Liverpool need swift resolution of ownership issues

By Michael Owen
anfield
(Photo: Andy Nugent)

anfield

Liverpool’s defeat to Northampton last week will no doubt remain in the memory of most supporters for a long time. And the sight of Fernando Torres rushing back to the halfway line without celebrating after Steven Gerrard’s equaliser against Sunderland, which the striker himself set up, will no doubt concern the Kop faithful.

Yet the image which is most likely to leave a lasting impression in the minds of the club’s supporters is the pictures of Tom Hicks, Liverpool’s co-owner, sat outside a prominent New York bank, ready to get down on hands and knees and beg for the refinancing deal he needs in order to take full control of Liverpool Football Club.

It is a true sign of the state that this once great club finds itself in. Its current owner—a man who should be a custodian—begging cup in hand, scrambling from bank to bank in search of the capital which has the potential to further drag Liverpool down with crippling interest payments and even higher levels of debt.

Hicks will likely find it incredibly hard to raise the finance he needs. Three members of the club’s five-man board, managing director Christian Purslow, chairman Martin Broughton, and commercial director Ian Ayre, would move to block any sort of refinancing against the club assets should it be put to the vote, meaning Hicks would have to find another way to get the capital needed to take full control of Liverpool.

Should Hicks fail to secure any financing by the deadline set for early October then the Royal Bank of Scotland, the principle lender of most of Liverpool’s current debt, will have a difficult decision to make. Either further extend the deadline to afford Hicks and co-owner George Gillett more time, or call in the debt and take control of one of the world’s most famous football clubs.

If the bank decide it is in their interest to further extend the time Hicks and Gillett have to find a new owner this will no doubt anger Liverpool’s supporters, who have long wanted some kind of resolution to the current situation, not to mention the players such as Torres and Pepe Reina, and manager Roy Hodgson, who have all spoken out about the need to end the current saga at Anfield.

RBS also have the ability to call in the debt and take control of the club. Though the bank is reported to be reluctant to make such a move their impatience with Liverpool’s current owners may well drive them to it.

Finding a new owner for the club may then be easier, with RBS likely to sell it at a considerably lower price than what the current owners have quoted. But with the bank takeover comes the chance of administration and a nine-point deduction in the league – something which, after a poor start to the season, has the potential to write off Liverpool’s hopes of a top-four finish.

It is clear Liverpool face many uncertainties in the coming months with regards to their ownership situation. The speedy resolution Broughton talked about when unveiling Hodgson has turned out to be an unrealistic feat that has seen a host of potential investors declare their interest before dropping out of the race.

Even when a new owner for the club is found there will still be incredible amounts of work to do. Liverpool need a new stadium, investment in the squad and most importantly time to heal the wounds created during Hicks and Gillett’s disastrous tenure.

Time, however, is at a premium at Liverpool – a club that has been starved of league success for two decades. Whilst supporters may be becoming inpatient, the wait for success could well be a long one as Liverpool look to repair the damage of three years of neglect.

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