First person to suggest Mike Modano coming off the bench for Peter Crouch is banned from the comments section for 30 minutes. The Guardian’s David Conn takes stock of the sale of Liverpool F.C. to George Gillett Jr. and Tom Hicks.
The American entrepreneurs described Liverpool, perhaps a touch unfortunately, as a club of “outstanding historical wealth”. They would, they said, “do everything in their power” to uphold its “cherished traditions”.
This has been the language of Liverpool’s three-year worldwide search for cash, in which the chairman and 51% owner David Moores, and chief executive Rick Parry, have offered the shares to investors, while trying to console themselves that they were not selling its soul.
Yesterday, the two rich men who will pay David Moores £88m for the shares he bought for around £12m, promised to respect the Liverpool legend. In another phrase, which read like an emotional pledge written by an accountant, Gillett and Hicks promised theirs would be “a multi-generational family commitment”. That, presumably, means they intend to pass the club down to their children, not make a quick buck out of it.
With businessmen from Dubai to Dallas promising to honour Liverpool’s tradition, it is worth recalling what that actually means. There is, of course, Shankly, the Kop and You’ll Never Walk Alone, but Liverpool, like no other top club, embodies English football before the big money poured in – its glory, with Dalglish, Hansen, Rush and the rest winning six League championships and three European Cups in the 1980s; and its tragedy, at Heysel and Hillsborough.
That 1989 disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died, has not only sunk deep into the club’s culture, but was English football’s watershed. The Taylor Report a year later, and £200m in public money to help clubs make their grounds all-seater, laid the foundations for the modern era of safety and the game’s unrecognisably glamorous image.
Parry knows the prospect of two Americans owning the club outright is harder for fans to swallow after the talk about not being a rich man’s plaything and the careful preparation of sympathy for DIC. Hence the pledges set out in their offer about upholding Liverpool’s traditions. In 1992, when Parry took the top clubs into the money, nothing solid was done to safeguard the traditions. Now, we have only words, and time will tell if they are sufficient.