Liverpool's Ownership Nightmare Shows No End in Sight

Jon FeatonbyCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2010

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 06:  American businessmen George Gillett (L) and Tom Hicks pose inside the players tunnel after their takeover of Liverpool Football Club on February 6, 2007, in Liverpool, England. Gillett and  Hicks have reached a deal, thought to be worth GBP470m, to buy the football club. (Photo by Peter Byrne - Pool/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

On the eve of the new Premier League season, we are no nearer knowing who will be the next owners of Liverpool FC.

The club's board met today to review a number of proposed bids—perhaps not the best choice being Friday the 13th.

Martin Broughton, Liverpool's chairman, had named today as a deadline and had hoped that at long last some solid offers would have been made.

But a statement released by the board on the club's website gives Liverpool fans little reason for being optimistic.

I'll start at the end of the statement, which reads: "The sale process is continuing. However, its timing and outcome remain uncertain. In the meantime, we not comment on rumour and speculation."

Well thanks for that guys. Real informative.

It had been hoped that any change in ownership would have been completed by the start of the season. This would have allowed new manager Roy Hodgson time to spend any transfer funds that may have been made available.

However, following the debacle that occurred at Portsmouth, the Premier League rightly brought in new rules governing any change of club ownership. All prospective owners are now obliged to give the league 10 days notice of a takeover and must be able to prove that they have the funds to sustain the club.

So added to the time that it will take to complete a deal, sign papers, basically all the legal crap, there is no chance that any sale will be completed before the end of the transfer window.

The bulk of today's statement will make Liverpool fans laugh.

"The Board will continue to act in the best interests of Liverpool Football Club and its supporters, doing all that it can to ensure that the club is ultimately sold to a buyer who has the resources and real commitment to give it a long-term, stable and secure funding position for its plans."

Sure, it sounds good. But least we forget that "The Board" is made up of five men, including current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

I think a more accurate statement would have read: "The Board will continue to act in the best interests of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who will try their best to line their own greedy pockets, no matter what further turmoil they inflict on Liverpool Football Club."

These guys will be fined another £2.5 million due to their failure to agree to a deal. This is the fine imposed by RBS every week the club remains unsold. RBS has said that these fines are charged to Hicks and Gillett's holding company—not the club—and so will be payable by the two Americans. But if past behaviour is anything to go by, the current owners will be trying to get as much as they can for the club to cover these costs.

While today was Broughton's unofficial deadline, October 6 is looming—the date when the loan RBS gave to Hicks and Gillett runs out. 

If no deal is done by then, RBS will have made more than £200m in interest and fines since it loaned the two Americans £185m to buy the club in 2007.

In 2007, Hicks and Gillett promised much, and have time and time failed to deliver.

By now, Liverpool fans should be celebrating the start of work on the new stadium. This is the new stadium whose increased capacity would help the club bring in the same kind of ticket revenue enjoyed by Premier League rivals Manchester United and Arsenal.

Instead, the future of the club remains as much a mystery as it ever has.

Rumours abound of bids that will bring the club out of debt, finance the new stadium, and provide Hodgson with the funds to bolster his squad.

Hong-Kong based businessman Kenny Huang has probably promised more than any other potential owner. But so far he has been unable to prove to the Liverpool board just where the money is coming from, fueling rumours that his backers are the Chinese state. Huang said today that he considers his chances of success as 50/50.

The other prominent bid seems to be coming from a consortium headed by former Syrian international Yahya Kirdi. But his apparent backers, the ruling family of Sharjah, have their own reason for delay.

The mother of Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qassimi—the ruler of Sharjah—died on Thursday and the family will now observe a seven day mourning period during which no business will be done. Fair enough, no argument with that, but doesn't help an already difficult situation.

Kirdi himself made already dirty waters murkier when he apparently told Bloomberg that he would want at least eight weeks to finalise any deal and check all the paperwork.

All-in-all, while when the club was originally put up for sale in March we all hoped for a quick sale so that we could see the back of two owners who are despised around Anfield, it seems we're going to be stuck with them for sometime to come.

Not the most optimistic outlook as we start what is a very important season for Liverpool.


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