Dear Premier League
The Spirit Of Shankly, the Liverpool Supporters Union, was set up following the growing anger and upset at how Tom Hicks and George Gillett were running our club, how they had reneged on the ‘promises’ made when purchasing our football club.
It is due to our present owners that I find myself contacting you now. Liverpool FC is a club rich in history and tradition with a legacy unrivalled around the world. Yet supporters, the true owners and custodians of the club, find themselves worrying about off the pitch matters, which a financially prudent business is supposed to manage, and those who run the game are meant to regulate.
Please cast your mind back to February 2007, when Tom Hicks and George Gillett took charge of Liverpool Football Club, presumably they will have been subject to the Premier League’s ‘Fit and Proper’ persons test. Just what exactly were Tom Hicks and George Gillett asked at the time? What checks were made about their background and suitability to own our Club? Are they ‘Fit and Proper’ when the following are considered:
- Tom Hicks’ past dealing with the Brazilian club Corinthians. His involvement at Corinthians, as part of Hicks Muse Tate Furst’s partnership with the club, is what many of Corinthians fans blame for their subsequent financial problems. Tom Hicks said “We all collectively take guilt for bad decisions’’. Banners at Anfield today ask for Tom Hicks to leave the club, something Corinthians fans were asking many years ago (http://www.fiel-salvador.hpg.com.br/Monica_Zarattini_AE.jpg). Why did the Premier League not know of this, nor learn a lesson from his previous enterprises?
- Hicks Sports Group, Tom Hicks’ company which owns the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars defaulted on $525m worth of loans last year which resulted in the Texas Rangers having to seek a loan from Major League Baseball (governing body for the sport).
- Both Hicks and Gillett have been made bankrupt on several occasions. Should their track records not set alarm bells ringing?
- Four days after the Hicks and Gillett takeover, former employees of Viasystems Tyneside Ltd protested at the Newcastle v Liverpool game. They have yet to be paid redundancy money they were promised. Viasystems Tyneside, controlled by Viasystems Group has a chairman we all know – Tom Hicks.
- Tom Hicks at the time of the takeover at LFC stated – “This is not a takeover like the Glazer deal at Manchester United. There is no debt involved, and we believe that as custodians of this wonderful, storied club we have a duty of care to the tradition and legacies of Liverpool.” The takeover is in fact identical to that of the Glazers at Manchester United. Do lies to supporters and those selling the Club have no implications for governance by the Premier League?
- George Gillett at the time of the takeover at LFC stated – “The shovel needs to be in the ground in the next 60 days or so, and we would intend to follow that. I think you’ll see the beginnings of a great big swimming pool being dug out here in Stanley Park relatively soon”. This was over three years ago now, and we are still now, no nearer to a swimming pool, let alone a new stadium.
- The debt on LFC is now at a staggering height. Before Tom Hicks and George Gillett the Club had a debt of £44 million. Within months, this had risen to £350 million and it currently stands at £237 million. The hollow promise of no debt is only beaten by the lack of regulation or protection given by the Premier League.
The result of Premier League inaction and negligence is that the Royal Bank of Scotland has made an express requirement that the Club reduce the debt by £100 million forthwith. As a result, LFC finds itself hawking for investment, threatened with action from its bankers if the debt is not reduced. What is the Premier League doing about protecting one of its most prominent members?
It is Liverpool Football Club’s current predicament and the Premier League’s criminal silence on these issues that has prompted me to contact you. Liverpool Football Club now finds itself being ‘touted’ around looking for someone to come in and pay down the debt with a £100 million investment. So far one bid has been submitted from the Rhone group and with the deadline for offers fast approaching. We may find ourselves forced into inappropriate investment, rather than finding suitable investment.
I demand that the Premier League conduct a vigorous ‘fit and proper’ person’s test of any new investor, considering they are expected to take a controlling stake.
I demand that subsequently you regulate in a much more vigorous way to ensure that any future investor keep any promises to protect all football clubs and the game that you regulate through binding undertakings to be given to the Premier League.
For instance, if it is the Rhone group who are to take a controlling stake in our Club, I would ask that you take account of the following:
- As part of their involvement at the clothing company, Quiksilver, Rhone loaned Quiksilver $150m at an interest rate of 15% (7.5% of this being payable in kind (PiK)). All for a possible return of 20% of the company’s shares as well. Do you consider that the terms of any investment has any relevance to any the decision of them being considered ‘fit and proper’ to run a football club?
- John Muse (of “Hicks Muse Tate Furst” and also blamed for the demise of Corinthians) is believed to be involved. How would such a person pass a ‘fit and proper’ persons test?
- As a Hedge Fund, Rhone work with other people’s money. How does this fit with the role you have to regulate who is “fit and proper” to control a Premier League football club? Will you be asking for the identities of those whose money is being used? After all, anyone can front money, but not make the decisions.
Supporters are rightly concerned. Spirit Of Shankly sent several questions to Christian Purslow, Managing Director at LFC about the proposed investment. Two weeks on, there has been no response, just more worry with newspaper headlines speculating on my club’s future. Why are fans having to ask these questions, and fight to protect their club rather than you, the powers that be?
We are not the only club suffering from owners with broken promises, poor finances, or outright liars in charge. What we want to be, is the last.
The Premier League, with its interest in protecting its brand, and being “ownership neutral” is damaging the game. The supporters, like myself, who make this game what it is, are unhappy. Will you listen? Will you answer our questions? I would ask that you do, as if not, our fight and our protests will come to your door.
Ask yourself this – If you don’t act now, what brand will you be selling when clubs are bankrupt, fans have walked away and the game lies in tatters?