, shortly after the accounts for the 2016/17 season were released. The club they inherited was making losses of £40m+, largely attributed to rebuilding the first team squad, while not having any European revenue on the table.
Within two years, the club were able to drastically reduce their debts, making modest profits, and breaking revenue records. Steady growth since then, stunted slightly by the cost of replacing Brendan Rodgers with Jurgen Klopp, has continued, and investment in the club in recent years has gone a significant way to reinstating it as a major European force once again.
On the pitch, matters have been more complicated. In the owner’s early days, we saw some major failed investments in players (*cough* Mario Balotelli *cough cough*), and the general feeling was that finances were being put ahead of improvement of the first team. For that, they probably deserved the stick they received.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see now that the plan, by and large, worked out. The club endured some turbulence, but was put back on a strong financial footing before too long. After that, the question on fans’ lips was ‘would the owners put their hands in their pockets and back the manager’?
There’s many worse owners out there…say what you want about them negatively, but they’ve built us an amazing new stand, broken our transfer record window after window and managed to get us Klopp, would be a shame if they do decide to sell up.
— ithas2besaid (@ItHas2BeSaid) November 9, 2018
A decisive, undisputed yes on that one. While early FSG signings weren’t the best, the recruitment hit rate has slowly improved over the years. For every Christian Benteke, we started to see a Roberto Firmino, and then in January last year, the club stepped on the pedal and kicked things into overdrive.
In came Virgil van Dijk to join the summer signing of Mo Salah, followed by a slew of summer signings, looking promising against the backdrop of shrewd signings such as Andy Robertson and James Milner.
Of course, you could make the case that everything FSG have done has been with the intention of making money, and they don’t actually care about the club. And that might be true. But if the motivation of profit means that they’re elevating the club to a new level, then you have to be really pedantic and cynical to dissent.
What’s the best possible alternative to the current ownership, do we think? Are we really confident that another owner, or group of owners, could come in and continue the success FSG have had in recent years?
Liverpool up for sale at the right price according to reports. I’d be very surprised if investors from the UAE weren’t looking at this. According to Thaksin, Sheikh Mansour wanted to buy the club in 2007. Dubai’s Sheikh Mohamed almost did too…https://t.co/Fch0h5cYBq
— James Montague (@JamesPiotr) November 9, 2018
Would Sheikh Mansour’s cousin – who has been rumoured as a potential buyer for a while – really improve things, or would it just result in such a huge club, currently finding its swagger again for the first time in half of living memory, losing its identity completely? It could be either, in truth, but I see no reason to take the risk when the getting is good.
If a manager struggles in his early days, then eventually gets it together and the team start knocking it out the park week after week, you don’t turn around and call for his head because he wasn’t always great, do you?
Because, to my mind, that’s about the least favourable realistic metaphor you could make for Henry’s time in charge of the Reds. Things are going well for LFC at the moment, whatever your perspective. It’s not the time for a gamble, so if you’re thinking ‘good riddance’ at the rumours of a takeover, then you should really check yourself.
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