LFC Mediawatch: Gillett and Hicks

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Since my last update, to say it has all been ‘kicking off’ would be a major understatement. So rather than dissecting the 100,000 articles, TV discussions and radio sound bites on this matter I felt it maybe better that I just give my own personal comment on the last few weeks and how it was ‘handled’ by all parties concerned in the spotlight.

I’m not sure if G&H are avid fans of This Is Anfield so I intend this column to be almost an open letter to the American owners which I’ll email to them to let them know my thoughts, for what they are worth…

Now rather than getting into an ‘anti American’ tirade I would rather deal with the issues at hand as they are from my perspective and explain my comments in detail.

As I mentioned in my first column a majority of my media experience I gained from working the music industry. I have many friends in the U.S. who work in the music industry & the media. I’ve spent a lot of time in the states for work; visited the country over 25 times and been to most of the major cities from New York to LA, Miami to Atlanta, DC to Philly. In my younger years I interned twice at music publications in New York, studied American studies & communications for a while at university and also worked for an American owned major record company dealing with not just the artists & management but the staff in our New York and LA offices. During my time working at radio station in London I promoted station events with many American artists. Also throughout my time as a music journalist (writing for both UK & US publications) I interviewed many American artists. Hey… I even dated a couple of American girls!

From my perspective I would say America is a very insular country. Even in this day and age that generally it isn’t very accepting of other cultures. They love the British accent… but they don’t necessarily understand or accept ‘our’ culture in the States. When I say culture I mean popular culture from music to TV, movies to football. Why do you think a number of British musicians don’t necessarily cross over to mass popularity in the States, UK TV programmes are adapted for ‘their’ market and football or ‘soccer’ has never really blown up Stateside. From the history that is taught in their schools to the American news bulletins on their major networks… Generally as a people they do not have a ‘worldwide’ mentality. A number of American musicians I have worked with or American people I have met on my travels on the country do not have passports and have never travelled outside of their country.

HicksAmericans are used to shipping there popular culture worldwide and packaging it to us. The world laps it up… Don’t get me wrong I myself enjoy a lot of American TV, music, food and culture’¦ don’t mind a bit of Basketball either! But a lot of Americans I have come into contact with from artists, managers, agents, dj’s, journalists, promoters and music execs I have met in the music industry have a ‘hustlers’ mentality. They are very focused on money / business issues sometimes viewing what most of us would see as an Art or Sport very coldly as merely a ‘product’ or ‘commodity’ to sell. Now some may say that is the way of the business world? But do we really want people that view the club in that manner running or even surrounding the club? Is Liverpool Football Club just a product to you Mr Hicks & Mr Gillett? Do you really know what you bought into when you purchased this club?

American Culture

So in layman’s terms I would say ‘I’ or ‘We’ understand the Americans and their culture…as we have been force fed it for many years. But do our American owners understand us as a people or British culture? Do they understand how much football means to the people of this country or more importantly how much this club means to the fans & the people of Liverpool?

Now the reason I have gone into this detail is to illustrate a point that I think I have more than a working understanding of how Americans in the ‘entertainment’ world (of which sport is a part of) operate and I have relatively good understanding of American culture & society. I’m also aware that Mr George Gillett also has an involvement in the music industry as part of his business empire.

Now I have a number of open questions that I would personally liked answered in relation to this situation and I hope that I would speak on behalf of T.I.A. & its readers when I ask these questions of the American owners. Trust me right about now it would be very easy for me to keep my mouth shut and not speak on these matters but I think I would be lying to myself right now if I said I wasn’t very worried about the future of the club that I love and have supported since a young boy.

Talk, Talk, Talk

At the press conference a year ago when G&H came to club… Mr Gillett in particular sounded like he had done some of his research into the club and its history. Gillett said all the right things about being “the custodians of the club” In hindsight was that carefully crafted PR spin or was it heartfelt? Where is Mr Gillett at the moment… Why hasn’t he commentated on the matters of the last few weeks? Are they playing ‘good cop, bad cop’ with us?

Now with all of that taken into consideration… Even Stevie Wonder could see that Mr Hicks made some PR boo-boos of catastrophic proportions!

HicksIt has gotten even worse in the last week with the revelation that back in July Mr Hicks conducted an interview for a documentary on the Major League Baseball website with regards to his ownership of Texas Rangers team. He said unbelievably “many people think I’m going to take money out of Texas Rangers to put into Liverpool. In fact it’s the opposite, they are a good business model and if I choose to I could put my money into the Stars or the Rangers… Either way I can’t win!” Please Mr Hicks… What were you thinking of? In the age of the World Wide Web are you that arrogant or ignorant to think that we would not find out about this footage at some point? Did you even care that these comments would at some point become public? Would you care to explain these comments? There was also footage on the same documentary that showed negative press cuttings on Hicks & the Rangers to the background of disgruntled Texas Rangers fans airing their views on Hicks via radio talk shows, not a good look!

So who are the media/public relation advisors for G&H? They obviously seem like they are nobody at the pr/press team at Liverpool Football Club! Is it someone in the States that doesn’t understand the mechanics of British society; the people of Liverpool or the passion of football fans?

Damage Limitation

There is a phrase that comes to mind to describe this situation and how the Americans are now trying to address them in media speak… It’s simply called ‘damage limitation’. Now announcing the new stadium plans that have been changed twice in a year (along with the planning permission for them); refinancing plans for club that go back on the initial statements G&H made when they came to the club; claiming that Mascherano’s deal would be made permanent and Rafa’s future is NOW safe… All in the same weekend says to me that it’s carefully constructed PR spin by your advisors to create some diversion to your actions of late… All smoke & mirrors! You have lied several times already and even denied then admitted convos with D.I.C.! Is this a Jedi mind trick you are trying to pull on us? How stupid do you think we are?

Mr Hicks… What were you hoping to gain by your two interviews with the Echo? At least thank god you chose a ‘credible’ local publication that the fans trust. But the comments telling Rafa to “quit talking and coach the team” and then the second interview with regards to Klinsmann saga stink of dictatorship from a owner who doesn’t understand the fans, the club nor its much loved manager. Please tell me… What was gained by all of this other than starting a media storm around the club, which ultimately destabilised the team & its manager! You already admitted in these interviews that you know how the English operates media’s now.. If that’s the case again who is advising you on your media strategy? Were you hoping Rafa would resign, if so that dramatically backfired on you…

G&H could have stifled a lot of the media stories and speculation around the club but instead created the negative situation we are in right now that has turned us into a laughing stock! So G&H here is a bit of free PR advice for ya lads… Coz the muppets you have working for you havent got a clue! They look like they have two hopes of sorting out your current PR disaster zone at the moment… Bob & No! If you want to know about English football don’t speak to Klinsmann who played in English football for 2 years and never managed in club football… Speak to Rafa… Stevie G, Carra or one of the other senior players at the club! Or further more read the comments on the fan forums or on the Echo website, listen to “terrace talk” show on Radio City via internet or watch LFC TV!

Rafa

RafaRafa during the course of the whole matter I feel has conducted himself in very professional manner bar the outburst at the infamous press conference in November. To be honest none of us really know what has gone on behind the scenes bar the parties involved. All we can do is comment on what has gone in the public eye, which has bordered on turning into a soap opera. In hindsight especially after revelations from Hicks in the Echo in relation to Klinsmann saga I find I’m even more sympathetic with Benitez after what has gone on. It again begs the question’¦ why even bring up the topic during the interview Mr Hicks, you must have known you would open up a hornet’s nest? Did Rafa know this interview was going out? Did he even know you spoke to Klinsmann? At what point did you tell Benitez that this meeting had gone on’¦ before or after the interview was printed?

As Spanish football journalist and friend of Rafa Gillem Balague recently commented on Sly Sports he doesn’t think the media in the UK particularly care for Benitez and will not stop until they hound him out of a job here. I tend to agree with him’¦ what is the cause of that negativity again we can only speculate but I tend to think media agendas are at play here more than ‘personal’ issues they have with him.

Rick Parry?

Rick ParryOn another note what happened to the much hyped ‘œ60 Minutes with Rick Parry’ on LFC TV last week that was whipped off the stations schedules without explanation. This was where he was going to address fans questions about various issues that have been happening recently? Did you have the Chief Exec silenced and have that programme shelved? Where is Mr Parry in relation to these ‘ongoing problems’? He seems to have gone AWOL.

Also Mr Gillett & Mr Hicks if you haven’t gathered I’m a fan of Rafa and I’m backing the current fan protests against yourselves. I spoke on LFC TV on the “This Is Anfield” call in show on Monday night just passed to express my frustrations on the current team performances, off the pitch issues and what I feel from my perspective has caused them. I think that some people on the phone-in show even a couple of friends of mine took my comments the wrong way. I’m all behind the protests & fans organising them… I think we have been hoodwinked & bamboozled by our American owners!

Protest Songs – Move On

I was trying to get across the point (maybe I didn’t explain myself articulately enough) on LFC TV that at the moment a number of our fans are frustrated and rightly so… But protest songs when we are 2-1 down against a non-league club in FA cup… ultimately are deflecting from our support of the team when our team needs us most. Save that for before or after the game or when we are 4-2 up with ten mins to go… That’s when I myself joined in. A caller after me made a point that fans are only protesting coz they LOVE the club… Of course they do and I would not knock them for that. But I also feel that pin pointing individual players, the manager or the owners isn’t helping the issue… We know what the problems are and the main one right now is that we need to win games, that is the first problem in front of us! Let’s try and deal with that & move on right now. We as fans need to get behind the team first & foremost right now while we are at the games and deal with our anger with owners separately. The Aston Villa protest during the game was necessary but now we must move on and use that negative energy as a positive to back the team fully and unconditionally.

Another point I made on LFC TV is why are our owners going to the likes of Radio 5 granting them interviews so that more of the club’s business is being put out into the open? Then on the flipside not speaking to official club media such as LFC TV, club website & club magazine if you want to reach ‘our fans’? Surely you speak to them first then the likes of Echo & Radio City/City Talk afterwards… then the national media. God only knows what is going through the heads of the Americans ‘advisors’! Is it because they want to be seen by the general public and football industry as ‘good owners’ now? How many LFC fans would have known about the interview that was supposed to be communicating with us if the club website never printed a transcript?

Where’s George?

I heard on Pete McDowell’s City Sport radio show on the new station City Talk that Gillett pulled out of an interview at the last minute as he thought that him speaking publicly on matters would inflame the situation in the current climate. Well Mr Gillett due to your inactivity on this matter your dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t but as mentioned by Pete on his show you have more to gain from speaking to fans via a media outlet like “City” that they trust than to Talksport, Radio 5, the national press or Sly Sports!

But at some point if our American owners are serious about still being at this club in the future and have honestly made a mistake then they need to address the issues head on and immediately! Hiding in the states then coming out with anymore ill advised comments that play into the hands of a media feeding frenzy and the clubs detractors will NOT help your cause! You could even go one better and when you finally decide to jump on a plane or show your face around Liverpool again… Have a focus group with the disgruntled supporters organisations? Come live on LFC TV and speak to us directly through the channel on a Q&A panel basis with some of the fans. Do some exclusive interviews speaking to the club website and magazine as well as the local media such as City or the Echo in Liverpool unconditionally apologising for your actions. Let us grill you with REAL questions and we want REAL answers! In the long term if your proven to do right by the club then maybe your critics including myself would back down… Actions speak louder than words as the saying goes.

It is down to you G&H to engage with the clubs massive worldwide fan base, hold out an olive branch, be men and handle this situation that you created head on. The fans of Liverpool Football Club and the people of Liverpool showed you a lot of love when your first came here and you disrespected all of us with your actions and your words’¦ to put it bluntly you spat in our faces! Please do not underestimate the undercurrent of feeling right now from the fans and how your stupid behaviour has destabilised and ridiculed this mighty & historic club throughout the media and the world of football.

Right about now, we all… players, staff, fans, manager and the owners need to pull together and get the club we love back on track. My Mum used to say to me that you should ‘˜never wash your dirty linen in public and talk family business to strangers’. Now is the time to close ranks, keep our problems behind close doors in fitting of the tradition of this mighty club and do exactly as my Mum used to say… And lets turn around this negative situation into a positive…

Hopefully Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett you will get to read this column, take on some of the advice and maybe even reply to my points raised here. If not I sincerely hope your business strategy and attitude towards the club and its fans changes… For better or for worse right now we are unfortunately ‘family’ so let’s try and work things out… for everyone’s sake!

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