Is There Any Way Back For Liverpool’s Owners?

When the European Super League was announced, it was a surprise to see the name of Liverpool Football Club attached to it. There’s no doubt that they’re one of the elite clubs on the continent – a team that’s achieved more in Europe than any other club in their England – but they’re also a team with socialist roots.

More than the fans of any other Premier League club, Liverpool fans like to think they support a team that belongs to the people. The idea of them joining a competition that was so transparently all about money went against the very principles that the club was founded on.

To the great amusement of everybody who was opposed to the idea (which accounts for most football fans), the Super League is dead on arrival. The level of vitriol and scorn poured upon the concept from everybody from average fans to players, managers, club legends, and government officials was too much to deal with for the founder members. The idea fell apart like wet cake within two days of being announced. Liverpool won’t be playing in any Super League and will remain in the English Premier League with a focus on trying to qualify for the traditional UEFA Champions League.

The damage done by the club’s attempt to break away from its roots is significant, though, and fans are in no mood to forgive the current owners. The FSG group, headed by American businessman John W. Henry, has a lot of questions to answer.

Henry has already begun attempting to repair the damage. After confirming that Liverpool’s withdrawal from the Super League structure, he posted a grovelling apology video to fans in which he took responsibility for the misjudged move and accepted that he’d failed to take into account the wishes of supporters.

That’s an understatement. He didn’t just “let them down,” as he said in the video, but he failed to consult with them at all. Nor did he consult with any of the players or with manager Jurgen Klopp, who was clearly furious about the distraction that the issue posed to his players in the build-up to an important Premier League fixture. Klopp was already on record as saying he’s against the idea of a Super League. To spring the announcement on him without giving any warning was unforgivable, and “unforgivable” is exactly how a significant portion of the Anfield club’s supporter base now sees their American owners.

We shouldn’t pretend that Liverpool is still entirely the same socialist club that it was when it was founded over 120 years ago. The team exists as a money-making entity in the most financially rewarding league in the world and is in some ways far more commercially orientated than even its great rival Manchester United. Of all the teams in the Premier League, only Liverpool has its own official online slots game.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that – there are strong links between gambling and football, and so having a presence at online slots websites like Rose Slots NZ is just smart business. Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and all the rest of the “elite” English clubs probably wish they’d been on the ball enough to start partnering with online slots companies before Liverpool did. The fact that such a game exists, though, points to the fact that Liverpool Football Club is a capitalist entity to the people who own it, even if its fans don’t see it that way.

Even after Liverpool confirmed its withdrawal from the Super League, the hashtag “FSG Out” continued to trend on social media. That’s a reference to the Fenway Sports Group, which has owned Liverpool since October 2010. There have been some good times during the decade-plus that the group has managed the club – not least the Champions League victory in 2019 and the Premier League championship of 2020 – but there has always been a degree of dissatisfaction about the way the group runs the club and a general feeling among fans that the American owners don’t “get” Liverpool and its culture. Those voices are louder than ever now.

There are more fans who want FSG out of the club than want them to remain involved. Club legend Jamie Carragher, who’s one of the most prominent Liverpool voices within football media, says he can’t see a future for the group within the club. Kenny Dalglish, an even bigger club legend, has expressed similar sentiments. Various media sources say that manager Jurgen Klopp is unhappy even if he won’t publicly say so. There’s legitimate pressure on John W. Kelly and FSG to sell up and get out in a way that hasn’t existed in the past.

FSG probably feels hard done by. When they bought the club in 2010, the team had just finished 7th in the table and was in dire financial straits. They brought about stability and success. There’s no doubt that the club is in far better condition now than it was before they arrived. That doesn’t matter to the fans, who feel that betraying the club’s principles is worse than going bankrupt.

The world has changed a lot since 2010, too. There weren’t many buyers for Liverpool when the club went on the market in 2010. There would be no shortage of them now. If FSG were to offer the club for sale, they’d almost certainly find a buyer within days. The new owners would probably come from the Middle East or Far East – which is a separate concern in terms of how Premier League clubs are run – but they’d be ready and waiting.

Managing Liverpool from this point on will be a thankless task for FSG and Kelly. Whether they invest or don’t invest, and whether Liverpool wins or loses, they’ve been seen to cross a line that supporters never wanted to cross. They’ve reached the point of no return. Rather than spend another dollar on their club, it might make more sense to take what they can by selling it and slink away back to the United States. Fans will be allowed back into stadiums soon, and the songs they’ll sing about FSG won’t be pretty. It would be better if the people involved weren’t around to hear them when it happens.

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