Wednesday 12 March ~
It was galling to hear the self-congratulatory Rafa Benítez salute the “power of the Premier League” after Liverpool's win in the San Siro last night. He clearly didn't watch last week's UEFA Cup first-leg games, ties that will be settled tonight and where English teams were far from powerful. Still, it's a relief to see Liverpool Football Club in the headlines for something that happened on the pitch rather than murky dealings on a Texan ranch, multi-million offers from Dubai or Tom Hicks Jnr having to be escorted out of the Sandon pub in Anfield.
Successes such as last night's defeat of Inter demonstrate precisely why the global corporations are interested in Liverpool in the first place. In the league they could yet finish as the second best team on Merseyside (as they did when winning the Champions League in 2005) but in business terms European success, and the global exposure this brings, is of prime importance. Club owners are of course fully aware of this – shortly after taking over at Liverpool the American owners were looking to build new markets in Latin America.
Of course, we all know that Liverpool's owners may be changing soon; the latest stage of the saga is that negotiations of potential co-ownership between the American-owned (and ridiculously named) Kop Football Holdings Limited and Dubai International Capital have stalled. We also know that George Gillett and Tom Hicks don't seem to like each other very much any more, with Hicks sending out emails blaming Gillett for everything, and that Sheikh Mohammed, head of the DIC, wants Liverpool fans to force the Americans out.
When Gillett and Hicks took over in February 2007 they were cautiously but broadly welcomed by fans and Mark Lawrenson described the “good news” as coming under “the banner of progress”. This all looks very different now with squabbles in the boardroom and fan protests in favour of the Dubai corporation. Yet would middle-east ownership be any better? Many in Liverpool seem to think so. Even the MP for Walton, the constituency that takes in Anfield, Peter Kilfoyle, urged the Americans to sell up. In one sentence Kilfoyle also unwittingly summed up the real nature of modern global fandom: “From what I know of DIC they undoubtedly have the resources to give the fans what they want and, in Sameer Al-Ansari, they have a very capable chief executive who is also a Liverpool fan.” Ed Upright