Liverpool FC fans have told the Premier League that they vow to take back their club from the hands of current American chairmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jnr.
The claim comes from Graham Smith, secretary of the Spirit of Shankly supporters club, amidst continuing financial difficulties at Anfield, with debt payments pushing them further into the red.
Speaking at the BBC’s ‘Football in the Red’ forum and debate, he said: “We’ve got advanced plans at the Spirit of Shankly about putting together significant funds about buying back into our club and taking it back.
We’ve got owners who betrayed and lied to us when they came in and took our club over.”
The American sports magnates, who have baseball and ice hockey teams amongst their ownership portfolio, bought the club outright in 2007 – but the investment was leveraged against large loans. The Spirit of Shankly group has placed large billboard adverts around the city and near John Lennon Airport to underline this by stating: 'Debt, Lies, Cowboys... not welcome here'.
Mr Smith continued: “We as fans at Liverpool recognise the economics of the business of football but what we don’t recognise and won’t accept is owners that take money out of the game effectively by servicing unnecessary debt and exorbitant expenses, which is what we are suffering at Liverpool.”
The talk was part of the two day Soccerex conference, where 200 delegates from clubs across Europe and country representatives met in Manchester to discuss the business of football.
Present at the debate, amongst others, was Dan Johnson,
chief spokesman for the Premier League. He said he
would welcome any group of fans providing a sustainable
business model for buying and running their club – and
thus having an input in the running of the league as a whole.
However he stressed that there was no way for the Premier
League to combat leveraged buyouts and billionaire
ownership – except through the much-maligned ‘fit and
proper persons’ test – because of the UK’s financial laws.
When questioned on the matter, he said: “We operate in a
legal and regulatory framework which permits leveraged
buyouts - you may not like them, I may not like them.
“We’ve spoken to government on a whole range of issues
and they aren’t interested. They say it’s down to you guys to
operate in our legal and regulatory framework, it’s down to you, as they know they can’t discriminate company law for football.”
The debate coincided with the release of Deloitte’s annual Football Money League table, with six of the top 20 from the Premier League, and Liverpool sitting seventh. The club posted a total revenue of €217m, signifying their continuing earning power, despite their debt problems, with owings currently amounting to £237m.
By Danny Masters, Chief Reporter
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YouTube: Gillett Jnr and Hicks explain plans