FSG Positives & Contradictions – Contributing to the Liverpool FC Progress (Part One)

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Ramachandran Chittur looks at the last three years at Liverpool under the ownership of John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group and believes Henry’s contribution shouldn’t be overlooked in the team’s better fortunes. Look out for part two this week on This Is Anfield.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 5, 2011: Liverpool's owner John W. Henry with his wife Linda Pizzuti during the Premiership match against Swansea City at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Stability is a highly underrated word but is one of the key catalysts in defining a club’s season.

The impressive start to Liverpool’s campaign this season has been due to stability which has been offered to the club not only by the coach but mainly by our principal owner John W Henry (Fenway Sports Group).

It’s pretty easy to forget and overlook the contribution of Mr. Henry but he has been very fundamental in making sure that the focus is only on setting a springboard for Liverpool as a football club to compete at the highest level not only in England but even in Europe.

No doubt the bigger interest for any owner is revenue generation, but maintaining a balance of generating business as well as leading the club in the right direction is a thin line. FSG certainly are doing every bit to make sure that the club is moving in the right direction.

Fenway Sports Group came in at a time when Liverpool was facing the most acrimonious times in its history as a football club and if not for them we would have gone to administration. As rightly said recently by the ex chief executive Rick Parry:

“Liverpool’s destabilisation and the consequent phase of transition was all due to the ill fated regime of the infamous duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.”

Tom Hicks and George Gillett era:

2007 is a year that kick started one of the darkest times in the history of the club when the two Yanks took over. Rick Parry, then chief executive was one of the persons involved in the sale of the club cited the need to have more financial power to compete with the top teams.

There was a certain amount of optimism among the supporters as other clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea were all owned by businessmen who had bought success to their respective clubs.

Liverpool, England - Tuesday, February 6th, 2007: Liverpool FC Chief-Executive Rick Parry (C) with American tycoons George Gillett (L) and Tom Hicks (R) after announcing their take-over of Liverpool Football Club in a deal worth around £470 million. Texan billionaire Hicks, who owns the Dallas Stars ice hockey team and the Texas Rangers baseball team, has teamed up with Montreal Canadiens owner Gillett to put together a joint £450m package to buy out shareholders, service the club's existing debt and provide funding for the planned new stadium in Stanley Park. (Pic by Dave Kendall/Propaganda)

Hicks and Gillett bought the club for around £220 million with the help of the Royal Bank of Scotland who provided them a large loan facility. What kick-started the darkest times were not only the financial implications but also the way they conducted every day business.

The fiasco surrounding the ticket allocations at the Champions League final at Athens, inability to provide sufficient funds for the right transfers, lack of trust in Rafa Benitez (who was one of the finest managers Liverpool ever had) by undermining him and approaching Jurgen Klinsmann to take up the role of coach, raising ticket prices, inability to win the trust of the supporters, unworkable relationship between the owners after a year into their regime were some of the major reasons of the turmoil.

The biggest of them was the revelation that the debt used to purchase the club was to be refinanced with the club used as security i.e. effectively a mortgage.

They struggled to repay the loan as the debt continued to increase and it stood at a massive £237 million when finally the turmoil was ended by John W Henry with Fenway Sports Group buying out the club for around £300 million. That Hicks and Gillett tried to stall the sale to FSG showed how LFC had tied itself to people who had no interest in the club but only making money.

(Reference: Spirit of Shankly)

Fenway Sports Group Era:

Its clichéd but I have to make this statement “FSG were at the right place and at the right time”.

The court battle with the owners had dragged Liverpool’s name onto the front pages of the tabloids everyday only for the wrong reasons.

We had lost one of the most influential managers in Rafa Benitez who himself had joined the supporters and protested that the Yanks be kicked out of the club.

To know that the club was so close to losing its identity and being turned into administration gives jitters and goose bumps to all the passionate supporters.

The take-over by FSG was immediately met with skepticism due to the past owners who were hell bent on destroying all the values and traditions the club stood for.

FSG on the other hand though were experienced as they had also taken over the Boston Red Sox (historic baseball team) and had brought them the much coveted World Championship within 3 years of their reign.

They took over LFC in the month of October 2010 a season where we were struggling under Roy Hodgson who couldn’t string much success for the team. FSG’s visions for LFC were:

  • Get a bright young manager with proven track record and visions for the team
  • Get talents that are young and hungry to provide success to the team
  • Hand out performance based contracts so that there is more motivation to perform and also increase the finances
  • Build a new stadium

(Reference: This Is Anfield)

Once they sacked Roy Hodgson they brought in Kenny Dalglish for the short term to carry the team through the season.

The arrival of the King was a master stroke by the owners, as both the team and the supporters were galvanised and the players started churning in performances which lifted them to the top half of the table.

However, after a promising start to the season under him Liverpool playing some Pass and Move football that reminiscence the yesteryears, it began to falter with the all too familiar draws and defeats.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, January 10, 2011: Liverpool's new manager Kenny Dalglish pictured during a photo-call to official announce his appointment at Anfield. (Pic by: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Although Liverpool did win the Carling Cup and were the runners up of the FA cup we had under-performed in the League and we were a long way off the top. To ask the King to leave was a huge decision but it was the right decision, and FSG realised their vision of getting a young manager in Brendan Rodgers.

Although he had no proven track record with a big club, he had actually transformed a newly promoted Swansea team into a team that all the neutrals would love to watch with the attractive brand of football they played. Under him Liverpool has come a long way and with the way we have started the season there is plenty of hope.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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