We at the Hard Tackle break down the leaked conversations of FSG prior to their Liverpool takeover and attempt to find reason for the scathing reaction of the Kop army
Much has been made of the ‘leaked’ emails of conversations involving Fenway Sports Group owner John W. Henry prior to his takeover of Liverpool Football Club. Some details and statements made by Henry has caused a furore among Liverpool fans.
First of all, the timing of the leak is poor, especially at a time wherein Liverpool have failed to register a league win in over a month of football. But, the fact is that it isn’t even a leak. The emails have been available on the internet for more than a year.
The conversation is a document that was submitted in the New York Supreme Court and is readily available. So, it is not really a leak as it was revealed way back in end-2015 in the first place. Perhaps the Liverpool fans are delayed in their show of disgust and rage over the text. But, leaving the timing aside, let us take a look at the conversation.
— FenwayWeComeNotToPay (@FenwayWeComeNot) February 1, 2017
The text bis from 2010, when FSG was called New England Sports Ventures (NESV) prior to the Liverpool buyout.
“There is a basic precept/combination that I have learned from Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett that interests me in Red. This is the concept of acquiring a top global brand at a discount price and ensuring it is well managed. I am interested now in trying to ascertain if this is indeed a major opportunity that would indeed diversify and strengthen NESV.”
The aforementioned is what John W. Henry wrote to the management of FSG in his opening statement about the prospects of buying Liverpool Football club. There seems to be nothing wrong in the sentences and instead go on to praise Liverpool as a top global brand and its acquisition a major opportunity.
“ In some ways they really are in the dark ages — especially competitively. The best and brightest are not presently working on English soccer. But the English Premier League is bigger than the NFL, NASCAR, MLB and the NBA internationally. Only Formula One can begin to compare in viewership.”
He ended up being right about that. We are in no position to analyse if the viewership has eclipsed that of Formula One’s, but it was grown leaps and bounds. And so has the league. In fact, it has grown to such an extent that the 20th placed club in the Premier League is given a bigger overall season payout by the league than the winners in the other major leagues.
All this FSG mean no harm and stuff..
If this was the case these emails wouldn’t exist. I’m not FSG out but I’m also not pro FSG!!
— Legend Eski (@LegendEskimoBoy) February 6, 2017
Before this paragraph, he does touch on the concept of adding premium seating, which may perhaps be the only thing unsavoury towards the fans.
He then adds,“ This could be a steal. Every buyer believes what potential Red Sox buyers believed — you have to build a new stadium. And they believe the stadium will cost more than £350m! That’s why there are no bidders.”
“We would probably take the same approach we took to Fenway Park. But we’d be looking to limit investment in the facility to 8 figures. Then how much is this worth if we recruit the best and the brightest to run the soccer operation?”
This has caused real furore and uproar. Yes, they have talked about capping the investment, but have also touched upon the recruitment of ‘the best and the brightest’ to run the soccer operation. They have never hinted towards the marginalisation of the footballing aspect of the club.
Perhaps the one thing that has not gone down well with Liverpool fans is the terming of their football club as an opportunity or means of diversification, hinting strongly that they have not taken over Liverpool because of a love for the game but for the business aspect of it.
That they have not invested in the future of the football club, but the international brand that Liverpool is, something which is the absolute reality of the present scenario of the footballing world.
No owner of a football club runs it just because he loves the club or the game. Yes, it may be one of the aspects but in the end, it is an investment, however they may classify it as. And, FSG, unlike others, have not hid this fact from the Kop. They do view Liverpool only as an investment.
But, to link the transfer business that Liverpool have done with the emails that have resurfaced are a bit unfair on FSG. While they do have an unavoidable recent history of selling top assets, statistics show they have in fact, invested into the transfers as well. The success of the incomings, however, is another story altogether.
Delving deeper into the transfers, they have not sold any of their superstars to their immediate rivals, except Fernando Torres, who we all accept was a marvellous piece of business by the Reds. All of their superstars have moved to the giants like Barcelona or Real Madrid.
And when you see the reality, you may feel that while Liverpool did receive extraordinary fees for the outgoings of their superstars, it may be down to the players’ desire to play for two of the most iconic clubs in the footballing world. Liverpool are an iconic club themselves but one has to accept the stark reality of the present.
No Premier League trophy has seen the Reds lose its regular shine that used to attract the superstars. But, they have done smart business in some places. The capture of Luis Suarez, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Coutinho, Roberto Firmino are all shrewd purchases, all of whom have brought much success to the Reds on the pitch.
And FSG have not turned shy of investing in the players that the various managers deemed were necessary for them. Luis Suarez was accompanied by Andy Carroll for an outrageous sum. And, you have to say Carroll has been unlucky with injuries. For the Englishman has shown his true talent whenever fit.
This season too, the likes of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum were brought in for huge transfer fees, which was questioned at the beginning. Both have, in their own way, justified their tag by being a formidable presence in the starting eleven for Jurgen Klopp.
Perhaps, Liverpool fans are disappointed by the disastrous January transfer window and are trying to connect the dots to hold FSG responsible in some way for the failure to bring in players. But, the winter transfer window is really challenging; so challenging in fact that none of the top six have made a telling addition to the first-team setup.
Manchester City fans saw the arrival of Gabriel Jesus but the transfer was already a done deal well before the winter transfer window.
So, the debugging of the transfer failure aside, let us move on to the football aspect. The owners have never compromised on attempting to recruit the best of the managers available. Rafa Benitez was a huge success, and was followed by a Roy Hogdson who had taken his Fulham side to the finals of the Europa League in another fairytale story.
Hogdson, though, failed to deliver, which saw the return of club icon Kenny Dalglish, who did a decent job in steadying the ship before the arrival of Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers had proven himself with many clubs and his tenure at Swansea was hailed as one of the best examples.
Liverpool thrived under Rodgers and while the manager has not earned many plaudits due to the outrageous form of Luis Suarez, the man deserves credit. And when Rodgers endured a tough spell, he was given his marching orders. FSG then brought in Klopp, one of the most revered managers in the footballing world.
Klopp, too, steadied the ship in the mid-season and saw his Liverpool side open this season in breathtaking form, which has eluded them in the new calendar year. But, by no means are they a finished product for Klopp. The German is in his first full season with the Reds and the start to the season is an encouraging thing for the future.
So, FSG may have invested in the Liverpool brand, but they have not compromised on the footballing aspect of it. One cannot deny that Liverpool have seen a visible and stark improvement in their fortunes under FSG compared to the ‘dark ages’ in the Premier League.
They have never come this close to earning a Premier League medal as they did under Brendan Rodgers. In fact, John W. Henry’s prediction has come true. The investment was a steal, if one sees the current valuation of the football club by Forbes, and other major evaluation firms.
Klopp is accustomed to managing a club where the best players often end up leaving for other clubs and has already shown promise in what are early times at Anfield for the German. FSG, too, have shown unwavering belief in their chosen manager by shelving out the cash for Wijnaldum, Mane and others.
FSG have not done anything they said they wouldn’t. In fact, they did pay heed to the fans’ outrage on the increase in ticket prices, a proposal which was ultimately shelved. So, to say that they do not care about Liverpool as a football club is a far-fetched statement.
Yes, it is disappointing to see your club not secure a player in the winter transfer window, especially when the squad needs depth. Yes, it is gut-wrenching to see your club slip off from their menacing form to be one of the only Premier League teams without a win in the new year.
But by no means is there a need to take this negatively. Liverpool are starting to show promise in the recent years under FSG’s ownership, and with Klopp in charge of the on-field matters, the Reds are bound to taste success sooner than later.
As fans, all we can do is put our faith behind the management, the manager and the squad. For everything else, almost every time, takes its natural course over the period.