With Premier League football on hiatus during the international break, all eyes have been on the high court in London where lawyers for Liverpool FC owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have been arguing that they’ve been deeply misunderstood all along and that in trying to replace the current board with members of their own family they only have Liverpool’s best interests at heart - as the club slides ever closer to being repossessed by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
I have to admit, I’ve been following recent events at Liverpool avidly. But doesn’t this go against my self-imposed Premier League exile? Well, no, I don’t think it does. You see, I don’t consider this a Premier League story. Liverpool’s struggle to rid themselves of the vampiric Americans has been rehearsed many times before in the lower leagues, albeit with predictably less media hysteria. As such, this is a football story that has little to do with the division Liverpool happen to be in. And that’s why, while it’s tempting to wallow in the difficulties of a Big Four (sic) club (especially when their fans release self-regarding rubbish like this), all football fans should hope that Hicks and Gillett are banished from our game forever today and that the £144m loss they make on their time as Liverpool owners serves as a warning to other speculators hoping to load debt on to football clubs in grotesque leveraged deals.
Of course, fans of teams like Chester City (RIP), York City and Notts County know all about the perils of enthusiastic “businessmen”. These clubs, and many more like them, have been victims of the football authorities’ laissez faire attitude to club ownership. The fact that it has taken one of the biggest clubs in the world getting into trouble to bring the issue of sharp practice in football club ownership into focus is deeply sad but may yet lead to better protection for clubs and their supporters. The Premier League did a reasonably good job of sweeping last season’s horrendous mess at Portsmouth under the carpet but a club like Liverpool going into administration is Kryptonite to Richard Scudamore’s beloved Premier League brand and surely even he and his
patsies colleagues at the FA now realise that something must be done to protect all clubs from dodgy takeovers, whether they be by casino capitalists or simply conmen on the make.
But that’s a potential longer term benefit. In the short term we must hopefully enjoy the losses incurred by Liverpool’s American owners. Because while it’s nice to think of glory-hunting armchair fans and rentaquote celebrity Scousers squirming at the thought of Liverpool on -3 points, the thought of two acquisitive private equity vultures having to sell their $18m holiday homes after having their fingers burnt by English football should actually be far more comforting for fans. In any case, given the twists and turns in this story so far, we may yet get to do both.